I Should Have Booked a Nonstop Flight — Reader Mistake Story

Dec 21, 2018

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.

Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Marc, who got stuck with consecutive delays during an inopportune layover:

I live in New York City, and have a choice of three airports. When I visit the West Coast, I can fly from New York-LaGuardia (LGA) with a layover somewhere along the way, or non-stop from New York-JFK or Newark (EWR). My wife and I currently have cobranded credit cards with United, Delta and American, so I typically base my decision on saver award availability, cash prices and flight times.

Recently, I chose LGA for a 7:00 am United flight to San Francisco (SFO) with a scheduled 50-minute connection in Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), because the ticket was slightly cheaper than the nonstop options. I’d still arrive in the afternoon, I could save money and time on the car service to EWR, and I knew there was a United club at both LGA and ORD I could access with my United Club Card.

That morning, we were informed at the gate that the flight was delayed because of a storm in the Midwest. There were no seats available on alternate routes. I was delayed six hours at LGA (after several further postponements), and another six hours at O’Hare, and arrived into SFO early the next morning. If I had flown nonstop from EWR, I would have flown over the inclement weather.

The lesson for me was to give more weight to the risk of a delay, especially during the winter. This makes me more likely to opt for nonstop flights, and persuades me a bit more to apply for a card that has access to more lounges — every airport has delays, but they don’t all have a United Club.

Based on data from the US Department of Transportation collected over the past decade, roughly one in five domestic flights is delayed (by 15 minutes or more), canceled or diverted. If you assume all flights are equally likely to be disrupted and treat each flight leg as fully independent, then your odds of being delayed (or worse) on a one-stop itinerary are over 35%. Add a second stop and those odds jump to nearly 50%. That’s not ideal.

Of course, treating all flights as equal is specious. Some airlines and airports are more punctual than others, and you’re more likely than normal to experience delays during, for example, a winter storm on a holiday weekend. There’s also a huge difference between pushing back 15 minutes late and enduring 12 hours of delays like Marc did. Still, the basic principle holds that more complex itineraries create more opportunities for something to go awry.

Many people prioritize cost over comfort and convenience when shopping for airfare, and that approach works fine so long as you recognize the trade-off. If you’re on a tight schedule or need to hit the ground running, a nonstop itinerary may be worth the extra cost. In any case, lounge access and a credit card with strong trip delay coverage can be useful assets when you find yourself stuck on the ground.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Marc a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured image of Chicago O’Hare International Airport via Shutterstock.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.