Most people think direct flights and non-stop flights are the same thing. And why wouldn't you think that? If you fly direct from JFK to Paris, you'd think that's the same as flying non-stop to Paris from JFK.
But you'd be wrong.
Direct flights are when you fly from Point A to Point B, no matter what's in between. Sometimes, these flights have the same flight number from one destination to the next, but stops along the way. A great example of this is international flights. If flight 15 goes from Sydney to New York, but stops in Los Angeles, it's considered a direct flight from Sydney to New York. Basically, a direct flight is when you book your travel to your final destination, no matter how many connections or stops you have along the way.
Non-stop flights are what most people look for when booking travel. Non-stops go from point A to point B without landing/stopping over. If you're looking to go from Sydney to New York, you want to book a non-stop. It might mean more time stuck on a plane, but you get to your destination without any pesky interruptions. It's the most efficient way to travel.
Why It Matters
If you have a direct flight with a stopover, the flight crew will make you deplane with your belongings. This is so they can clean the plane and restock food and beverage. Direct flights aren't necessarily any cheaper to take, but you need to be aware of it when you're booking. The sneaky thing about direct flights comes into play when an airline doesn’t tell you about a layover in Los Angeles. Sometimes, you don't change planes, terminals, or gates. When that is the case, some airlines don't disclose the stopover during the booking process. Nonstop flights, while usually optimal, don't always go to your destination. It's worth noting nonstop flights don't let you take advantage of great stopover cities. Both Iceland Air and Emirates Air encourage stopovers in major hubs like Reykjavik and Dubai, respectively. If you have time, you can extend your trip by a few days to experience the city on the way to your final destination.
However you travel, you're now better equipped to make decisions and use your time the way you choose - not how the airlines tell you. Happy flying!