I Should Have Booked a Nonstop Flight — Reader Mistake Story
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 email@example.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.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees