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Enhance Your Getaway: Top 10 Airlines with Exceptional Complimentary Stopover Programs

On a recent flight from San Francisco to Istanbul with Turkish Airlines, I observed a considerable number of passengers at the boarding gate and on the plane engrossed in guidebooks for destinations beyond Turkey, such as Greece, Rome, and Dubai. Despite their diverse endpoints, the common thread among these travelers was their shared enthusiasm for a layover in Istanbul as part of Turkish Airlines’ stopover program.

Turkish Airlines is not the sole carrier offering such a program; other airlines like Icelandair, Iberia, and Emirates also provide similar opportunities for travelers to explore a hub city during a long layover without incurring additional flight charges.

Benefits of a Stopover Program:

Stopovers are typically available on long-haul flights, offering two main advantages. Firstly, they provide a practical way to break up a lengthy travel day, allowing passengers to rest, stretch their legs, and spend a night in a comfortable bed before reaching their final destination. Secondly, stopovers present an opportunity to add an extra destination to your travel itinerary, enabling you to experience a new place without committing to a full vacation there.

Costs Associated with Free Stopovers:

Choosing to pause in the designated city of an airline’s stopover program usually does not incur additional charges. However, expenses such as transportation, meals, and activities during the stopover period remain the passenger’s responsibility, with few exceptions.

Airlines Offering Free Stopover Programs:

Stopovers with Turkish Airlines:

Turkish Airlines has reintroduced its stopover program, offering extended complimentary hotel stays in Istanbul. Passengers with a layover of at least 20 hours can enjoy up to two nights in a four-star hotel (for economy-class) or three nights in a five-star hotel (for business-class) after booking their tickets.

Stopovers with Icelandair:

Icelandair’s Stopover in Iceland allows transatlantic passengers to add a one- to seven-day stopover in Reykjavik at no extra cost, with ready-made itineraries available for exploration.

Stopovers with Emirates:

Emirates’ Dubai Stopover program provides complimentary hotel stays and meals for layovers of varying durations in Dubai, along with visa assistance and additional services for longer stopovers.

Other Airlines with Stopover Programs:

  • Etihad Airways: Offers discounted hotel stays in Abu Dhabi.
  • TAP Air Portugal: Allows stopovers in Lisbon or Porto with discounts on domestic flights.
  • Iberia: Provides layover options in Madrid with discounts on accommodations and activities.

Mini-Stopover Programs:

Airlines like Air China, China Eastern Airlines, and Royal Jordanian offer mini-stopover programs for passengers with shorter layovers, including complimentary hotel stays and guided tours.

Award Travel Stopover Programs:

Frequent flier programs such as Air France, KLM, Singapore Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Air Canada offer stopovers on reward tickets, allowing travelers to explore hub cities at no extra cost.

DIY Stopover Options:

Even airlines without formal stopover programs may allow passengers to create layovers using multi-city booking tools, offering flexibility to extend stays in layover cities for a more immersive travel experience.