I have been traveling for quite a few years now. A while back I met a person who worked for a major international carrier. Over time we became friends and we would cross paths during some of my layovers. During a long layover one night at JFK, we were talking about my trips and my few overnight layovers which forced me to get a hotel room in (or nearby) the airports. For those who know, JFK hotels are not cheap. At that point, he revealed to me “you should get free hotel rooms with your flights, make the airlines pay.” My first response came as skeptical sarcasm. Then he told me ‘the secret’ and it has changed much of my international travel since.
I focus a lot of my travel on long-haul international flights. That is due in part for two reasons; first, I often fly Mileage Runs trying to earn elite status on my favorite airlines. Secondly, I try to catch some rest (or even work) on flights so the longer the better. What I should have been doing was getting free hotels, courtesy of the airlines. But who knew? Let me share the secret with you.
Airlines Pay – Get Free Hotel Rooms
I book a lot of travel and not just for myself. Typically the goal is to get to the final destination as quickly as possible. A lot of time is devoted to finding the best connection times. As most of us know, long connections are often a waste of our time. At the same time, long connections are often unavoidable due to the scheduling of the airlines. Now there is a way to leverage those long connections and make them work for you. In fact, wouldn’t it be great if you could get free hotel rooms with your flights? Well, you can. Many airlines provide free accommodations on lengthy connections of international flights. Some even go above the free hotel room and offer other perks such as meal vouchers, sightseeing tours, transfers and even visas.
This is all provided under the STPC program offered by many large international carriers. As a result, many passengers can get free hotel rooms.
What is STPC?
STPC stands for ‘stop over paid by carrier.’ Simply said, it means the air carrier is picking up the cost of providing passengers accommodations between long international connections. Not all airlines are required to offer this, and many don’t. However, many airlines do offer the service in an effort to stay competitive in the market for international travelers. Often, these benefits come into play on misaligned routes. Those are routes that the airline offers few flights (maybe even only one per day) and the times do not match up well. Rather than lose customers, the airlines offers the extra care and comfort of an STPC package. That is how you can get free hotel rooms.
The Secret to Get Free Hotel Rooms
For most frequent passengers today, having lounge access at the airport takes the bite out of long layovers and connections. For many that does not go far enough. I often find the need for a bed and a place to sleep for a while and decompress after a long flight. That’s where the STPC free room makes an excellent perk valuable.
STPC is not offered to everyone. The word would have gotten out a long time ago if it was. Also, the program is not based on “irregular operations” (IRROPS), cancellations, delays or misconnects. It is designed specifically for travelers whose flight itineraries do not align well.
Passengers do not need to have connections longer than 24 hours either. In fact, transits which are longer than 24 hours are technically called stopovers and often affect the ticket price or are subject to additional airport or visa fees. The STPC benefit can be offered for connections with less than 24-hour transit. However, the required connection must be at least 6 to 8 hours (depending on the airline) when no other connecting flight is possible between the origin and destination.
Who is Eligible for STPC
Now that you are learning about STPC, you are asking who is eligible. In addition, how do you know if you are eligible for STPC on your next trip? As a general rule economy class passengers are not offered STPC. At other times, it may be available for an additional charge.
Good news is it is almost always offered to business and first class passengers.
Since this STPC benefit is not often revealed many travelers do not know about the program or if it is offered on their itinerary. Most airlines do not advertise their STPC services. It is still a little secret, but one well worth learning more about. After all, we are talking about getting free hotel rooms with your flights. Depending on the exact itinerary, this can add a lot of value to an itinerary.
The best way to find out about potential STPC services is to use a travel agent to book your ticket. PointMe and our partner Juicy Miles work with a ticketing agent for airline tickets who can offer this service. Booking classes become crucial in this quest. So, if you are doing a Mileage Run, or perhaps an award trip, we can help you get free hotel rooms with your flights.
Some airlines do have some information posted on their STPC programs. Still, it is recommended that you book through a licensed travel agent as often the program is not stated in the fare rules. It takes a professional to know which booking classes are required. Furthermore, the agent should be able to provide you with a few selections of hotel options that are covered by the airlines’ STPC.
What You Need to Know About STPC
- As stated earlier, not all fares (or even fare classes) are eligible for STPC. Often flying on the cheapest tickets (even possibly award tickets) may not meet the requirements for an airline’s STPC
- Each airline has their own rules regarding the length of connection while in transit to qualify for the STPC. Most are between 8 and 24 hours, and for some it can be as little as 6 hours. Again, it is advisable to use a travel agent to book your flights
- STPC is only offered between to long-haul international flights where the carrier does not offer a closer connection
- Each airline varies so knowing when to request the STPC will depend on the specific carrier. You may need to request STPC service at the time of ticketing, or perhaps as late as arrival at the connecting airport. Check with your travel agent
After my many years of travel since learning this little trick, I have also learned it’s a well-kept secret. Although the airlines offer the STPC program to enhance their competitiveness on a specific route, they often don’t share the details in an easy to get at approach.
I have a few gems saved that I will share with you here, linked to their websites. There are many others, but well-hidden or only available to your travel agent.
International Carriers Offering STPC Who Also Have Information on Their Websites
(Airline Hub Cities in Parentheses)
Air Canada (Toronto)
China Southern (Guangzhou) Offers hotel accommodations for up to one night, free breakfast and transportation to/from hotel. Award tickets are eligible. Many economy fare classes are eligible. Partner hotels based on ticket fare class and elite status of passenger.
Emirates (Dubai) First Class and Business Class passengers (Between 6 to 24 hours) Economy Class passengers (Between 8 to 24 hours) Emirates offers accommodations, transfers, meals and visa during your stay.
Ethiopian Airlines (Addis Ababa) Transit time of 8-24 hours. Ethiopian offers accommodations, meals, transfers and visa during your stay. Available to all booking classes. Can be arranged at interline desk upon arrival in Addis Ababa.
Korean Air (Seoul) Transit time of 6-12 hours. Korean’s ‘Excellent Transit Program’ is an outstanding option when you are spending three or more hours at Incheon International. Free sightseeing tours are also available.
Qatar Airways (Doha) Transit time of 8-24 hours. They offer transfers, accommodation, meals and visa during your stay.
Sri Lankan Airlines (Colombo) Transit time of 8-24 hours. They offer transfers, accommodation and meals. Restrictions depend on your ticket cost. You will need to arrange 48 hours before departure.
Thai Airways (Bangkok) Transit time of 6-24 hours. Several hotel options to choose, including in-airport hotel)
TAP Portugal (Lisbon)
Turkish Airlines (Istanbul) Transit time of 10-24 hours (minimum 7 hrs. if traveling in business class). They offer a free sightseeing tour with accommodation.
My list is not comprehensive, but it will give you some idea of what is available. Do some research and speak with your travel agent (or use Juicy Miles) and you just might find out you can get free hotel rooms with your next flights by making the airlines pay!
Since things are in a great flux today in the travel industry, terms and conditions can change at any time.
Let us know if you know of any other airlines offering the STPC program. If you have any luck getting this little secret to work for you on your next trip let us know in the comments!
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