Travel Tip of the Day: Direct Doesn’t Mean Non-Stop

FlightsDirect Doesn’t Mean Non-Stop
One of my biggest pet peeves is when I see airlines (ahem, Southwest) marketing direct flights like they’re non-stop. Don’t get suckered by airline lingo, especially here in the United States. A direct flight and a non-stop flight are not the same thing. Here’s how my good friend (and co-host of our weekly ) defines the two in his daily newsletter:
  • Non-stop: A non-stop flight is just what it says: a single flight between two airports with no stops. Business travelers prefer non-stop flights because they are the fastest. Unfortunately they are usually the most expensive.
  • Direct: While a direct flight might sound like a non-stop 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. So if you choose a direct flight between Atlanta and San Francisco you’d fly on one plane the whole way to SFO. But that plane would make a stop in, say, Dallas, or Denver, 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.



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About the Author

I used to be afraid to fly and at times even leave the house! I conquered my fear (long story) and now I travel to 20+ countries a year sharing my firsthand knowledge, tips and deals with friends, family and readers. Please sign up to our free newsletters and tell your friends!

4 Comments on "Travel Tip of the Day: Direct Doesn’t Mean Non-Stop"

  1. Not always is a direct flight on the same plane on both legs. Twice in the last year I’ve had to change planes at a different gate for the same flight number. Frustrating!!!

  2. Hmmm it sounds like an educational issue to me and Thank you Johnny for helping educate us the flying public. The definitions you provided are helpful but don’t get mad because Direct does not equal NonStop. What would YOU call a Direct flight? A “One or More Stops but don’t Change Planes” flight or an “Indirect Flight” because it stops on the way yet flies to your destination. And one where you are ticketed through but have to change planes would be an “Indirect with Plane Switch” flight which I think the airlines call “Legs”? hahaha

  3. Please be aware that even if a flight is advertised as direct, with a single flight number, there may also be a plane change. This has happened to me more than once on American Airlines, and I’m sure they’re not the only ones.

  4. Its is even worse when the flight is international. Check out Delta 504 as an example (San Pedro Sula, Honduras to Newark, NJ). It stops in Atlanta where you must clear customs, redo security (which means that duty free liquids must be checked and probably broken on the next leg – remember 3-1-1) and changes equipment. To add insult to injury if the airline awards FF miles (instead of points per dollar) they only awarded miles as if the flight was non-stop. So all the inconvience of a connection and not even a few extra miles for your troubles.

    Of course when there is a change of plane there is no guarantee that if your first leg is late that the second leg will wait. Worse I’ve been on a delayed direct flight scheduled with the same plane and they substituted a different aircraft so I missed getting to my destitation anyway. Amazingly I had to fight with the airline to even give me the miles for the new connection flight since I had booked a direct!

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