Airplane seats

Direct flights always make stopovers.

Flickr / Sébastien

You know you don’t want a stopover, but did you know there is a difference between nonstop flights and direct flights? No? Well, you should if you want your nonstop flight to be truly nonstop.

If you want to get to where you’re going as quickly as possible, book a nonstop flight.

Those flights take off from your departure city and land at your destination without any stopping. However, these are usually also the most expensive flights.

Direct flights, despite the name, will also take you from your departure city to your destination, but stop off elsewhere.

Some people may get off the flight during this stopover, others may get on, but a direct flight does not count as a connection because it will require you to stay on the plane. Direct flights, unless otherwise specified, will not get you off the plane, unless a plane change is required, although this is usually noted somewhere, so check the fine print. These flights will be cheaper than non-stop flights, although generally more expensive than connecting flights.

Despite a stopover, direct flights are said to be “direct” because their flight numbers do not change (even if the plane changes). Connecting flights will always have two (or more) different flight numbers. Think of direct flights like buses: they still take you from A to B without huge detours, but will have an extra stop along the way. Sometimes direct flights will even have more than one stopover, so always be sure to check before booking a direct flight. These types of flights can also be referred to as “direct” flights, especially if they involve a change of planes.

Another thing to know about direct flights is that frequent flyer mileage is often based on the direct flight numbers, not the specific leg of the flight. In other words, you cannot earn the extra miles flown.

Travel search engines rank nonstop flights first, followed by direct flights versus connecting flights, as these are considered more convenient for passengers since you don’t have to travel. Airlines have direct or direct flights to appear higher in searches, as the unique flight number makes these flights appear direct or even nonstop, competing with better flights.

So the next time you are looking to book a flight, be sure to pay attention to the details of the flight.