Stupid Tip of the Day: Direct Flights Versus Non-Stop Flights

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People still continue to be confused about the difference between a direct flight and a non-stop flight. I asked someone just last week if he knew what is a direct flight. “It is a non-stop flight” was his response.
Wrong.
non-stop flight is just that: a flight operated by an airline between an originating airport and a destination airport without any stops in between.
direct flight is a flight operated by an airline between an originating airport and a destination airport which has at least one stop. All segments of the flight have the same flight number operated by the same airline. However, the aircraft equipment could be different. Worse, the stopover may not count as a connection where you can earn as many frequent flier loyalty program miles as you could on a connecting flight.
Let us say you are traveling from Seattle to New York as a member of a frequent flier loyalty program where earning miles is based on distance flown:
  • On a non-stop flight, you would earn 2,413 frequent flier loyalty program miles
  • On two different connecting flights with two different flight numbers where you must change airplanes in Phoenix, you would earn 3,253 frequent flier loyalty program miles because the flight from Seattle to Phoenix is 1,106 miles and the flight from Phoenix to New York is 2,147 miles
  • On a direct flight where the stop is in Phoenix, you would most likely still earn the same 2,413 frequent flier loyalty program miles miles even though you have traveled 840 more miles and spent extra time traveling and at the intermediate stop
Of course, the above example will become obsolete if you are a member of afrequent flier loyalty program where earning miles is based on revenue spend — but you still will spend more time traveling on a direct flight than on a non-stop flight.
Watch out for those direct flights when booking an airline ticket, as they are not necessarily transparent or obvious: sometimes the only warning that a flight is a direct flight is if it says one stop or something similar hidden somewhere; and sometimes if you are on a route which has no non-stop flights, a direct flight may seem like an attractive option when compared to connecting flights. The direct flight, however, may be worth booking if the connecting flights are either significantly more expensive; the schedule is better for you; or if the itinerary is considerably longer in duration for the connecting flights than for the direct flight.
Hopefully I will not need to be direct with you in order to connect with you; and that I will be more non-stop with you next time…

     – The GateThe Gate

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