|« Baggage Allowances||How to read your Flight Times »|
Everyone knows that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Hence when choosing a flight, a straight flight between two destinations should be best as it takes the least time. What about cost? Sometimes you will find connecting flights between your destinations that are actually cheaper than a straight flight. So, you think if it saves me money, why not, a few more hours will not be a big deal.
The next consideration is the time of day best to fly. On a route with limited service you don’t have much of a choice, however where there are multiple flights per day, what is the best time to choose? Also, where there are multiple carriers servicing the same route, apart from the cost of the airfare, what should you consider when choosing which is the best carrier to book with?
These are some of the questions that we will examine together on the topic of flight choice. First let’s look at some terms used by the airlines that can cause confusion to passengers.
Non-Stop Flight - A non-stop flight is a flight by an aircraft with no intermediate stops.
Direct Flight – Any flight ticketed as a single flight coupon, irrespective of whether there are enroute stops and/or changes of aircraft.
Transfer – A change from the service of one carrier to another service of the same carrier (online transfer) or to the service of another carrier (interline transfer).
Non-Stop versus Direct Flight
A non-stop flight has to be the best choice. There is only one set of departure and arrival security checks which can be quite invasive and exhausting. You get to your destination quicker giving you more time to enjoy. However, in most instances, a non-stop flight will cost a little more than a direct flight which has a change of aircraft. Especially on routes where there is not a lot of competition. A perfect case of, supply and demand. Where the supply is low and the demand high the cost goes up. This might not be the case on routes where there are several carriers operating as then the supply is high so the cost will have to be competitive for all flights direct or non-stop.
In order to make direct flights with a change of aircraft more attractive, carriers will make those flights more affordable. Direct flights with online transfers are usually more tolerable as once you check in you are given boarding passes with seat numbers to your final destination, your bags are tagged to your final destination and you simply deplane and go to the transit city gate to board your connecting flight. Interline transfer between carriers are sometimes more involved. On domestic journeys the only thing different may be the absence of your connecting seat number. On international connections, however, you may have to recheck with the connecting carrier.
So, which is best, a nonstop flight which is quicker or a direct flight which cost less. Only you can make that determination, however you need to take all the variables into consideration when you are making your decision. Where a connection is involved, always check the amount of times between flights. Will you need to purchase a meal, and if so be sure to add that into your total cost? What will happen if the first flight is delayed or is affected by adverse weather? Is the connecting airport known for being congested? Yes, these problems can also occur on nonstop flights however, a change of aircraft always involves the possibility of misconnection.
Sometimes passengers will book a direct flight online not realizing that a stop is involved. It is important to read your itinerary carefully. For bookings made online, most airlines have a 24 hours’ window that they will allow changes or cancellations without charge.
What is the best time of day to travel?
All carriers utilize each aircraft within its fleet as much as possible with scheduled regular checks. So, an aircraft will make multiple trips within any given day depending on the length of each flight. An aircraft therefore that starts in city ‘A’ may end up in city ‘C’ after going to city ‘B’. If there is a delay for any reason at city ‘A’, then all subsequent flights may be affected. This is known as a “ripple” effect, the most common reason for flight delays and the main reason to try and reserve a flight that leaves early in the day in order to avoid delays. Being on an early flight also gives you more options for rerouting in the event that your flight does get delayed or cancelled.
When on vacation you always want to make the most of every minute. Most hotels allow check in between 1:00pm and 3:00pm. Allowing time for airport formalities and transportation, taking an early flight gives you the opportunity to take full advantage of all your hotel has to offer especially if it’s an all-inclusive. I always feel as if I have wasted a full day of my vacation when I arrive at my destination late at night.
There was a time when airlines would offer special low fares for travel late at night, sometimes called ‘red eye’ flights. Fares on these late flights may in fact appear lower in some cases only because they are less popular and with more available inventory the airlines may have seat sales. Either way, everyone loves a deal so it’s worth doing your comparisons before making your choice.
Most frequent travellers have their favourite airlines that they are comfortable with and are loyal to. For those with Frequent Flyer mileage /points membership it is prudent to travel on those carriers as long as they fly the destination being travelled. On journeys with only one carrier then there is no choice if it is a trip that we must make. Fortunately, there are not many routes that this applies to, mostly domestic travel.
Otherwise where there are several carriers competing on a route, apart from the cost of the airfare you should take into consideration the frequency of flights when making your choice. How many flights does the carrier have per day or per week? The more flights a carrier has on a route the better as it means if there has to be a delay or cancellation then the next flight is not far behind. Also in most cases the more inventory a carrier has on a route the better the fares. For some persons, the aircraft type on a route is also very important. For carriers using smaller aircraft types, there is less seating space and baggage capacity.
Like anything in life, choosing a flight is personal. You know what is best for you. I hope the information given above will help you to make the best choice when travelling.