The end of year travel season is almost upon us. Are you stepping out of your comfort zone to try a new place far, far away? If so, great! Because the migraine caused by the battle of flight prices begins.

There are two main ways to do this: either by direct flight or by transit flights. At the expense of steeper prices, direct flights provide the much needed convenience and comfort. Then again, transit flights can help you save as much as one-third of the main airline price to make up for it.

Know that the price of the flight ticket itself is not the only determinant, nor should it be. The value also lies in the time spent (hey, you know that time = money, right?) travelling there and whether you’ll be stuck at annoying long layovers that can drive you crazy.

Before we start our little comparison party, the stage has to be set. Assumptions have to be made. For each of these five far-flung holiday destinations that we’ve mock-booked, we took care to select the optimal flight options: one-way tickets with shortest possible travel time at the cheapest possible price.

In order to ensure some consistency in the comparison, all direct flights are flown on Singapore Airlines economy class. Transit flights are based on available packages on Zuji. The prices reflected here exclude tax and surcharges, and are, of course, subject to changes as the days go by. Nevertheless, by the end of our ‘Best of Five’ comparison, you should have an inkling on whether long-haul direct flights are the more value-for-money choice over transit flights. 

Singapore to Auckland


In New Zealand, the air is fresh and the nature is stunning. The land beyond Down Under seems like a good place to retire in. Singapore Airlines do fly to several New Zealand cities and we picked Auckland for the sake of illustration. A one-way ticket costs S$1687.20 and the flight duration lasts 9 hours 40 minutes. Conversely, on the transit flight courtesy of AirAsia, you only pay a mere third of the price at S$556. But the travel time is significantly longer at 15 hours 30 minutes and there are two layovers –one at Kuala Lumpur (2 hours 5 minutes) and one at Gold Coast (1 hour 15 minutes)— to stomach.

Verdict: Singaporeans being Singaporeans, we’re big time money minders. Every cent matters. You know what, we’ll just stick it out on a budget airline for 15 hours for a-third of the long-haul airline flight price. The massive savings can buy us a few slabs of really good New Zealand steaks to reward ourselves for all that uncomfortable leg squeezing and numb butts.

Singapore to Oslo


Maybe you’re visiting on your way to catch the Aurora Borealis. Your big journey to the north is going to cost S$2019.60 on Singapore Airlines, with total travel time lasting about 14 hours 40 minutes. There will be a short 55-minute layover in Copenhagen, Denmark. A transit flight on Qatar Airways costs 50% lesser at S$972; you’ll be flying from Singapore to Doha first for a 1 hour 25 minute layover, and then to Oslo, Norway to complete the flight in 15 hours 40 minutes. Taking into account the minimal difference in flight duration and the gigantic difference in price, the decision should be an easy one.

Verdict: Transit flight on Qatar Airways is the clear winner here.

Singapore to New York City


Ah, New York City. Who can say no to a holiday of world famous Broadway musicals and burgers to die for? A straight one-way trip to New York City on Singapore Airlines would clock 23 hours 15 minutes, inclusive of a two-hour layover at Frankfurt, Germany. The lowest price we managed to find within a seven-day period as of this writing is S$2364.40.

For half the price at S$1268, you can sit through a Malaysian Airlines transit flight with two layovers: one at Kuala Lumpur for 5 hours 45 minutes, the other at Narita Airport for 3 hours 10 minutes. Total flight duration is 30 hours exactly. The money saved could pay for your hotel lodging, entertainment and more, albeit at a sacrifice of seven less hours spent in NYC. However, the layovers might be a little too much trouble for what it’s worth. What really drove the nail in the coffin was when it dawned on us that we didn’t want to disappear mysteriously mid-flight and miss the Big Apple.

Verdict: Direct flight on Singapore Airlines wins.

Singapore to Sao Paulo


The Olympics might be over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a trip down to Sao Paulo in Brazil for some urban trippin’. Sao Paulo is one of Singapore Airline’s newer long-haul flight destinations and the lowest fare we found costs S$2421.30. The flight will stop briefly at Barcelona for about an hour before resuming the rest of the way to clock 25 hours 15 minutes in total.

A transit flight on Qatar Airways would set you back S$1778. An agonising 8 hour 30 minute layover awaits you at Doha and when you survive it, there’s still the second leg of the flight to endure. Total flight duration is 30 hours 25 minutes. Is the five hour flight difference worth S$700?

Verdict: It’s hard to pick an absolute winner here, because it depends on how resourceful you are with your time. By that we meant the insane amount of time you have to burn in between your connecting flights. You could hop out of the airport for a quick round of sight-seeing in Doha, or you could put up at a nearby hotel if the airline is kind enough to provide accommodation vouchers. It certainly beats sharing the airport floor with the other sleeping tourists. If you know you will get to nap the time away in comfort, go for the transit. 

Singapore to Vancouver


We saved the farthest for the last. We found a S$2127.80 one-way ticket to Vancouver on Singapore Airlines, and the super long-haul flight lasts 23 hours 55 minutes with a 7 hour 30 minute layover at Incheon Airport in South Korea. Air India takes you on a transit flight that stops at Los Angeles for a 4 hour 50 minute layover. Total flight duration is 26 hours 34 minutes and the price is slightly cheaper at S$1965.

Verdict: For a shorter layover time and lower price, we’d hail the transit flight option as the winner here.  

The ultimate conclusion? As you can see by now, the comparison process to pick direct or transit can be as long-haul as the flight itself. It’s not as simple as looking at the absolute price figures. You have to sit down to consider if the extra you pay for direct flights commensurate for the extra time you get to spend in that new city. And then you have to factor in the reputation of the airline too, might we remind you.

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