The Stopover: The Best Airline Perk You’re Missing Out On
People used to dread the stopover: a layover of a day or more between connecting flights. But recently, airlines have remade the stopover into a fun perk beloved by frequent flyers. This perk gives you the chance to spend a day (or a few days) in the city where your flights connect. And because airlines often don’t charge a fee to take a stopover, it’s an economical way to get more out of your next trip.
If you aren’t taking advantage of your airline’s stopover program, you’re missing out. Below, discover everything you need to know about this airline perk. And get the scoop on the best stopovers you don’t want to miss.
What’s the difference between a stopover and a layover?
USA Today reports that “layover” refers to any connection between two flights. “A stopover can be a layover, but it can also be a much longer stop — often a second destination on part of a multi-stop itinerary.” When you travel domestically, a stopover is typically anything that lasts longer than four hours. When you fly internationally, the term usually refers to a stay longer than 24 hours.
Next: Are there strings attached?
Do airlines limit stopovers?
Stopovers are probably starting to sound like a great idea! But you have to keep in mind that airlines often limit them if you’re booking an award ticket. USA Today reports that when you redeem miles for a flight, many airlines impose a no-stopover restriction. But don’t lose hope! “Savvy frequent fliers know that they can build in extended or even overnight stops at many hub cities like London, Paris, or Amsterdam, and not get charged additional miles as long as they leave within 24 hours to their final destination, thereby avoiding a stopover,” USA Today reports.
Next: How much does it cost?
How much will a stopover cost me?
The policy on stopovers varies by airline. But Condé Nast Traveler reports that you often don’t have to pay an extra fee to take a quick stay in a city you want to explore. Plus, The New York Times reports that travelers looking at a multi-city route may find “bargain rates that may make a layover worthwhile.” By offering free stopovers and other incentives on popular routes, airlines make it easy to say yes to spending a few days in a hub midway between your other destinations.
Next: What are the best stopovers?
What are the best airline stopovers?
Ready to take advantage of the airline stopover and get to work planning your next trip? This list of the programs and destinations most beloved by in-the-know travelers will get you started.
1. Abu Dhabi
- Airline: Etihad
Condé Nast Traveler reports that if you plan to fly on Etihad and connect through Abu Dhabi, you should take advantage of the carrier’s stopover program. You can stay up to 96 hours without a visa. And Etihad offers a deal where you can book two nights in a hotel for the price of one. The program isn’t free, but it’s very affordable with fees starting at $37 per person. Traveler reports that you can head to Etihad’s stopover page to book your trip. Or, go to the multi-city booking page if you have more flexibility with the dates of your vacation.
Next: Try this Thai Airways stopover.
- Airline: Thai Airways
Another stopover program to consider? Thai Airways’ free stopovers in Bangkok. Condé Nast Traveler reports that you can only take advantage of the offer on flights departing from Australia. But if your trip happens to qualify, it’s a great way to add something extra to your trip. Traveler advises, “Once you’ve booked your flights, fill out Thai Airways’s online form for stopover passengers and give the company up to three business days to get in touch with you about arrangements.”
Next: Take advantage of this program from Qatar Airways.
- Airline: Qatar Airways
The New York Times reports that for a limited time, you can take advantage of a Qatar Airways program that offers a free overnight stay and a complimentary transit visa in Doha, Qatar’s capital. When you book a flight through Doha, you can stay for up to 96 hours. And on your first night, you can choose complimentary accommodations from a list of luxury hotels — and get a second night for just $50.
Next: Try this stopover with Emirates.
- Airline: Emirates
Emirates offers a range of stopovers that you can book as late as 48 hours before your flight, according to Condé Nast Traveler. “Once you’ve nailed down your flight details, contact Emirates online or by phone,” the publication advises. An agent can even book your hotel or apartment for you. You can also check out the airline’s impressive online catalog of stopover options, though the airline doesn’t publish prices on its website.
Next: Don’t forget about this option from FinnAir.
- Airline: Finnair
If you fly to Europe or Asia on Finnair, you can take advantage of the airline’s free stopover program to explore Helsinki. You can stay in the Finnish capital for up to five days on either side of your trip, according to Condé Nast Traveler. Just head to the airline’s stopover page to find the information you need. You can even sign up for package tours to see the Northern Lights, spot reindeer, go to the sauna, or explore Helsinki or nearby Tallinn or Stockholm.
Next: Hawaiian Airlines offers this enticing stopover.
- Airline: Hawaiian Airlines
Want to enjoy a quick getaway to Hawaii on your route to another destination? Then you’ll want to check out the stopover program offered by Hawaiian Airlines. The New York Times reports that the carrier will let you take a free stopover in Honolulu on several international itineraries.
Next: Try a stopover with Turkish Airlines.
- Airline: Turkish Airlines
Turkish Airlines recently launched a stopover program in its hub city, Istanbul, and it’s one you don’t want to miss. Passengers departing from any of the airline’s nine U.S. gateway cities and flying to a number of different destinations around the world are eligible to make a stopover in the city. Anyone with a connection time of more than 20 hours can take advantage of complimentary accommodations (two nights at a five-star hotel if you fly Business Class, and one night at a four-star hotel if you fly economy). You’ll get your hotel voucher once you book your flight, and then you can start planning everything you want to see and do during your time in Istanbul.
Next: JetBlue offers this exciting stopover option.
- Airline: JetBlue
Condé Nast Traveler reports that through a partnership with JetBlue, Portugal’s TAP which let you take a stopover of up to three days in Lisbon. Just go to TAP’s “Discover Portugal” page. There, you can book your flight, choose among a list of hotels that offer discounts for travelers participating in the stopover program, and even get tips (and an app) to prepare for your visit.
Next: Flag carriers like Copa offer this kind of stopover to increase tourism.
9. Panama City
- Airline: Copa
You can make a stopover in Panama City anytime you fly between the United States and the Caribbean or South America thanks to Copa, the flag carrier of Panama. Condé Nast Traveler reports that you can search for eligible flights on Copa’s dedicated website. However, you’ll have to book your flights over the phone to take advantage of the free stopover.
Next: Explore this beloved city with a stopover from Icelandair.
- Airline: Icelandair
Condé Nast Traveler characterizes Icelandair’s Reykjavik stopover as the “grandfather” of the concept. Icelandair came up with the idea back in the 1970s to increase tourism to the Icelandic capital. When you fly between North America and Europe, you can take a free stopover of three to seven days in Reykjavik. Traveler reports, “The layover program is such a core part of Icelandair’s business that it has its very own website. Plug in your dates, specify whether you want to do the stopover on the way to or from your final destination, and go from there.” You can also take advantage of a similar program from WOW Air to visit the Icelandic capital.
Next: Air China wants you to book a trip with one of these stopovers.
11. Shanghai or Beijing
- Airline: Air China
When you visit mainland China, you typically have to spend some time filling out visa paperwork. But Condé Nast Traveler reports that you can sidestep that requirement by visiting on an Air China stopover. (You can spend up to 96 hours in the country without a visa.) You can take a quick stay in either Shanghai or Beijing. But to take advantage, you have to sign up for an approved tour and book a hotel on the airline’s list. You’ll need to contact the airline directly to book your flight, and Condé Nast Traveler recommends asking for rates first before you commit.
Next: Don’t forget about this option from Singapore Air.
- Airline: Singapore Air
If you’ve ever wanted to explore Singapore, now’s your chance! Hopper reports that Singapore Air offers a free stopover in the island city-state. Just book your stopover using the multi-city option on the airline’s website. You can also take advantage of the airline’s Emirates-style stopover package, which includes hotel and transfers. That way, instead of working out the details yourself, you can spend your time exploring the city.
Next: Consider a stopover with Japan Airlines.
13. Tokyo or Osaka
- Airline: Japan Airlines
Hopper reports that travelers on Japan Airlines can enjoy a free stopover in Tokyo or Osaka. However, it may not be quite as easy to book one as you’d like. “Just using the website’s convenient ‘make stopover’ tool tends to yield prices that are a little higher than those produced for flights on the same route booked as round-trips,” the publication advises. But the airline’s outline of fare conditions states that on nearly all ticket types, you can take up to two free stopovers. Use the website to get two pricing options: one for a round trip and the other for the same trip with a stopover added. Then, contact the airline directly to negotiate the price of the ticket.
Next: Air Canada offers this fun stopover destination.
- Airline: Air Canada
Air Canada launched a free Toronto stopover program in 2016 to boost tourism to the city. You can spend up to a week in Toronto on your way to or from another destination in Europe or Asia. To take advantage of the program, Condé Nast Traveler reports that you should go to the airline’s stopover microsite. “On top of booking your flights, you can also buy tickets for the UP Express, an express train that connects the airport with downtown Toronto, and pick up a City Pass, which will get you free entrance to most major attractions in the city.”
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