I Miss Travel Hacking

It’s been a little more than two weeks since I lost my elite status with an airline, and I’ve already become sentimental about all the travel-hacking methods I used to use. Last night, I was working with yet another art historian, and we started to talk about travel hacking. I quizzed her with an easy one.

What is the difference between a direct flight and a nonstop flight?

Most humans don’t know the difference, and my friend didn’t either. So, class, let’s review:

  • a nonstop flight goes from A-B without any intermediate stops, whereas
  • a direct flight goes from A-B but makes an intermediate stop at C, without requiring you to change flights. However, you might have to change planes.

I think the direct flight is best compared to train travel. For example, I can take a direct train, on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor line, from New York to Washington, but my train is going to make intermediate stops in Newark, Trenton, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore, if not more. However, a nonstop train would make no stops until it reaches its final destination. I know of no such train between here and our nation’s capital.

Most of us, however, travel via connecting trains and flights. For example, taking the train from New York to Los Angeles, which I will do one of these days, requires me to board the 20th Century Limited and then catch a connecting Southwest Chief train in Chicago. (Or something like that.) And remember that year I qualified on segments, not miles, flown? That was because each one-way trip required at least one connection. Sure, I got greedy a few times and booked a few six-segment trips to Southern California when there are always plenty of options to catch a nonstop between JFK and LAX, but I basically got silver status that year on about seven trips.

For our subsequent lessons, we’ll get into the finer points of perfectly reasonable hacks like open-jaws, stopovers, and free one-ways. We’ll also be sure to cover some sketchier tricks like hidden city fares, nested ticketing, and throwaway ticketing.

We’ll skip mileage running because, after all, what’s the point?

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