I’ve mentioned this several times before, but I feel the need to mention it again, so forgive me.
One of the most frustrating things in the airline industry is when flights are marketed as “direct” flights. In theory (and in practice for some airlines) it makes sense. For example, I recently flew Singapore Airlines from Houston to Singapore via Moscow. We had the same aircraft the whole way and arrived and departed from the same gate in Moscow, so it’s perfectly reasonable to tag that as a single flight number, in my opinion.
Southwest also does direct flights correctly. If you’re on a flight with the same flight number and connecting all the way through it’s going to be the same airplane the whole way, and you can even stay on the airplane during the connection.
And then there are most of the other airlines, which recklessly use “direct” flights. It used to be that these were used for the purposes of marketing “direct” service between two cities (with a stop along the way), though over the years it has become a bit of a joke. Any two flights could be a direct flight, even if there’s an aircraft or terminal change. This is deceiving because as a consumer when you’re booking a direct flight it looks like a nonstop flight on the surface. But then you show up at the airport and find out that you’re not only connecting somewhere, but have the possibility of misconnecting.
So to sum it up the reasons I hate direct flights are as follows:
- You’re only credited the mileage for the direct distance between the origin and destination
- Your upgrade doesn’t clear unless there’s upgrade space on all flights
- You’re issued a single boarding pass which doesn’t even state at which time your connecting flight boards
- You could still have to switch terminals at your connecting airport, or even misconnect if your first flight is delayed, even though the entire trip is a “direct” flight
Let me give a couple of examples. A few weeks ago I was flying from Tampa to Houston via Charlotte on US Airways. As it turned out this was a “direct” flight (which is pretty ironic, because I’m not sure what’s “direct” about flying double the direct distance between two points).
Looking at the boarding pass, there’s not even an indication that I’m connecting in Charlotte. There’s no gate assignment or boarding time for my flight from Charlotte to Houston either.
So in Tampa I went to the US Airways Club and they announced a 40 minute delay for the Tampa to Charlotte flight (funny enough the name of the lady working the US Airways Club in Tampa is… you guessed it, Charlotte. Wonder if they would’ve hired her if her name was Detroit or Houston?). I decided to play dumb and said “I heard you said flight 1203 was delayed. Does that also apply for the Houston flight?” She said “of course, you’re going through Charlotte.” I said “oh, I am? But I assume it’ll be the same plane to Houston, right?” She indicated it wasn’t, and even informed me I’d have to switch terminals in Charlotte. She warned me that I may misconnect.
Now of course I’m savvier than that and knew I was going through Charlotte, but the average consumer really has no way of knowing. And it would suck to show up at the airport, be told you have a connecting city, and then end up getting stuck in a city you didn’t even know you were traveling through because your first flight was delayed.
And I’m running into similar “direct” flight issues for a Tampa to Seattle trip (via Dallas) I’m supposed to take in a few days, though for exactly the opposite reasons. Here’s what aa.com lists for the flight:
The flight segments are listed separately, unlike the US Airways scenario above. You wouldn’t even notice that this is a “direct” flight unless you paid close attention to the flight numbers and noticed they were the same. And who pays attention to flight numbers, unless it’s flight 666 and you’re superstitious, or it’s flight 69 and you have the sense of humor of a 13 year old?
When I book the flight and request an upgrade, though, I get the following:
This means the upgrade request is going in as if this is a single flight segment, which exponentially decreases my chances of getting an upgrade. There would have to be confirmable upgrade space on both the Tampa to Dallas and Dallas to Seattle flights for any upgrade to clear. And on top of that I’d only earn miles for the direct distance between Tampa and Seattle.
Admittedly this is more of a rant than anything else, though it really is time for the airlines to reconsider “direct” flights, unless they’re used properly (like Southwest, Singapore, etc.). They’re not typically used for marketing purposes anymore, and they end up just screwing over passengers.