With a few simple tips you can avoid delays, fly non-stop, AND save money.
- Forget your frequent flier miles! Cash them in and never use them again. Frequent flier miles lure you back to one particular airline, and thereby narrow your options considerably. By opening yourself up to multiple airlines you can almost always fly non-stop, without delay, and arrive happy.
- Learn the "hub and spoke system" inside and out. This is the most valuable thing you can do to save time and trouble. Some airlines are concentrated in certain regional areas, and serve some cities more heavily. Once you know the ins-and-outs of the complicated hub system, you can cut hours off your travel time, and avoid missed connections, by far the worst part of airline travel. (Your luggage is less likely to be lost when you fly direct,too).
- Use more than one website to buy your tickets. Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz; are good research tools and sometimes offer the best deal, but not always. Sometimes, only connecting flights are offered on these sites when a direct flight is available. Use these sites to get an idea of the prevailing price, airport maps, flight times, etc., and if they offer the best deal, great, but 9 times out of 10 you're better off visiting these first and then going to an airline's official homepage.
- Get to know discount airlines. Granted, their networks aren't as extensive as the major's offer; and, they usually aren't much cheaper, the major's usually match their prices, but if you're flying to their home city, they can be a real blessing: better on-time performance, direct flight, happier employees, and newer airplanes make them something to consider.
Remember: do some research, use multiple websites to compare information, and ALWAYS fly non-stop if possible. "Direct" flights can stop in another airport before reaching your destination. Good Luck!