Connecting Flights or Nonstops: Which are Cheaper

Waiting in the airport

There's a little-known extra you pay for certain flights. Airfare expert and FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney calls it the "convenience tax." In other words, if you want a hassle-free, convenient flight – like a nonstop – you will usually pay more than a connecting flight to the same destination. Not always, but usually, so always compare fares for both connecting and nonstop flights.

Connecting vs. Nonstop Fares

If you can endure the inconvenience of a longer travel day, you might save a lot of money. These are examples of September fares found in August on FareCompare.

Detroit to Los Angeles

  • Nonstop $216, one-stop $194. You save $22. Enough to take the connecting flight? Maybe not.

Washington D.C. to Seattle

  • Nonstop $337, one-stop $274. You save $53. This might be worth the inconvenience, especially for families.

Atlanta to Cancun

  • Nonstop $492, one-stop $339. You save $153. Totally worth taking a connecting flight.

San Francisco to Madrid

  • Nonstop $1022, one-stop $673. You save $349. Amazing.

How to find the cheaper flight

Shop an airfare comparison site – such as FareCompare – that shows prices for a variety of routes including nonstops, connecting flights with one-stop or connecting flights with two or more stops (look for the box on the left that indicates stops or nonstop). Only you can say if the savings are worth the inconvenience of a longer travel day.

More benefits of longer routes

Sometimes, a connecting flight can actually be a plus.

  • Break time for kids. Face it, a long flight can be more stressful for kids than two shorter hops. During a layover, they can run off some energy in one of the many airport play areas (here's a list).
  •  Break time for adults. Today's airports are filled with fun things to do for grown-ups, too, like manicures, massages, and an increasing number of food and drink offerings. Check your airport's website.
  • Side trips. Layovers can be as long as 24 hours on certain international flights which may allow for a quick tour of a city you might otherwise miss.
Anne McDermott
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