Continuing our series on some of the key tools I use when searching for awards and planning trips, today let’s focus on a key tool in every frequent flyer’s arsenal: FlightConnections.com.
As you look to leverage loyalty programs to their maximum value, there is one key question that you’ll find yourself asking over and over again: “Which airlines fly where?”
FlightConnections sets out to answer this question in an easily digestible fashion, helping you visualize, at a glance, the routing possibilities at hand for your dream trip.
In This Post
- FlightConnections Features & Pricing
- 1. Find All Direct Flights from Your Airport
- 2. Find Routings Between Two Airports
- 3. Filter by Alliance
- 4. Filter by Airline
- 5. Filter by Class of Service (Premium Feature)
- 6. Flight Timetables and Schedules
FlightConnections Features & Pricing
The FlightConnections service is available in both free and paid versions. The free version will have most of the basic features that you’d want to use, and will probably be enough for most users.
However, the paid version also offers a few useful features of its own, such as filtering by class of service, a full-screen map view, and no advertisements. Moreover, the FlightConnections team is constantly adding new features as well, so there could be even more value in the Premium service in the future.
The Premium service is marketed as €1.99 per month, but is billed annually at €23.88 for the year:
1. Find All Direct Flights from Your Airport
The power of FlightConnections lies in its comprehensive database of all of the world’s airlines, airports, and scheduled flights, which is updated diligently on a regular basis.
When you first load up the website, you are presented with a world map full of dots, each representing an airport somewhere in the world.
The dots are colour-coded based on their relative size and prominence within the global route network: blue dots denote large airports with over 50 direct destinations, yellow dots denote medium-sized airports with 10–50 direct destinations, and red dots denote small airports with less than 10 direct destinations.
By clicking on any of the dots, or entering your desired airport in the “From” box at the top, you’ll be able to access FlightConnections’s first key piece of information: which direct flights are currently serving your chosen airport.
For example, someone from Edmonton who’s curious which direct flights they could take for their next vacation would be presented with the following:
Well, it looks like there’s plenty of options for direct flights within North America, including the WestJet services to Hawaii, as well as that lone KLM flight to Amsterdam.
If our traveller were willing to connect to a larger hub like Toronto first, they’d have a much wider range of options for onward flights:
2. Find Routings Between Two Airports
In addition to showing all of the direct flights out of a certain airport, FlightConnections’s other primary capability is to display a handful of the most logical routings between any two airports on any combination of the world’s airlines.
When you’re first planning a trip and you only have a destination in mind, you’d want to figure out what options you have for flying to and from your destination.
Then, you could think about which of the routing possibilities appeal to you the most, which points you’d need in which programs to book those specific flights, and then, finally, how to earn the number of points required to complete your booking.
Let’s take the example of a Toronto-based traveller who wants to visit South Africa. You’d select these enter “YYZ” and “JNB” in the “From” and “To” fields, respectively.
(Note that FlightConnections currently only supports individual airports, and does not support IATA’s metropolitan codes for cities with co-terminal airports (NYC, TYO, LON, etc.), so you may need to run multiple searches if you’re looking at a city served by multiple airports.)
Since there are no direct flights between these two cities, FlightConnections defaults to the “1 Stop” search mode, showing you a plethora of one-stop routing options on your way to South Africa. You’ll see these routings displayed on the world map, as well as on the left-side informational panel, where they’re listed in the order of the itinerary’s duration from shortest to longest.
The routing that requires the least flight time is to fly to New York JFK first, and then catch the South African Airways service directly to Johannesburg.
Other options might include Cathay Pacific through Hong Kong, Egyptair through Cairo, Turkish Airlines through Istanbul, etc., which are all displayed on the map as well.
As you flick through these options, you might find some of them particularly appealing, while others might be discounted because they aren’t bookable using the miles you currently have.
And that brings us to the even more powerful way to use FlightConnections: filtering the search based on alliance, airline, and class of service.
3. Filter by Alliance
Whether you’re looking for direct flights or for possible routings between two given cities, you can use the Alliance filter to tailor the search results towards whatever points currencies you may already have.
If you’re planning an Aeroplan Mini-RTW, for example, you might filter for all Star Alliance airlines; meanwhile, if you’re putting together an Avios multi-carrier award, then it’s the Oneworld alliance you’d be looking for.
(As Canadian travellers, it’s relatively rare that we book with SkyTeam, because our most accessible points programs are generally focused on Star Alliance and Oneworld.)
Let’s go back to our example of the Johannesburg-bound traveller. If she’s planning to redeem Aeroplan miles for her trip, then filtering by Star Alliance instantly shows her all the possible routing options on Star Alliance.
Then, let’s imagine that our traveller wanted to make this an Aeroplan Mini-RTW visiting two places around the world, but she hadn’t made her mind up about the second destination and was feeling open-minded as to where to go.
Simply clicking on Johannesburg, with the Star Alliance filter on, reveals all of the direct routing possibilities for the next stop:
Let’s say that, after much deliberation, our traveller decided she wanted to head to Hanoi, Vietnam.
Entering Hanoi in the “To” field gives us three options: Turkish Airlines via Istanbul, Singapore Airlines via Singapore, and Air China & Shenzhen Airlines via Shenzhen.
Knowing the options at her disposal, our traveller could then search for award availability in her chosen class of service on the Aeroplan website, taking into account the maximum permitted mileage (MPM) restrictions on Aeroplan rewards as well.
And finally, we need to figure out how to get home from Hanoi to Toronto:
Here’s where one weakness of FlightConnections is apparent: there’s no way to filter out certain airlines, like Air Canada and their high fuel surcharges on Aeroplan redemptions, after you’ve filtered by Alliance.
Indeed, if you try to tick or untick individual airlines using the “Airline” filter (which we’ll also cover below), the Alliance filter gets cleared instead.
I’d love to see FlightConnections implementing the ability to check off certain airlines within an alliance in the future – whether it’s to remove high-surcharge airlines from a certain alliance search (like Air Canada, Lufthansa, and Austrian in Star Alliance, or British Airways and Qatar Airways in Oneworld), or to add a few other partners to an existing alliance search (such as including Etihad Airways alongside Star Alliance if you’re looking for Aeroplan awards).
4. Filter by Airline
Speaking of filtering by individual airlines, the Airline filter does exactly what it says: it shows you all of the flight routes operated by a specific airline.
You don’t even need to specify a certain origin airport to use this feature. Start with the default world map and choose an airline on the list, and you’ll see all of its routes show up, whether it’s a global carrier like Air Canada…
…or a regional airline like Canadian North…
…or even an airline you’ve never heard of, like 40-Mile Air, the airline serving Alaska’s back-country:
If you’re anything like me and love to look at the route maps in the back of an airline’s in-flight magazine whenever you fly with a new airline, then I’m sure you’ll love this FlightConnections feature as well. I know I could probably spend hours poring through all of the airlines’ route maps one by one.
And how might this feature be useful beyond providing entertainment for aviation geeks? Well, to take a contemporaneous example, you might be interested in figuring out where in the world you can fly with Etihad Airways on an Aeroplan redemption, and you can easily do that by filtering for Etihad Airways:
5. Filter by Class of Service (Premium Feature)
The third and final filter, available only for Premium users, is for Class of Service.
Since almost every flight these days comes with at least business class and economy class, this feature is mostly useful for finding airlines and routes that offer either First Class or premium economy.
Taking our Etihad example, we can easily filter for which of the airline’s routes offer a First Class cabin, allowing you to sample the best that the airline has to offer:
(One feature that would be a welcome addition to FlightConnections would be the ability to filter by aircraft type, thus allowing us to see which routes offer the Etihad A380 First Class Apartments!)
The same technique can be used to find the First Class route networks on other aspirational airlines, like Lufthansa…
…or Cathay Pacific:
Note, however, that FlightConnections doesn’t always correctly differentiate between First Class and business class.
For example, in the map for Cathay Pacific, the routes from Hong Kong to Australia and New Zealand show up in a search for First Class, even though those flights are operated by an Airbus A350 with no First Class cabin. Therefore, the FlightConnections search result should be treated as a mere starting point, rather than as gospel, for your aspirational trip planning.
Besides looking at a specific airline, the Class of Service filter can also be used to hunt down all First Class routes departing out of any given city.
However, again, the distinction between First Class and business class isn’t always reliable – while Swiss First Class out of Montreal is certain to be a nice experience, I’m not so certain about Air Algérie First Class…
Finally, these days a lot of travellers prefer to buy flights in premium economy, in order to get a little bit of extra comfort on a long-haul flight while still paying a reasonable fare. The problem is that only a handful of airlines around the world offer premium economy, and even then, it’s usually only on a fraction of their fleet.
That’s where FlightConnections comes in, making it very easy to find out which direct flights out of your chosen city offer a premium economy product:
6. Flight Timetables and Schedules
Finally, when you click on a certain flight between two cities, you’ll see all of the information about the flight on the left-side information panel:
You’ll be able to see the flight distance, flight duration, and a weekly timetable of the days of the week on which the flight is operated. Expanding this section allows you to look at the flight schedule at a more granular level, including flight numbers, flight arrival and departure times, and any changes in the weekly schedule throughout the upcoming months.
If you’re ready to book a cash fare, then FlightConnections lets you conduct the search directly from its website, and will then redirect you to Skyscanner to complete your booking (and in fact, the commission on bookings is how FlightConnections earns a good chunk of its income).
However, if you’re using FlightConnections purely for informational purposes, then you’ll simply note down all of your potential flight and routing options to help you build your dream itinerary though the loyalty program of your choice.
FlightConnections is one of my favourite websites as an avid flyer and frequent traveller, whether I’m trying to understand how to make a First Class dream come true or simply deep-diving into the flight networks in remote parts of the world out of sheer curiosity.
With comprehensive coverage of the world’s airports, an effective filter system for alliances, airlines, and classes of service, and a dedicated team behind the service making continuous improvements, FlightConnections is an invaluable tool along anyone’s trip planning process, and I strongly encourage you to familiarize yourself with it.
Stay tuned for the next installment in the series, a big one: Google Flights!