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I am attempting to find a city pair in the lower 48 states of the US that requires more than 2 stops to fly between. Does such a city pair exist, and is there a search engine that would allow me to find these?

Note: it is possible for example to fly from INL to GSO with 3 stops (MSP, MLI, and DTW) on Delta, but this doesn’t count because 2-stop itineraries also exist (MSP, DTW).

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  • As a starting point, ABI has service only to DFW. Feb 29 '20 at 6:48
  • FSM is another municipal airport to consider. I’m not sure about Redbud in Dallas.
    – WGroleau
    Feb 29 '20 at 14:01
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    The tricky part is that most airports which have commercial service at all have flights to a hub of one of the Big 3 airlines (AA, DL, UA), and there are nonstop flights between all of those hubs. So you have to look for small airports whose only flights are not to any of those hubs. Feb 29 '20 at 14:26
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Sure. Just pick obscure enough airports. The list of airports covered by the Essential Air Service program (government subsidies to maintain air service in communities where it otherwise wouldn't be profitable) is a good starting point, since those airports usually have limited connectivity.

So picking basically at random, we could start at Del Norte County Airport in California (CEC), which has one flight a day seven days a week to/from Oakland (OAK). We could travel to Tupelo Regional Airport (TUP) serving Tupelo, Mississippi, which only has flights to/from Nashville (BNA). So if we could fly CEC-OAK-BNA-TUP, that would be a 2-stop itinerary, but the only direct OAK-BNA flights are sold by Southwest, which does not interline with Contour airlines. In this case, it's possible to fly from CEC to TUP with only two stops, but not possible to book a single itinerary.

But if we pick different airports, we can find even more difficult ones. Start at CEC again but travel to L. M. Clayton Airport in Montana (OLF), which only has connections to Billings (BIL). There are no nonstop flights from OAK to BIL. The only way to fly between CEC and OLF, short of your own plane or a charter, is to fly a route with more than two stops, like CEC-OAK-SLC-BIL-OLF. That's a route that also can't be booked on a single ticket.

I'm not aware of a tool for finding such city pairs besides picking airports that are likely to have poor connectivity. The OpenFlights database could be a good starting point if you wanted to automate the process of searching for such city pairs yourself, but the routes data is out of date. Putting cities into FlightAware can help too, to find current flights between two airports regardless of airline.

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    Technically you could do CEC to OLF with 3 flights and a short trip on BART from OAK to SFO :)
    – Doc
    Feb 28 '20 at 22:52
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    @Doc I was looking at that, but there still isn't an SFO-BIL nonstop that I could see. If this list is accurate, it still always takes at least 2 flights to get from the OAK/SFO/SJC region to BIL. Feb 28 '20 at 22:56
  • Good point. I thought I remembered seeing SFO-BIL in the past on UA, but I must have been thinking of Denver.
    – Doc
    Feb 29 '20 at 0:23
  • @Doc I went through the same thought process of thinking I remembered one, but I think I was remembering the SFO-Bozeman flight instead. Billings doesn't have a lot of connections. Feb 29 '20 at 2:15
  • @doc that itself would involve 2 train changes, at Glen Park and Coliseum. Feb 29 '20 at 21:56
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Following @ZachLipton's suggestion I found the following city pair:

Augusta, Maine (AUG) to Kirksville, Missouri (IRK). matrix.itasoftware.com only gives me options for 3 or 4 stops when flying on March 4 plus or minus 2 days. While many options are multi-airline, it can be booked through American Airlines.

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    This is possible with two stops (AUG-BOS-STL-IRK) in theory, but can't be booked that way on one itinerary as the BOS-STL nonstop is operated only by Southwest. Feb 28 '20 at 23:41

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