Airlines have terminology that is difficult to understand. Sometimes it feels like they've created a language all their own. It can definitely make the rest of us confused sometimes! Let's discuss some of the common terms you'll hear.
Types of Flights
For most people traveling by air, the only thing that matters is that their flight is safe, on time, and as fast and simple as possible. However, the simplicity of a flight depends on the stops. A stop occurs whenever a plane lands, and there are different types of stops. A connection is a stop that happens when the passenger gets off a plane for the purpose of boarding another plane. A layover is a flight connection ranging from as short as a half an hour upwards to 23 hours and 59 minutes. Anything under the 24-hour mark is considered a layover. Layovers can last overnight, and depending on the booking site, building in an extended layover shouldn’t change your final flight price if kept under 24 hours. A stopover refers to a connection that is over the 24 hour mark and can last multiple days (domestically a stopover is considered a connection of over four hours). Stopovers are usually found on routes that don’t have a daily frequency or if an airline's flight schedule allows for them. Stopovers can be a great tool for flyers to take some time to explore a city on the way to their final destination. Over the last few years, airlines have relaxed their stopover policies and even promoted free stopovers to entice travelers to to book them.
Depending on the stops involved, travelers might take three different types of one-way flights. A nonstop flight has no stops. A connecting flight has a stop that requires the passenger to change planes. A direct flight can have one or more stops where the passenger does not have to change planes. In some cases, however, some direct flights change planes at the stop, requiring passengers to switch planes, even though these flights are not listed as connecting flights but rather as a “change of equipment.” The government requires that passengers be notified in writing when a flight with a change in aircraft is listed as direct. This is usually indicated on your itinerary.
Many travelers use the term direct for non-stop. This is one of the most misunderstood terms. A direct flight may contain a stop(s) along the way to the final destination to bring on or take off more passengers. The key here is that a direct flight does not change its flight number despite touching down between two points, so it’s considered one continuous trip.
Types of Journeys
No matter the type of flight, there are five basic types of journeys. A one-way trip is a journey from an originating city to a destination city, with no return to the origin. The journey may be made on one or more flights and may or may not require the passenger to change planes. A round-trip is a journey that returns to the city where it began, without additional stopovers. A circle trip is like a round-trip except that the route on the return trip is different from the route on the outgoing trip. The journey involves two or more stopovers and returns to the originating city.
An open-jaw trip is like a round-trip except that the passenger either: (1) returns to a city different from the origin, or (2) departs for the return trip from a city other than the original destination. For example, a passenger might go from Seattle to Boston by plane, then to New York by car, and then return to Seattle by plane from New York. The traveler uses some form of transportation in addition to air. Open-jaws are usually booked so that a flyer can explore and travel between two destinations without having to backtrack to the arrival airport. A double open-jaw trip often is found in itineraries where there is more than one airport close to a city. For example, Chicago O'Hare to La Guardia, then returning from Newark to Chicago Midway.
As you can see, air can be complex. If you fly regularly, it is important that you have a basic understanding of what it all means.