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Types of Flights – Connecting, Direct and Non-Stop

8904130 - jet liner over the sea at dusk
Photo by Farang 

Connecting, direct and non-stop flights. We hear the terms bounced around each time we plan and book air travel. Which one is best for your getaway?  Does one cost more or less than the other?  Will one get me to my destination faster than another?

These are legitimate questions, and the answers are not simple, but they also are not complicated either.


Let’s take a look:

Connecting FlightsConnecting flights do just that – join us from one city to another. There will be a change of aircraft along with different boarding passes and different seats. With a connecting flight, you must be prepared to gather all of your carry-on luggage and personal items and move them to your connecting flight, on another aircraft. Double check around your seat to make sure you have everything. You may have limited time to get to your connecting gate due to delays and the distance between gates.

Generally, an itinerary is planned with at least than 35 minutes between flights. My gauge is no less than 45 minutes. However, airport layout and size can make a difference and require more time between arrival and departure.

If your new departure gate is not listed on your connecting board pass, check the flight monitors when you arrive for your departure gate. If in doubt about the location, ask an agent at the gate where you arrive or the customer service counter.

When you are planning your trip, most airlines will have a layout of the airport on their website; take a look at the connecting airport and become familiar with the general design. The layout will help you find your way quickly and maneuver through the airport confidently.

A connecting flight may also involve changing airlines, terminals and multiple stops before reaching your destination.

Direct Flight

A direct flight connects you between cities also, but the difference lies in the itinerary. Direct flights include a stop, but you technically do not have a change in flight number or aircraft.  Now, with that said, this does not always apply. A direct flight can involve a requirement to get off the plane for servicing, taking all of your personal items, including carry-on luggage, reboarding and claiming your assigned seat again.  This depends on local regulations and requirements.  However, with a direct flight, you should not have to go through any customs or immigration, but there can be exceptions to this as well.

A direct flight may have more than one stop before you reach your destination. Due to the length of the trip and the limited number of flights into a city,  there may be refueling, additional passengers boarding, catering, and cleaning of the aircraft.

Direct flight, just as connecting flights will increase your total amount of travel time.  In most cases, you can expect an hour or more travel time than a non-stop flight.

During stops on a direct flight, stay close to your gate.  It is easy to miss a flight by wandering off to shop or get a bite to eat. Know your flight number and listen for the reboarding announcement.

The challenge with both connecting and direct flights is cancellations and delays.  They not only add more time to your travel day, but they can also cause you to miss segments of your travel itinerary.  If at all possible, it is best to book flights with the least amount of connections and stops.

The term direct flights became popular during the days of commercial aviation when flights hopped and skipped across the globe. As aviation technology increased, jet engines provided the ability for longer trips with fewer stops eliminating the need to make several stops. Airlines described them as direct because you were flying “directly” between cities and your destination but flights were required to stop for refueling along the way and aircraft of that day offered very little opportunity for long-distance flights and non-stop flights.  Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport offers many direct flights on the airlines with expansive routes around the U.S. and the globe.

International direct and connecting flights can require you to have a visa for the country where the flight stops-over.  The requirement for additional documentation depends on the country visa requirements.  When booking your flight your travel agent and the airlines will make you aware of document requirements.

And booking a direct or connecting flight does not mean less expensive.  It’s important to shop and compare. My experience has proven it’s best to compare prices and double check if the flight makes stops or if it is a non-stop.  And, when considering the total amount of time for travel between departure and arrival, both direct and connecting flights add additional time sitting in airports, on airplanes and running between flights.

Non-stops allow you to get on one flight and you’re there! Easy travel!

Non-Stop Flight
Once you’re on the flight, there’s no stopping you.  The plane takes off and when you land you are at your destination.  No scheduled stops along the way or reasons to get on and off, change seats, rush through the airport and experienced added delays.  Non-stops fights are the most convenient and smooth riding.
Non-stop does not always mean most expensive.  Connecting flights can be more costly than non-stop. When booking trips take a look at each option for the best in timing, budget, and number of stops.  My personal preference is non-stop.  I like to get to my destination in the shortest amount of time and start my fun.
And, I’m not alone.  Non-stop flights are the most desired flights and sought after, which means they fill up faster than other options. Book early if you want a non-stop flight, and you’ll most likely find it to be less expensive when booking early.

Either option… enjoy your flight. Air travel is the safest way to travel and see the world.

About Annita

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