Best airlines for free stopovers
Posted on Oct 9th 2018 By obptravel
Want to know a great travel tip? Get free stopovers with your flight ticket and visit two countries in one go. There is no reason to think that stopovers are some sort of punishment for flying economy class where you are going to be left withering in a corner of some obscure airport terminal with no air conditioning.
A stopover is in fact a way to obtain another stamp in your passport without the extra cost of another flight. Many of you, particularly those who have travelled down under, are probably already aware of this. But which airlines allow free stopovers? Some airlines do not advertise the service, while others are widely known for it. And what is a stopover anyway?
We define stopover as a break in your flight to or from your final destination that lasts 24h or more. Anything less than that is considered a layover. So, say you have a London-Singapore-Sydney flight. Your stopover would be Singapore, where your first flight ends and your second flight begins. You would be able to visit the Lion City for several days at no extra cost as part of your ticket.
We have compiled a list of our favourite airlines with which you can get a free stopover on most international routes regardless of whether you fly economy, business or first class.
Air Canada offers free stopovers with any itinerary that includes a connection time of more than 6 hours between consecutive flights. When booking your flight, select Air Canada Stopover from the travel options. You must make a hotel reservation at least 96 hours before your flight’s scheduled departure time. One great aspect is that stopovers are valid on any Air Canada-coded flight, including Air Canada Rouge, which operates seasonal flights to several cities in the UK.
Air China flies to Beijing (PEK) from London Heathrow (LHR). UK/EU citizens can visit the Chinese capital for up to 72h provided they have an onward ticket to their next destination. China Eastern, also offer free stopovers and fly to Shanghai Pudong (PVG), while China Southern do the same with flights to Guangzhou (CAN). Click here for a full list of visa exempt nationalities.
Air New Zealand are very open about the possibility of multiple stopovers, even with other partnering airlines. They operate a round-the-world flight connecting Auckland (AKL), London (LHR) and Los Angeles (LAX). So you could decide to visit California on your way to New Zealand, for example. But you can also fly via, say Hong Kong or Vancouver, with a codesharing airline.
Cathay Pacific offer free stopovers in Hong Kong (HKG) with practically every type of fare. They serve London (LGW and LHR) and Manchester (MAN) in the United Kingdom, and as a member of OneWorld you can earn Avios points when flying with them.
Emirates is one of the world’s leading airlines and they are very keen on promoting Dubai as a stopover. They have Dubai stopover packages available that include airport transfers, accommodation, activities etc. If you use their website, you may book a stopover itinerary by simply selecting the “Advanced search” tab on the booking page.
Etihad, also UAE-based, allows a free stopover when flying through their Abu Dhabi (AUH) hub. If you stay two nights, the second night’s accomodation is free, while business and first class passengers enjoy even greater benefits. Moreover, Abu Dhabi is just over one hour away from Dubai, so you could visit both places easily.
Finnair is a great airline of choice for flights to east Asia. They offer free stopovers in Helsinki (HEL). Just visit their website and you will find all sorts of great suggestions like hotels in the Finnish capital, trips to Tallinn, Koli National Park and more.
Icelandair offers free stopovers on transatlantic flights via Reykjavik Keflavik Airport (KEF). Not only are the fares to North America extremely competitive but they give you an opportunity to visit a truly amazing country. Just click here for a list of tours and activities in Iceland and prepare to be blown away.
Oman Air are currently offering one free night if booking a 2 or 3 night stopover and travelling on international flights via Muscat (MCT) on both outbound and return journeys. You are typically allowed one free stopover for each pair of flights. They serve London (LHR) and Manchester (MAN) in the UK and cover many routes in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.
Qatar Airways allow free stopovers of up to 96 hours for passengers flying via Doha (DOH). Most UK/EU citizens can visit the country visa-free. Click here to view the full list of countries eligible for the visa waiver programme.
Royal Air Maroc could be a great choice on flights to West Africa, Brazil and even North America. They offer free stopovers of up to 7 days. Their hub is at Casablanca (CMN), the most modern city in Morocco, but also unlikely to be at the top of your list of places to see. However, seven days is enough time for you to visit somewhere like Fez, Marrakech, Tangier…
Singapore Airlines is consistently ranked among the top airlines in the world, year after year. Their hub, Singapore Changi (SIN) is also one of the best airports. Singapore, is compact, safe, and a foodie’s paradise. So you can be off to a good start/finish of your holiday by breaking the flight and visiting the city-state.
TAP Air Portugal has even gone to the length of creating a website just for stopover flights, and allows you to choose whether you want to stop in Porto (OPO) or Lisbon (LIS), whether outbound or inbound, and the number of nights -up to five-. The Portuguese airline flies to London (LHR, LGW, LCY) and Manchester (MAN) in the UK. It serves Brazil extensively, as well as destinations in Africa.
Thai Airways used to give away a free hotel voucher for overnight stays, but the promotion has now ended. Anyway, you can still take advantage of a free stopover in Bangkok (BKK or DMK) when flying with the Thai airline to South East Asia, Australia or New Zealand.
Turkish Airlines flies to 120 countries, more than any other airline in the world. They serve Birmingham (BHX), Edinburgh (EDI), London (LGW, LHR), and Manchester (MAN) in the UK. With such an extensive network, it is ideal for flights to East Africa and Asia. Passengers from some countries, like the U.S. or South Africa, can even stay at a hotel free of charge when connecting via Istanbul (IST). For everyone else, you can still enjoy the city where Europe meets Asia. And if you have a Turkish Airlines flight, with a transit time between 6-24h, you can apply for a free tour of Istanbul. Not bad!
Find out about stopovers
The best way to find out whether you are eligible to a free stopover is to use the ITA Matrix Airfare Search before you actually purchase the flight. Not all airlines have free stopovers! It also depends on several factors, such as cabin class or destination. This is what you need to do in four easy steps. It is best viewed on a desktop computer.
- Simply perform a search like you would normally by typing in an origin and a destination and click on the “Search” button.
- Then select a flight by clicking on the price. You will be sent to a different screen with the itinerary details.
- Now click on (rules) and another screen with all the fare rules & restrictions will appear.
- This page can be quite long, so just look for the word “STOPOVER” with the keys CTRL+F, and voilà, that’s it.
It really is easy. If still in doubt however, you can view the website of the airline, or just give them a phone call. We hope that you now have a new perspective on stopovers after reading this. Send us your pictures and let us know which is your favourite stopover city so we can add stopovers to this list.