READER VOTE: “Nonstop” vs “Direct” vs “Flight” — Which Is It?

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A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767 is shown departing from the Los Angeles International Airport, LAX.

A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767 is shown departing from Los Angeles International Airport, LAX.(© Di Bilio)

I took some grief (good-natured, I hope 😉 ) about the wording in a post yesterday. We’re going to vote on it.

Nonstop Debate About “Nonstop”

In Delta Plans 200 Daily Nonstops from Boston in 2021, I used the word “nonstop” to describe a flight departing from one airport and landing at another. A single takeoff, a single landing. Point A to Point B.

The Salsa World Traveler John commented, “B/t/w in spite of the common use of the term, there ain’t no such thing as a non-stop flight.:)”

Then Jon added, “You could say that there are “non-stop” (direct flight) itineraries, but every flight stops at its destination.”

(I guess yesterday was John/Jon Day here at René’s Points.)

Yes, “nonstop” seems like an obvious misnomer. Every flight does indeed stop/end at a destination (intended or otherwise). No flight goes on forever (even if we’re in first class, relaxing in a lie-flat bed, sipping good liquor after a nice meal and really want it to never end!)

Many travel writers say “nonstop” because “direct” isn’t exactly an accurate term. More on that in a minute.

But then reader Haris (whose bio reads “You can’t spell CHARISMA without HARIS.” Amazing!) dropped us a Tweet and said:

See? Haris gets me! But then I start rethinking this whole “nonstop” business.

Oy. This makes my head hurt.

Why Didn’t I Just Say “Direct”?

I stay away from “direct” because that word, too, can be misleading.

Direct flights can have connections. (I know, I know.) “‘(Direct)’ means that the flight number doesn’t change, even as the aircraft may make one — or more — stops,” Travel + Leisure‘s Erika Owen explains.

For example, my friends at Southwest may have a direct flight from Indianapolis (IND) to Orange County/John Wayne (SNA). Flight number 960. Here’s where this “direct” flight stops:

  • Houston (HOU)
  • Austin (AUS)
  • San Jose (SJC)

Wait! We’re still not there!

  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Tuscon (TUS)
  • Las Vegas (LAS)

And finally arriving at John Wayne.

Jeez. You could Lime Scooter from Indianapolis to John Wayne faster than taking the “direct” flight.

A Southwest airlines 737 MAX 8 landing at Ronald Regan National Airport(DCA) Arlington, Virginia, USA November 8th, 2018 Plane-Boeing 737 Max 8 Registration-n8704q Airport- DCA Photo Credit- Domonic Evaninia

How many stops this bad boy have on his “direct” flight today? (Photo credit: Domonic Evaninia – ©

What About “Flight”?

John (this one) later suggested “In this case the correct term is ‘flights.'” If I remember correctly from meeting him at the Chicago Seminars, John is (or was) a lawyer. (And a nice guy!) So correct verbiage is in his wheelhouse.

Yes, “flight” is correct. And, really, I couldn’t go wrong with it.

But then people may wonder if it’s “Flight? As in ‘nonstop'”?

Or “Flight? As in ‘direct’ when one needs to go 230 miles but ends up traversing the country three times on a Southwest flight in the process?”


Thank you to the people who commented. And thanks to everyone who participates with constructive, informative, and/or fun comments. Or with data points. Or relevant, thoughtful opinions. You keep me on my toes. And fingers.

I appreciate it.

So Let’s Vote!

What do you think?

What is a single operation from Point A to Point B? One takeoff, one landing.

  • Nonstop (83%, 121 Votes)
  • Direct (11%, 16 Votes)
  • Flight (6%, 9 Votes)

Total Voters: 146

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We’ll keep the polls open until Friday at 12 PM Eastern. (No interference or collusion, please.) I’ll post the final tally in Saturday’s weekly recap!




  1. @Chris, Well there you have it. From now on you must use “nonstop” when you mean “flight.”

    Have a good nonstop. LOL

  2. Way back when I started flying a lot (mid 80’s), I overheard an airline gate agent lecture a traveler on the difference between “Direct” and “non-stop”. Seems he showed up at the gate only to see that his flight made a stop before arriving at his final destination. He wasn’t too happy about it. He was told he had been booked on a direct flight!

  3. My original comment was indeed intended in a fun, good-natured way. I’m retired so now have time to think of stuff like this. In this case another good term that is more accurate than “nonstop” is “departures” as used in the Forbes article.

    Oh well. I enjoy reading your posts. Keep up the good work.

  4. Will you please also tackle the debate of “round-trip” vs a “return” ticket?

  5. Long, long ago in the days of Braniff, Eastern, PanAm (before you were born), and the days of travel agencies, this was a clear definition. ‘Non-stop’ meant just that. Point A to point B, no stopping/landing in-between. ‘Direct’ meant the flight would make 1 stop (or more), you did not change planes, and ultimately arrived at point B.

  6. Chris

    I have been working in the travel industry since 1969 (still active today in IT).

    These are the terms that have been used long before I got into the industry.

    Nonstop – means a flight from Point A to B that does not make any stops. Technically a Nonstop is also considered a Direct flight but to provide clarity the term Nonstop is used.

    Direct – means a flight from Point A to C that does stop at point B but does not require a change of planes. Unfortunately it could also be used for a flight from Point A to C where there is an equipment change at point B but usually it’s not used for that.

    Connection – means a routing that requires a change of planes e.g. (PBI/ATL/PHX – with a change of planes/flight # in ATL).

    Finally many in the travelling public think Direct means Nonstop so they get very confused at the distinction.

  7. Chris – since you mentioned it, I had a Direct flight on TWA in 1980 from Frankfurt to O’Hare (returning to the US from an overseas Army tour). Same flight number, but had to change equipment in London (don’t remember which airport). Figured out it wasn’t a nonstop when we boarded the plane in Frankfurt (small narrow body not certified to fly over water). Knew we had to change somewhere. Military travel cut the ticket, so there wasn’t much preflight info.

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