Does a ‘non-stop’ and ‘direct’ flight sound the same to you? Or do you use the terms ‘transit’ and ‘transfer’ interchangeably? In fact, these air travel terms actually mean different things. Fret not, as even the most seasoned of frequent flyers get confused with similar-sounding terms such as these. Here are five pairs of air travel terms to get right, as they can impact your trip significantly.

Non-stop vs. direct flight

A non-stop flight goes straight from one airport to another without stopping. On a direct flight, the plane still brings you from one airport to another, but could make a brief stop at an intermediate airport along the way where other passengers may disembark or board. For example, Singapore Airlines flies non-stop from Singapore to San Francisco, and also operates another direct flight to San Francisco with a stop at Hong Kong airport. Thus, do check your flight details. You can expect to add at least 60 minutes to your travel time if you are on a direct flight compared to a non-stop flight.

On a direct flight, the plane still brings you from one airport to another, but could make a brief stop at an intermediate airport along the way where other passengers may disembark or board

Transit vs. transfer

A woman looking at the flight status board at an airport

Whether you are transiting or transferring, don’t forget to check on your flight’s status regularly to keep yourself updated about last minute changes

You are in transit if you return to the same aircraft after your brief stopover at the airport and continue on your journey. In such cases, usually only one ticket is issued. It is a transfer if you change planes or airlines. If you are transferring, be sure you have enough time in between flights to get to the next gate or terminal. Do also check on the minimum connecting time that airports or airlines publish.

This is especially important if you are flying on a low-cost carrier (LCC) and transferring to a full-service carrier (FSC), as you may have to clear customs, collect your baggage then check-in for your next flight to get your next boarding pass, which will take more time.

For such transfers, some LCCs offer seamless services for connections to partner airlines at Changi Airport – check out Scoot-Thru, Tigerconnect or CEB Connect by Cebu Pacific for more information. When in doubt, you could also check with a travel intermediary.

Open-jaw vs. round robin ticket

A graphic illustrating the difference between a round robin and an open jaw flight

Before a trip, think about which options suits you better – round robin, or open-jaw?

Open-jaw means you fly from point A to B, then from point C back to A. The name is derived from the picture that such an itinerary would create if plotted on paper. For open-jaw, you will be responsible for getting yourself from point B to C, either by flight on another airline or by other modes of transport such as car, rail, or even ferry and cruise, so do make arrangements accordingly.

On the other hand, a round robin ticket is when you fly from point A to B, then from point B on to C, and finally from C back to A. To purchase round robin tickets, click on the multi-city option on the airline’s website.

Split vs. return ticket

A picture of a passport holder, boarding passes, compass and credit card

Split tickets may sometimes cost less, but you will have to do extra research to figure out an ideal itinerary for your trip

Split ticket refers to buying two sets of single-trip or one-way tickets to get to your destination. With a return ticket, everything – including stops – is in the itinerary. People typically buy split tickets on an LCC as its total fare could be cheaper than a return fare on an FSC, but be prepared to spend extra time researching flight times and routes to find the best itinerary for your plans.

Bulkhead vs. emergency exit row seat

A man sitting in an emergency exit row seat on a flight

Emergency exit row seats are roomier, but you will have to pay a little extra for them

Bulkhead seats are located right behind the partitions in a plane that separate the classes or sections, i.e. toilet or kitchen. Emergency exit row seats are located where the exit doors are. Both offer more legroom, but you may have to pay more for emergency exit seats, while bulkhead seats tend to be reserved for families with young children or infants. Do note that not all passengers qualify for an emergency exit seat and each airline has its own criteria. You will also be briefed by the cabin crew on the responsibilities you would have to undertake in the unlikely event that the aircraft needs to be evacuated.


With these terms clarified, you will be better able to plan your next trip. That leaves the question: where to next?