Connecting Flights vs. Non-Stops

It is a no-brainer: you would prefer a non-stop flight to your final destination. But what if you could save money on airfare by purchasing a connecting flight? Would you bite?

Listen as analyst Rick Seaney gives a quick rundown on non-stops vs. connecting flights:

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We polled our Facebook fans and the overwhelming choice was non-stop flights. People are generally willing to pay more for a nonstop flight for many reasons:

  • Less time spent in airports
  • Time constraints
  • Fewer chances of missed or cancelled flights
  • Overall convenience

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But, in some cases, changing planes can be preferable. In addition to the cheaper fares, here are a few reasons some people choose routes with plane changes:

  • Breaking it up. Taking kids on a 10-hour flight can be more stressful than two shorter flights where they will have the chance to stretch and move around
  • “Free” trips. With international flights, layovers can be as long as 24 hours, allowing a quick jaunt around a city you have always wanted to see
  • Convenience. Domestic layovers can be up to four hours, which is sometimes enough time to catch up with a friend or relative over a meal.

So Which is Better – Connecting Flight or Non-Stop?

The answer is not always simple.

First, if you are strictly going for price, search out all airfares – routes with connections are not always the cheapest. If you are searching for connecting flights to lower your costs, you will have the best luck doing so on long-distance flights between major cities, such as New York and Los Angeles.

Next, account for factors like weather when choosing routes with connections. If it is January you will usually have a better chance of making that connection successfully in Dallas-Fort Worth than you would in Chicago.

Be sure to keep in mind the risks you take by choosing routes with connecting flights. The more connections, the greater the chance for flight delays or cancellations and the higher the chance of lost luggage. If you have to be there at a certain time, sometimes it is best to pay extra for a nonstop flight.

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A general rule of thumb is that the longer the layover, the cheaper the airfare, and often short layover flights are not cheap enough to make them worthwhile. Occasionally they will even cost more than a nonstop flight.

Take FareCompare’s Advice: If you can reach your destination within two hours of the time a nonstop flight would take, and you save substantially, then the connecting route may be worthwhile.


Published: June 14, 2012