What's the Difference Between Nonstop and Direct Flights?

Airfare Question of the Month
by , SmarterTravel Staff - August 17, 2015
Jessica Labrencis Headshot 200706
Air: Two Planes - One Parked, Another Taking Off (Photo: Shutterstock/jose marques lopes)
Dear Jessica,

Is there a difference between nonstop and direct flights? If so, which is cheaper?


Dear M.L.,

Many people think nonstop and direct flights are interchangeable terms, but there are differences between the two. A nonstop flight does as its name suggests: flies from one airport to another without stopping. A direct flight, on the other hand, makes stops along the way. Often, passengers traveling on direct flights make a stop at a midpoint airport and remain seated on the plane while some passengers exit and others board.

Additionally, an itinerary with connecting flights requires passengers to change planes at a midpoint airport, which may be in a different terminal or on a different airline.

RELATED: What You Need to Know About Making a Connecting Flight

A nonstop flight is generally the quickest way to get from Point A to Point B, but the major airlines may charge a premium for the convenience. Flights that connect through a carrier's hub cities are often less expensive, and flights on low-fare carriers like Southwest often require at least one connection. Note that while connecting flights may be less expensive, you'll have to pay additional airport charges (Passenger Facility Charges or PFCs) for each airport you stop at, which can raise the overall price.

Depending on the circumstances of your trip, the convenience of a nonstop flight may be worth the price imposed by the airlines. But, if you're not in a hurry to arrive, you may be able to save by booking a direct or connecting flight. Compare prices for each type of flight to be sure.

More from SmarterTravel

  • How to Survive a Red-Eye Flight
  • How to Get a Refund on a Non-Refundable Flight
  • 14 Myths About Booking Cheap Flights
  • Advertisement
    Last Updated: August 17, 2015

    Read comments or add your own insight!