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Nonstop, Direct and Connecting Flights: What’s the Difference?

If you’re booking flights for your next adventure, managing your flight itinerary to maximise the amount of time—and energy—you have when you arrive at your destination will be high on your to-do list. When you’re taking time off to go on holiday, the last thing you need is to lose time on your flights because you didn’t fully understand the ins and outs of flight booking terms. 

Some of the most common mistakes travellers make are assuming that a direct flight is the same as a nonstop flight, and that just because a flight itinerary shows stops on your route, your flight is a connecting flight. Not so! These tips will help you understand which is which before you book your next flight. 

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What is a Nonstop Flight?

If your flight is billed as ‘nonstop’ you can expect that your plane will take off from your home airport and not touchdown until it lands at your destination. Nonstop flight routes are becoming more widespread as planes can soar longer distances without needing to stop for fuel. If ‘nonstop’ is your preference, you will pay a premium for the time saving and convenience of not having to change planes along the way. If you’re someone for whom time is money—like a business executive planning a work trip—shelling out for a nonstop flight might make more sense financially. The shorter flight will give you more time at your destination. 

What is a Direct Flight?

The more common ‘direct flight’ is—confusingly—assigned a single flight number, but the journey may be interrupted several times on route to the final destination. Whether it’s to refuel, get tuned up by a technician or admit or drop off passengers, your plane might stop several times between that first take off and landing at your destination airport. For example, if you’ve booked a direct flight from Bangkok to Brazil, your plane could stop at several destinations in South America before you touch down for good. Nine times out of ten, a direct flight is going to be cheaper than a nonstop flight. However, it won’t be as cost-effective as connecting flights. Though a direct flight is likely to stop along the way, you can usually sleep or watch a movie during these disruptions, as you will not necessarily have to disembark from the aeroplane. However, don’t rule out having to change planes, as sometimes this will be necessary, and plane-changes are within the purview of direct flights. 

Photo by Gerrie van der Walt on Unsplash

What is a Connecting Flight?

Booking connecting flights is undoubtedly the most cost-effective option of the three, but when you add layovers into the equation, going this route is the least efficient in terms of journey time. Getting to your destination could require plane changes at several airports. You’ll be responsible for getting from one terminal to the other in the time sandwiches between flights—careful: layovers can pass really quickly, especially if you fall asleep—and you might be travelling on several airlines with different baggage allowances. Connecting flights is a good option if you’re short of money but long on time, and you’re prepared to do to the work. 

Choosing the right ticket for you is about priorities. Make sure you’re making an informed choice before you book.