Want to enjoy two trips for the price of one? With the news that Iberia is adding a stopover program in Madrid, there’s more interest than ever in booking a stopover and adding on a side trip to bookings. You may be surprised at how many airlines offer the perk. We put together a list.
What’s A Free Stopover Program?
While these programs differ in their benefits, length, and ease of booking, all of them have one thing in common.
For no extra charge, you can add an additional city (or even country) to your itinerary for a night or more before continuing on your trip. Many programs also offer benefits like a free hotel room or a city tour. Some airlines will even take care of visas for you.
With cities ranging from Tokyo to Doha, Helsinki to even the Azores, and other cities — there’s a world of opportunities to explore.
Free Airline Stopover: Asia
Japan Airlines: Tokyo and Osaka, Japan
Overview: Japan Airlines doesn’t have a page on their website detailing their stopover program. But their rules allow you to create an itinerary with a stopover of up to three nights in either Tokyo (HND or NRT) or Osaka (KIX) at no extra charge.
Unfortunately, JAL doesn’t have any offers for hotels or transit for stopover customers. If you’re interested in exploring an additional Japanese city, definitely check out their Japan Explorer Pass fixed fare product for great deals on domestic flights.
How to book: Use Japan Airlines’ multi-city booking tool to add a stopover to your flight. If the price goes up on the website, contact your regional JAL Reservation Center for help organizing the stopover.
Asiana Airlines: Seoul, South Korea
Overview: Asiana offers a veritable cornucopia of stopover offers for its transit passengers at Incheon Airport.
Passengers on certain itineraries from the United States and Oceania with less than 24 hours in Seoul can get a hotel, two meals and bus transfer provided by Asiana. If you’re not on an eligible itinerary, Incheon Airport also provides a free tour for passengers with connections of less than 24 hours.
In addition to free tours and free hotels for some passengers, Asiana has partnered with a local tour agency to offer a “Stop & Joy Seoul” stopover promotion for a small fee. That includes a down hotel, lounge access, duty-free and airport foodcourt discounts, and bonus Asiana miles.
How to book: To book your stopover in Seoul use Asiana’s multi-city booking tool unless you’re booking an itinerary eligible for a free hotel. See rules and instructions for booking their complimentary stopover hotels (STPC) in linked PDFs at the bottom of this page.
Air China: Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Tianjin, or Chongqing, China
Overview: Air China offers a free night in a hotel, breakfast, and hotel-airport transportation for international passengers with connecting layovers of between 6-30 hours. The service is available at their hubs in Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Tianjin, and Chongqing. It’s also available for domestic passengers on connections of up to 24 hours.
Combine this offer with the country’s visa-free transit policy for nationals of many countries and this might be the easiest way to visit China!
How to book: You should book your transit accommodation in advance as soon as you book your flights following the instructions on Air China’s Transit Hotel page.
China Southern: Beijing, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Chongqing, Urumqi, Shenzhen, or Dalian
Overview: The erstwhile Sky Team member and China’s largest airline has a particularly generous transit hotel policy offering free accommodation and hotel-airport transit for passengers with international connections of 8-48 hours.
Each hub has slightly different terms that are laid out in detail on the airline’s website. The service is available at its hubs in Beijing, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Chongqing, Urumqi, Shenzhen, and Dalian.
How to book: Book your flight with China Southern with a long connection (making sure it’s eligible under the airline’s rules). Follow the instructions provided on your hub’s transit page. Here’s the page for Beijing, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Chongqing, Urumqi, Shenzhen, or Dalian.
Singapore Airlines: Singapore
Overview: Singapore Airlines offers stopover packages for one or two nights starting at just S$41 (about $30 USD) including a hotel stay. You can choose from nearly 40 hotels including four-star choices and transfers from the airport are included.
If you book the upgraded Stopover Holiday package, it includes entry to over 20 attractions across the city and the two-night version includes a one-day pass to Universal Studios Singapore.
Cathay Pacific: Hong Kong
Overview: Although Cathay Pacific does not currently have a Hong Kong layover promotion, they do allow you to stretch your Hong Kong layover up to three days with no extra charge.
Luckily, despite no current stopover promotions from Cathay Pacific, it’s easy to get around and explore Hong Kong. The city’s tourism board also provides plenty of ideas on things to do during your layover.
How to book: Use Cathay Pacific’s multi-city stopover booking tool to build your itinerary.
Free Airline Stopover: Gulf and Middle East
Emirates: Dubai, UAE
Overview: Probably the best-known stopover program is offered by one of the world’s most iconic airlines in an equally iconic city. The nearly 90 million passengers flying through DXB with Emirates have the chance to explore Dubai for a few days before their onward travel at no extra charge.
Emirates has also partnered with over 100 local hotels and resorts with 24-hour check-in, airport meet & greet, transportation, and breakfast for a low fee as part of their Stopover Packages.
How to book: According to the instructions on their Stopover Package:
“Book and pay for your Emirates flight first, including the total duration of your stopover in your itinerary. If booking on emirates.com, use the Advanced Search option to do this. Afterwards, please contact your local Emirates office to add the hotel and/or activities onto your booking.”
Etihad: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Overview: The flag carrier of the UAE may be outgunned by its larger cousin and smarting from the “Etihad Airline Partners” debacle, but it still offers a fantastic stopover offer in Abu Dhabi. Explore Ferrari World, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, desert safaris, and more with a free two-night stopover with accommodation provided by Etihad.
How to book: Go to the Etihad Abu Dhabi stopover page to book your multi-city itinerary and reserve your free room including five-star options like the Intercontinental, Sofitel, or Le Meridien.
Qatar Airways: Doha, Qatar
Overview: It doesn’t get as much attention as neighboring Dubai, but Doha is a notable destination in its own right. The offer applies to passengers flying on Qatar Airways with connections of over 12 hours in Doha. It includes a free transit visa and discounted hotel rooms are available for up to four nights.
How to book: Luckily, the Qatar Stopover is one of the easiest to book. Simply use the multi-city search option on the QatarAirways.com homepage and manually add a stop in Doha during your departure or return flight.
Minimum connection time of 12 hours is required. Your booking confirmation email and page will both contain information about your stopover offers.
Turkish Airlines: Istanbul, Turkey
Overview: There are a lot of options to explore on a Turkish Airlines stopovers in Istanbul, starting with the controversial new airport. The Star Alliance member offers two programs for stopovers ranging from free tours under their “Touistanbul” program.
In a separate program, they also partner with over 10 four and five-star hotels for free stopover accommodation. With two nights in a five-star hotel available for business class passengers and one night in a four-star hotel for economy class passengers.
How to book: To use the Touristanbul service, visit the Hotel Desk in Istanbul Airport to sign up. You need a layover of 6-24 hours in Istanbul. To book your free stopover accommodation courtesy of Turkish Airways, confirm that your flight is eligible for the stopover program then message the email address for your country on the page.
Gulf Air: Bahrain
Overview: Gulf Air may no longer be the gulf’s pan-national airline but as Bahrain’s national carrier it still provides a quality product to key destinations in the Middle East, Europe, and Asia.
They also offer flexible stopover packages for up to three nights in Bahrain which include hotel accommodation, breakfast and airport transfer. The airline also offers complimentary transit accommodation for passengers with connecting layovers of more than seven hours.
How to book: To book your Bahrain stopover package with Gulf Air, you’ll need to contact the Gulf Air contact center. To get your complimentary transit accommodation, you can call the contact center or, if your flight is within 24 hours, should visit the customer service desk in the airport.
Royal Jordanian Airlines: Amman, Jordan
Overview: Jordan was historically an important stop on the Silk Road and a major crossroads of culture. While it may not have the reputation of the ME3, Royal Jordanian operates an extensive network from the modern Queen Alia International Airport in the country’s capital of Amman.
The airline offers the “Zuwar Stopover Program” for passengers wishing to explore pause their trip to explore Jordan. Zuwar is the Arabic word for visitors, and the airline certainly seems to know how to show its guests a good time. The program includes attractively priced overnight and day trip options to many of Jordan’s top destinations.
Royal Jordanian also offers free transit accommodations and meals for those with long connections on layovers of 8-24 hours.
How to book: To book your Zuwar Stopover in Jordan, use Royal Jordanian’s multi-city booking tool, add an extended stop in Jordan, and then book your activities and overnight package through Zuwar. If you’re just looking for free transit accommodation and meals on a long layover, contact Royal Jordanian to confirm your itinerary’s eligibility.
Free Airline Stopover: Oceania And The Pacific
Qantas and Air New Zealand
Overview: Both Australia and New Zealand are located very far from anywhere else, so their rival flag carriers have to be creative to make sure visitors can travel comfortably. Enter: stopovers en-route!
Qantas notes that “your airfare can include a stopover for no extra cost en route to your final destination,” Air New Zealand offers free stopovers in their gateways to Asia and North America for passengers traveling from Europe and in the Pacific Islands for a small fee.
Related: Destination Guide: New Zealand & Making The Most of Middle Earth
Fiji Airways: Fiji
Overview: Break up your travel with a Fiji Airways stopover on a beautiful, South Pacific archipelago. The Oneworld connect carrier allows stopovers with no extra cost for flights and two free nights in a hotel. You can also upgrade your stay to a luxury retreat for an additional cost.
The exact flights that are eligible aren’t clear but it appears to apply to flights between the United States and Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and perhaps other destinations in Asia.
How to book: Fiji Airways has details about the stopover on this information page and FAQs here. The free nights can only be used once per round trip, and the flights and stopover must be booked through a travel agent or by calling Fiji Airways at +1 (800) 227-4446. It cannot be booked online.
Free Airline Stopover: Americas
Hawaiian Airlines: Hawaii, United States
Overview: Hawaiian offers a particularly attractive stopover option for passengers. The stopovers are only allowed on international flights and once on every booking. You can stay up to four days to sample the spectacular natural beauty and bustling Hawaiian nightlife in Honolulu.
Copa Airlines: Panama City, Panama
Overview: Copa America offers a free stopover in Panama City, Panama for passengers flying between North America and the Caribbean or South America. The airline doesn’t have much information about it online but offers are apparently available for hotels and experiences.
How to book: Must call Copa to request the stopover before completing booking to take advantage.
Avianca Airlines: Bogota, Colombia
Overview: Avianca launched its stopover program at its Bogota, Colombia hub late last year. Stopovers of up to 48 hours are allowed. The program is a partnership with the city and travel agencies and includes discounts on a variety of tours and experiences.
How to book: Book your flight using the “multiple cities” option on Avianca.com. Get details about their stopover program rules on their website and see available offers on the Bogota Stopover website.
RavnAlaska: Anchorage, Aniak, Bethel, Fairbanks, Kotzebue, St Mary’s, or Unalakleet, Alaska, United States
Overview: Here’s another stopover program from an airline you’ve probably never heard of. RavnAlaska (pronounced “Raven” like the bird) is a small regional operator that serves over 100 destinations in Alaska, and they allow free 24-hour stops at any of their “major hubs” along the way under their “RavnAlaska DAYover” free stopover program.
Air Canada: Montréal, Toronto, or Vancouver, Canada
Overview: Air Canada also offers a stopover program at their hubs in Montréal, Toronto, and Vancouver. The program is available for passengers with connection times of more than six hours. If you’re traveling on a “Latitude” fare or better, a hotel is free while other passengers can book one starting at $49.
Free Airline Stopover: Atlantic Islands
Azores Airlines: The Azores
Overview: Azores Airlines is not exactly a household name, but they operate an extensive network with a modern fleet connecting North America and Europe to the gorgeous Portuguese archipelago. The airline will allow you to spend up to seven days exploring São Miguel or Terceira Islands for no extra charge.
Although the program does not include hotels, this is a great way to visit the dramatic islands in the middle of the Atlantic, which has been listed by National Geographic as one of the most sustainable travel destinations in the world.
How to book: The Azores Airlines Stopover is bookable on their website, ticketing offices, or through travel agents.
Free Airline Stopover: Africa
Royal Air Maroc: Casablanca, Morocco
Overview: Royal Air Maroc is a tempting choice for your next holiday and their stopover programs will let you fit another destination in at no extra charge. RAM, Morocco’s flag carrier, will be elevated to Oneworld membership in early 2020.
The airline allows passengers to choose to have a stopover of up to five days at their hub in Casablanca at no extra charge. The airline also has a (separate) program for long connections with a free hotel provided for layovers of over 8 hours.
How to book: Book your long stopover in Casablanca using the multi-destination booking tool on Royal Air Maroc’s website. If you’re flying through Morocco on your way to another destination, the airline provides hotels and meals during layovers of over 8 hours.
Ethiopian Airlines: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Overview: The powerhouse African carrier also offers free stopovers in the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Ababa allowing passengers on international bookings to add an additional stop in the capital.
Passengers on stopovers can book a complimentary city tour and other experiences through Ethiopian’s tour arm. If you’d rather keep your stop in Ethiopia short, Ethiopian offers transit hotels (with reports of free meals) for layovers of 8-24 hours as long as that is the shortest connection possible for your destination.
How to book: Use the airline’s multi-city booking tool to book your flight stopover. Then, book your stopover activities through Ethiopian Vacations here. If you’re looking to take advantage of Ethiopian’s free transit hotel, ask at the airport’s “interline desk.”
Free Airline Stopover: Europe
Finnair: Helsinki, Finland
Overview: Finnair has offered passengers the chance to book a stopover of up to five days at their hub in Helsinki since 2016. Take a break from the high-quality service offered by Finland’s flag carrier and have plenty of time to explore Helsinki and even some of Finland’s gorgeous nature and small towns.
The airline is working with partners to offer fantastic value on experiences for passengers on stopover both in Helsinki and around Finland.
How to book: Finnair has all the details on its stopover page along with a stopover flight search form. The page also contains information about the many experiences Finnair can help you enjoy during your stopover.
TAP Air Portugal: Lisbon and Porto, Portugal
Overview: TAP Air Portugal is known for its very affordable fares between Europe and North America, but their stopover program is a little less well known. The airline makes it easy to book stopovers in their hubs of Porto and Lisbon. TAP provides stopover passengers with discounts on experiences and services including public transit passes, museums, and more in a convenient app.
The airline does not offer accommodation for stopover passengers but discounts can be accessed using its dedicated “Stopover Portugal” app.
How to book: Route eligibility can be confirmed on this page. To book the stopover, make sure you select the “with a stopover” option on TAP’s booking interface at flytap.com. Full details are available on their site here.
Swiss: Zurich, Switzerland
Overview: Swiss Air allows passengers transiting through Zurich to book stopovers of up to four nights on their outbound or return. They also offer packages to tour Zurich and throughout Switzerland during the stopovers including budget and luxury options, all of which include free travel by train, bus, and boat throughout Switzerland, up to 50% off Swiss mountain train tickets, and other exclusive offers.
How to book: Book your flight and package through the Stopover Switzerland website.
Alitalia: Rome, Italy
Overview: Explore the eternal city for up to three days on a free stopover with Italy’s flag carrier Alitalia. While the airline may be constantly on the brink of bankruptcy, a succession of state support has kept it humming along for over 70 years and it appears that the Italian government isn’t throwing in the towel yet.
The exact requirements are listed on their stopover page, but it appears that most international itineraries not departing or arriving in the EU are eligible. The airline will also offer its stopover customers discounts on accommodation at partner hotels.
Brussels Airlines: Brussels, Belgium
Overview: Brussels Airlines offers stopovers of up to five days at its hub in Brussels, Belgium. The program which carries no extra charge includes over 50 free activities spread across Belgium. As Brussels Airlines points out, all Belgian cities are located within an hour of Brussels making exploring the country on a stopover a convenient pitstop.
How to book: Use the form provided on Brussels Airlines’ “stopOver” page.
KLM & Air France: Amsterdam, Netherlands and/or Paris, France
Overview: KLM and Air France allow stopovers at their hubs in Amsterdam, Netherlands and Paris, France. The stopovers, which come with no additional airfare (except taxes), can be for up to four days and you can book one city on your outbound and the other on your inbound if you’d like.
How to book: The airline has landing pages for specific countries. (Here’s the one for Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Hungary, and even Namibia but I wasn’t able to find information on the US sites.) Luckily, you can easily book your Air France-KLM stopovers manually using the airline’s multi-city booking tool.
Aer Lingus: Dublin, Ireland
Overview: Feeling lucky? Thanks to the Irish flag carrier you can plan a second trip to Ireland while traveling with a stopover at the airline’s hub in Dublin. Although the Irish airline does not have a formal program, its rules do allow for stopovers at no extra charge. A quick look at fares shows that the airline will allow stopovers of up to five days at no extra charge.
How to book: Use the airline’s multi-city search to book your flights. If you see the cost go up, it’s worth contacting the airline for help building your itinerary with a stopover according to their FAQs.
Icelandair: Reykjavik, Iceland
Overview: Icelandair operates the original stopover program. Capitalizing on its location between Europe and North America, the airline’s stopover program helped catapult Iceland to the top of every wanderluster’s bucket list. The program is still going strong allowing passengers to opt to stay in Iceland for up to seven days with no additional airfare.
How to book: Use the booking form on Icelandair’s stopover page here.
Iberia: Madrid, Spain
Overview: This is the newest stopover program, Iberia just launched its “Hola Madrid” stopover earlier this month. The stopover allows you to book up to six nights in Madrid for no cost. Customers taking advantage of the promotion can get a 40% discount on Melia Hotels, offers on tour and experiences, food, free public transportation, free beers, and more.
How to book: Bookings should be made directly on the Hola Madrid page. That page also has all the details and info on benefits provided by Iberia and partners for passengers taking advantage of the program.
As you can see, there are a plethora of opportunities across the globe to use stopovers to add more destinations to your travel. And there are others that we didn’t include (Air Astana in Nur-Sultan and Almaty, Kazakhstan; Oman Air in Muscat, Oman; China Airlines in Honolulu, Hawaii; Kenya Airways in Nairobi National Park (!); and others)
Do you have a favorite stopover program? Experience to share or just know of any we missed? Let us know 👇🏻
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