A few months ago, I stumbled upon a great website which has become instrumental for travel research and trip planning, called Flight Connections.Com. I cannot stress how useful this tool is to help familiarize even the most seasoned travel gurus with routing information and trip planning.
I’ve used the tool to plan out obscure itineraries and would like to share with you some features to help you get started with using this website. It is very intuitive, user-friendly and fairly accurate, so I think that this starter guide can be a great way to get moving on it.
Let’s say, for instance, I wanted to search all possible routings into Cape Town on a particular day.
I would first click on the green square that represents Cape Town on the map. You can also type in ‘Cape Town’ into the search bar to have Flight Connections return all of the routings from CPT, which will then populate on the map.
You can now see all of the domestic, regional, short-haul and intercontinental flights offered from Cape Town. Looking at this map, for example, you can tell that there are nonstop flights from Cape Town to London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Doha, Dubai, Addis Ababa and so on.
You can also zoom in on the map and hover over a particular city to identify which airport it flies into. If you click on the city, it will then populate the airlines and schedules that operate between Cape Town and the city you’ve selected. For instance, by clicking on, “Frankfurt,” I see that Cape Town – Frankfurt is offered on Condor and Lufthansa. Note: it only shows one-way routings, so in this example, since I chose Cape Town as the outbound market, it will only show me omni-directional options from CPT to FRA.
Now, here is where the tool can really become valuable: if you see the schedules display, you’ll notice that certain days of week are grayed out, and by hovering over the valid days, you can get an idea of what flight times are offered on that particular airline for that routing. It will also give you miles and travel times in case you’d like to know how much distance and journey duration elapses.
Note that you can also use the search bar to help populate routings. Let’s say that you want to travel from Cape Town to Frankfurt, but the nonstop flight times are not convenient for you, and you’d like to consider connections. You’ll notice that there are buttons that are titled, “0st, 1st, 2st” which allow you to specify, “nonstop, 1-stop or 2-stop” options between the designated city pairs. After clicking this button, the results bar on the left side of the map will populate flight paths, in ascending order from shortest to greatest travel times, with each leg populated featuring an available carrier between the Origin and Stopover point, and then Stopover point and Destination.
Notice, for example, that the shortest 1-stop routing available from Cape Town to Frankfurt is via Zurich, using Edelweiss Air on leg one and then a choice of Lufthansa or SWISS (not sure why it says Swissair) to get from Zurich to Frankfurt.
You can also keep scrolling and checking out other routings. Let’s say you wanted to go via Mauritius instead and take an extended vacation. Here is your option:
The 2-stop routing option is useful for routings between two cities that ordinarily are uncommon Origin and Destination markets (O&Ds). Let’s say that you wanted to try flying from Wichita, Kansas to Cape Town, but don’t know where to start.
Your first step is to go into the search bar and manually enter in your routing pairs, so you’d place, “ICT” and “CPT” or spell the full city names out.
You’ll then get the two-stop options to populate for you and you’ll see that the shortest travel time is on Delta via Atlanta to Johannesburg, then Comair from Jo Burg to Cape Town.
Let’s say you are more familiar with your options and want to filter by Alliance or airline in order to get credit on your preferred travel carrier. For example, you’re a Chicago-based traveler and you want to see where all American flies out of O’Hare. You’d enter, “ORD” into the search bar and then filter on “airlines” in order to check for American-operated or One-World-operated flights from O’Hare.
Let’s say that I need to get from Chicago to Helsinki. While I’m aware that Finnair operates a nonstop flight between the two cities, I’m unsure which days and which flight times. Flight Connections answers that question for me.
I can also use the arrow buttons to discover which days the return flight operates from HEL back to ORD.
Clicking on the button in between the two city pairs, you can switch directions to find out when the return flight leaves Helsinki back to ORD. You can also change the route to go from Helsinki to another city, if you wish to do an open-jaw.
And, once again, if I need to view 1-stop options in order to discover a flight time that works better, then you have the option to click on, “1st,” and so on.
If I cannot fly on OneWorld partner flights, and need to fly on American Airlines metal, then I type in, “American” underneath the filter in order to see all AA-flights operated from ORD. Note: sometimes this will just default to all the cities American flies to, but you can just click on “Chicago” and get all of the corresponding AA routes from ORD.
Fill Your Knowledge Gaps
Here’s another useful tool: let’s say you want to go to Iceland, and heard that WOW Air is offering great deals from Reykjavik to multiple US and European cities. Rather than go to WOW’s website to find the nearest city it flies to, you can just simply search for, “WOW” under the Airlines filter and the map of all of its served markets will populate.
From there, you can then hover over the nearest city closest to you and search for times and schedules. Clicking on Reykjavik, for example can show you all the info you need.
Search Based on Zip Codes
You can also do searches based on zip code and city rather than by airport. Let’s say that you’re traveling to China for an extended period of time, and you have no clue on which options you can take to get from Shanghai to Beijing, which is a heavily-traveled route. You can hit the, “settings” button and then click on “search from zip, city” which will then allow you to get some additional detail from a region you’re unfamiliar with. You’ll see that option one returns flights from Shanghai Hongqiao (SHA) airport to Beijing Nanyuan (NAY) airport rather than the more prominent Pudong and Peking airports (PVG and PEK, respectively).
Option two, however, will show you routings between SHA and PEK. Notice how the bottom section will also give commute times to the different airports.
Finally, a less-common feature is being able to filter out by day-of-week, although this feature is a bit obscure and not completely built out (yet). If you want to check day-of-week specific availability, you can filter down to a city (based on zip code or city name) and then enter in the destination, then filter out by day-of-week. I did a search from Kuwait to London, perhaps to see which days you can fly between the two cities (on any airline) but then had to click over to, “1st” to see which days 1-stop routings operate. Lo and behold, the one that appeared was Iraqi Airways.
Flight Connections: Bottom Line
Flight Connections is an incredible resource to utilize when you need to evaluate complex itineraries, plan mileage runs, explore inexpensive alternatives for travel or just simply geek out and boost your knowledge of flight routes and airport operations. There are a few important things to note about the website, however.
- Accuracy is generally very good, but not 100% guaranteed: I am not sure what data feeds the website uses to horsepower the routing info, but given how often airlines swap schedules, fleets and published times, there may not always be a 100% precise reading. Always double check with an airline to make sure that the flight times are indeed consistent with what appears on Flight Connections in order to make sure the itinerary works for you.
- Flight Connections is NOT an internet booking engine: it has 3rd party affiliate links to websites that can *help* you book, but it does not price out any flights for a passenger to use.
- Flight Connections can sometimes use obscure names for airports instead of the city name, so pay attention: for example, it uses, “Mangere” for Auckland, which I find a bit strange, but it is likely based on something coded differently.
Do you use flight connections, or have you found some alternative uses for it not specified here? Please share your thoughts and comments below!