If you’re planning a globe-trotting adventure, you’ll want to manage your flight itinerary in such a way as to save as much time and energy as possible for when you get to your destination. This means booking flights with short overall flight times, or layovers that don’t cost you too much sleep. But how do you manage this balancing act when you have a budget to consider, too?
Step one is understanding exactly what you’re signing up for when you book your flight. The last thing you need is to waste needless hours on a plane because you didn’t properly grasp the ins and outs of the various booking terms.
If you’re finding the online booking process a little daunting, you are certainly not alone. Here’s a quick ‘Fights 101’ to help you avoid the most common sources of confusion before you input those credit card details.
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If you book a ‘nonstop’ flight, your plane will take off from your departure city and it won’t touch tarmac until you arrive at your destination. As technology gets more advanced and planes can fly for longer without needing to refuel, nonstop flight routes are becoming more widely available. A nonstop flight will cost you more than other flights because you’re paying for the shorter flight time and the convenience of not having to switch planes at other airports along your journey. If your time is worth a lot of money (for example, you’re on a time-pressured business trip), then a more expensive nonstop ticket might end up cheaper because it gets you there and back faster. If nonstop is out of reach financially, you may also get lucky and find that an airline is having a sale or you’re eligible for a discounted rate. For example, united airlines senior fares may bring your ideal flight within reach.
Here’s the confusing one. More common than nonstop routes, a ‘direct flight’ ticket has a single flight number. However, this does not mean that you will only take one ‘flight’ along the way. Your journey could include several stops before you reach your final destination. These stops could be for refuelling, passenger pick-ups/drop-offs or engineering work. The good news is that you don’t always have to get off the plane. You may be able to say seated and watch a movie while other passengers board, but sometimes this is required. In these cases, you won’t (or will very rarely) have to collect your luggage. Rather, you’ll be guided by airline staff directly onto the next plane.
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The cheapest option of all, the connecting flights will often include layovers at an airport or two (or three) along the way, adding significantly to your journey time. So while you save money, you lose hours. This is something you will need to weigh up. In the time between flights, you may have to collect your luggage and change terminals. If you’re switching airlines, different baggage allowances may be a factor. Connecting flights are good bet if budget is your main concern, but not if you don’t have time to kill or you’re unwilling to endure the stress and exhaustion.
Choosing the right flight for your needs depends on your priorities. These tips will help you ensure that you know what you’re letting yourself in for.