What's the difference between non-stop and direct flights? 10 travel industry terms explained

Did you know a direct flight and a non-stop flight are not the same thing? The travel industry uses a lot of terms that may not make much sense to your average traveller. Here are 10 phrases of travel jargon that will help you understand just what they're talking about.

Is that flight direct, non-stop or connecting?

Direct and non-stop flights are often used interchangeably but they're not the same. Direct means your flight from A to B will include at least one stop en route, but aboard the same aircraft using just a single flight number. Non-stop means just that. A connecting flight involves a change of aircraft at some point along the way, which requires enough time for both you and your luggage to make it on board the next flight. For domestic flights, 60 minutes is safe, 90 minutes for international.

See also: Singapore's new plane for world's longest non-stop flight features no economy class

Consolidators and aggregators: Who's selling me the air ticket online?

Flight search engines are either one or the other. A consolidator is a wholesaler of airline tickets. They buy big blocks of tickets at a discount, apply a markup and re-sell them to flyers online. They include names like eDreams, CheapTickets and mytrip.com. Consolidator fares are usually cheaper than those offered by the airlines themselves. Aggregators, by contrast, include the likes of Skyscanner, Kayak, Expedia and Momondo. They scour the web looking at prices from airlines and consolidators and displaying the various options. If you opt for the cheapest possible fare you'll probably be buying it from a consolidator, and they come with lots of restrictions. You might pay a little more if you buy from the airline itself but if anything goes wrong and you need to make changes you're in a stronger position.

Legacy carrier: The old school

A legacy carrier is one that pre-dates the 1978 US Airline Deregulation Act, which unzipped the American skies and paved the runways for low-cost carriers. Qantas, Singapore Airlines, United and British Airways are all legacy carriers. Typically a legacy carrier will offer a higher level of service, with meals, baggage allowance and frequent flyer points included, although some of those privileges are being chiselled away in the dogfight between legacy carriers and low-cost competitors. Burdened with higher costs, many legacy carriers with venerable names have either folded their wings or merged.

Interline agreements, and why they matter

An interline agreement is an arrangement between carriers that allows each to act as agents on behalf of the other. That might sound irrelevant but if you're flying one sector with one airline and connecting with a flight aboard a different airline on the same booking, an interline agreement between the two means your baggage will be transferred from one to the other. Without such an agreement you need to collect it yourself, clear immigration and customs if it's an international flight and check in for your next flight. A budget carrier will not typically have interline agreements so you need to allow plenty of time if you're connecting to a flight with another carrier.

Travel hackers: Pointing the way

One personified by the Ryan Bingham, the character played by George Clooney in the movie Up in the Air:

"I don't spend a nickel, If I can help it, unless it somehow profits my mileage account."

Travel hackers aim to travel for nothing, or at minimal cost, using points and status credits collected by savvy exploitation of loyalty programs, bill payments and cash transactions. For the seriously afflicted travel hacker, feeding the points account is the name of the game, replacing the experience of travel itself. It's becoming tougher now that airlines and credit card providers are paring back on their once-generous sign-up offers.


See also: World's best frequent flyer programs named

End-on-end ticketing

Rather than buying a return ticket to your final destination, it will sometimes work out cheaper if you segment the journey, buying two return tickets with an intermediate stop in between. If you were to fly from Brisbane to Madrid for example, it might be cheaper to buy one return ticket from Brisbane to Singapore and another return ticket from Singapore to Madrid. End-on-end ticketing works best when the in-between city is a major hub, with several airlines in competition with one another, which means you can take advantage of lower prices. One drawback – since your connecting flight is a separate booking you'll have to collect your baggage, pass through immigration and customs and check back in for your next flight.

Open-jaw ticket

Not a meal-free flight but a return ticket that flies you into one city, from where you travel to another location by other means and fly back to your point of origin from there. You might fly into Rome, travel overland to Paris and board your return flight there. Most flight search engines will let you search for an open-jaw ticket by selecting the "multi-city" option.

Ancillary charges: The great gouge

The collective name for fees charged for checked baggage, meals on board, priority boarding, flight delay insurance and all the other add-on extras that you might be offered when you book a rock-bottom priced air ticket. These charges have become a huge money spinner for some airlines, in particular low-cost carriers which sell you just the seat, and everything else comes with a price tag. It's estimated that ancillary charges swelled the coffers of airlines around the world to the tune of $US82.2 billion in 2017.

Pink-eye flight

A close relative of the red-eye, the pink-eye is a flight that lands on the other side of midnight, but not too far. By the time you retrieve your baggage it's probably another couple of hours before your head hits a pillow, with just a few hours of downtime before fronting up at the meeting, the kids' swimming lesson or whatever. On the upside, you'll never have a quicker trip in from the airport.

See also: Jet-lag: What causes it and how to get over it

Aerotoxic syndrome: Asbestosis of the skies

Cabin air is drawn from the jet engines at the compressor stage, before it enters the combustion stage, but it can happen that lubricating oil will leak into the compressor zone when the seals that separate the stages are damaged. This oil contains organophosphate compounds, toxic substances that can cause blurred vision, nausea, breathing difficulties, headache, fatigue, convulsions and even death. Exposure to this contaminant in the aviation environment has been blamed for the disproportionate number of cabin crew, pilots and frequent flyers who have reported these symptoms.

See also: The most dangerous thing about flying can be the air you breathe

See also: The 13 things you will never hear an Australian traveller say