Vacation minutes are precious, especially when you’re seeking a salubrious escape from cold, gray skies and the unpleasantries of polar vortices. Travelers don’t want to waste any time on exhausting airport layovers, chasing lost luggage, rushing to catch connecting flights or missing them altogether when bad weather cripples a stopover city.
To save time and avoid some of these pitfalls, book a nonstop flight that goes directly to your favorite getaway spot. (Yes, they do exist from Buffalo.)
For example, JetBlue began a new nonstop flight to Los Angeles in June that cuts travel time from 9 hours to 3½ with no time-sucking connections. In fact, Buffalo boasts six air carriers that provide about 100 nonstop daily flights to 24 destinations.
Leading the list of the most popular venues are Las Vegas and Orlando, followed closely by New York, Chicago, Phoenix, Washington, D.C.; Denver (seasonal) and a host of Florida sun spots.
Nonstop vs. direct
When booking any of these trips, be aware that “nonstop” flights are different from “direct” ones. Nonstop flights make no stops. Passengers on a direct flight don’t get off the plane, but the aircraft may land at a midpoint airport or airline hub to allow other connecting passengers to board or get off.
When winter winds blow, folks who get nervous during takeoffs and landings have less to worry about when the plane makes a minimal number of stops.
Nonstop flights may be faster, but they are often more expensive than direct or connecting flights. They also are still subject to weather delays, mechanical problems and, occasionally, to losing a piece of luggage (unless you have a Delta bag-tracking chip).
“To avoid delays if you’re not flying nonstop, it’s best to do your homework when flying to connecting cities.” advised William Vanecek, director of aviation at Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
“Before you book, take into account the weather and the seasons at airports in other cities,” Vanecek said. “You may hit delays in St. Paul, Minn., or Detroit in the winter. Or you may run into summer storms out of the Midwest, if you land in Chicago.”
Other valuable travel tools that Vanecek recommended are Federal Aviation Administration lists of airline on-time statistics and delay causes, which are tracked at Faa.gov.
Not as many non-stops
If an airline schedule does not distinguish between a nonstop and direct flight, check the flight itinerary to see how many stops the plane will make. You can also look at departure and arrival times on direct flights to discern how long the interval will be on the stopover tarmac.
There may not be as many nonstop flights as connecting ones. So choice options for flight times and departure days can be more restricted. These limitations frequently impact business travelers, who often prefer the convenience of early-morning or late-evening travel.
Some airline frequent flyer programs now base points on the amount of money spent on tickets or credit card purchases. Others give points for how far you fly, so trips with one or two legs may garner more mile points than direct or nonstop journeys. Vacation-hungry travelers may want to take connecting flights to pile up points redeemable for a free future trip, so check airline websites for loyalty award policies.
That said, there’s no better way than a nonstop hop to make a fast getaway. That quick-turnaround escape may entail a red-eye on the return home, but who’s counting zzz’s when you’ve got a fast flight to a rejuvenating respite with no layover.
In addition to the warm weather locations, many of the major nonstop cities are key airline hubs. They serve as jumping off points to catch cheaper international flights or gateways to nearby national parks.
For flight schedules, air carriers, arrival and departure times, an air traffic map and a flight tracker, consult Buffaloairport.com. Here’s a list of carriers and cities with nonstop service from Buffalo:
- American Airlines: Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington-Reagan.
- Delta Airlines: Atlanta, New York (JFK and LaGuardia), Detroit and Minneapolis-St. Paul.
- JetBlue Airways: Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles (LAX), New York (JFK) and Orlando.
- Southwest Airlines: Baltimore, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Ft. Myers, Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix, Tampa and Denver (seasonal).
- Sunwing Airlines: Cancun, Mexico and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
- United Airlines: Chicago, Newark and Washington-Dulles.
Niagara Falls Options
Another option for nonstop travel is Niagara Falls International Airport. Allegiant and Spirit Airlines both provide seasonal service to southern locales from there. Allegiant flies nonstop to four Florida cities, including Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers/Punta Gorda, Orlando/Sanford and Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg. Spirit also serves two Florida destinations — Orlando and Fort Lauderdale — and Myrtle Beach, S.C.
These low-cost carriers offer cheaper fares, but they do not fly to vacation spots on a daily basis. Travelers must check airline websites or Niagarafallsairport.com to see a limited schedule of arrivals and departures.
They also charge extra fees for printing boarding passes, checking luggage, carrying on luggage (other than small personal items) and for booking advance seat assignments. To keep prices lower, Allegiant does not offer amenities like frequent flier points, free in-flight food and drinks or on-board entertainment.
Tickets are usually booked online in advance of travel. Same day fliers can occasionally purchase seats at the Falls airport ticket counter based on availability. The counter typically opens two hours before a flight, but is not staffed seven days a week.
Story topics: Travel