Choosing between connecting and direct flight
In this article, we shall try to outline the differences between flying direct versus flying with connections, focusing on the pros and cons of both alternatives.
The most obvious reason to choose a direct flight over a journey with connections is the total flying time. Here the direct flight scores very high. A combination of two or more flights between A and B can rarely (if ever) take shorter time than a direct flight. The direct flight also eliminates the risk of missing the connection, hence there is lower probability of further delays.
There are a few cases however, where a connecting flight may score better time-wise. Time of arrival is the number one factor to consider. If between A and B, there is one direct flight a day and it arrives at B late in the evening, then it doesn’t work for us if we need to be in B earlier during the day. In such a case, we may go for a connecting flight, arriving earlier.
Number 2 reason for choosing connecting flight over direct time wise is the delay factor. If a given direct flight has a bad on time rating, than we may get discourage to buy tickets and go for a more reliable option.
Price is known to be number one reason for choosing one flight option over another. Quite often, fares on connecting flights are (considerably) cheaper than direct flights. Naturally, it is considered that direct flights are more convenient, hence passengers are more inclined to pay a premium.
There is something to watch out. Sometimes options with connecting flights are just a few dollars cheaper than direct flights. Often such options are very inconvenient, with long layovers, etc. You should pay attention before booking as a small saving can actually cost you much much more.
Rating & Status
Quite often, decision over direct vs connecting are actually decisions over one carrier to another. Passengers have lists of favorite airlines and lists of airlines to avoid. Many people still avoid lost cost carriers. Many corporations have special conditions with the legacy carriers.
If the direct flight is offered by a crappy airline with low punctuality rating, awful customer service and bad safety record, then yes, you should think twice before booking. Probably a connecting flight on a 5 star airline is worth the extra time.
Surprisingly, but such decisions are sometimes affected by status factors, such as access to lounges, air miles and other privileges. Actually this is why the loyalty programs are created for - to build loyalty among passengers. No matter direct or connect, some passengers will just go for the miles.
There is one particular when connecting flights are preferred over direct ones - long distance. If you are about to board a 15h+ non-stop flight is thrilling for many people. Imagine you have to spend that time in a middle economy seat. It is much more comfortable to break such a journey in two (or three) segments. Spending 7h on a plane, then roaming for 2-3 hours in a transit area of some airport and then again on the plane for 8h is actually a much better option.
Lets look at an example...
We decided to explore flights between the popular transatlantic route connecting Paris and New York. We carried out a research on a random set of dates, searching for all return flights options between Paris (all airports) and New York (all airports). Here is what we found out:
- The cheapest option is with United Airlines (EUR 404), with connections in Zurich on the outbound leg and in Washington on the inbound. Journey time is respective 12h and 9h51m.
- The next 20+ cheapest options involve flights of Lufthansa, United, Swiss, Brussels Airlines in all the cases with connections, with a few exceptions where the return flight is direct. Most of these options are convenient with one connection only and short layover. Average total flight length is around 10-12 hours. Fares are almost identical, ranging from EUR 404 to EUR 431
- The first totally nonstop option doesn’t even come on the first result page. It costs EUR 426(only EUR 22 more expensive than the cheapest fare for the chosen date set. The flight length is 9h outbound and 7h20m inbound, offered by United airlines.
- The other nonstop options start at EUR 452 (Lufthansa operated by United Airlines), followed by Finnair at the price of EUR 471 (Operated by American Airlines).
- The low cost airline operating the service between Paris and New York Norwegian, offers its flights at the fate of EUR 478, far not that low cost.
- The flag carrier of France Air France offers its flights to New York at the price of EUR 489. The convenience here comes from the departure times - 5 times a day both ways- morning, mid day, afternoon, evening.
How do we make a choice, judging that:
- Price differences are minor
- All airlines are more or less with similar rating and safety records
- All connections are convenient
We leave that decision to you….
Whatever criteria you apply, make sure to take all factors into consideration, before booking your direct or connecting flight.
Written by Connectionreview.com