Given a choice between a nonstop or a direct flight between SFO and New York, which one would you take? What if an option for a connecting flight was thrown into the mix?
Your choice could have a big impact on the price, length and comfort of your journey.
I’m frequently amazed at how many travel agents, airline employees, frequent business travelers and even fellow travel writers tend to think that direct and nonstop are interchangeable terms when referring to flights. They are not.
If you are wondering which type of flight is best for you, consider these definitions:
A nonstop flight is just what it says: a single flight between two airports with no stops. Business travelers favor nonstop flights because they are the fastest, but they are frequently the most expensive.
While a direct flight might sound like a nonstop flight, it’s not. A direct flight makes at least one intermediate stop along the way to its final destination, but has only one flight number.
For example, if you choose a direct flight between SFO and New York you’d fly on one plane the whole way to New York. But that plane would make a stop in, say, Chicago or Milwaukee or Atlanta, where it would drop off and pick up more passengers, like a bus. Due to these stops, direct flights can add an hour or more to your total travel time.
I recently flew Southwest Airlines flight #1618 from Oakland to Phoenix for a meeting. My flight from Oakland to Phoenix was a nonstop. However, the plane continued on to St Louis. The passengers who stayed on the plane in Phoenix and continued flying to St Louis on the second leg of flight #1618 were on a direct flight.
Often, direct flights are less expensive than nonstop flights, but not always. If you have a choice between a direct or a nonstop and the price is the same, take the nonstop!
A connecting flight means it will take at least two different planes with two different flight numbers to reach your final destination. For example, a connecting flight from San Francisco to New York on United Airlines would mean flying from San Francisco to Denver, or Chicago, where you would then disembark and board another plane for another flight to New York.
Connecting flights are almost always less expensive than nonstop flights, but they are not always the best option for travelers who place a premium on time.
Why? First, you’ll have to schlep hand luggage on and off the plane multiple times in each direction. Connections often mean landing in one concourse, then having to take a train or a long walk to another concourse. When you take off and land, you double your chances of encountering delays due to weather or air traffic control. Connecting flights can also take significantly longer than direct or nonstop flights due to long layovers. For these reasons, connecting flights are always the least desirable in terms of convenience… but the most desirable in terms of price.
Were you aware of the difference between direct and nonstop flights? What type of flight will you be taking next time? Be sure you know before you book!
– by Chris McGinnis
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For a limited period, San Francisco passengers will have the opportunity to experience spacious luxury onboard the world’s largest commercial aircraft, the Airbus A380 on flights to Asia. Between December 28, 2012 and March 24, 2013, Singapore Airlines will pop into town with daily “Pop-Up” A380 flights between San Francisco and Singapore via Hong Kong. Flip through this slideshow to see its famous Suites and the widest Business Class seats in the sky.
SQ1 departs SFO at 10:50 pm and arrives in Hong Kong at 5:50 am two days later. Flight time is about 13 hours to Hong Kong, and with another 3.5 hours to Singapore, you’ll have plenty of time to soak up the luxury and explore the 1000+ onboard entertainment options. SQ2 arrives daily in SFO at 7:45 pm on the same day it departs from Singapore and Hong Kong.