a city with a body of water and a city in the background

Sitting by the pool gives layovers a whole new meaning…

It turns out, waiting endlessly in airports is just not that much fun and long layovers really are a nightmare, after all. But turn a layover into a stopover, and suddenly you find yourself enjoying an exciting side trip, with an extra destination thrown in, pretty much for free! And the best news is, some airlines actually encourage it! Here’s a list of the airlines which allow you to take free side trips en route to your final destination, some of which even pick up the tab for your hotel!

a city with a lake and mountains in the backgroundAir Canada

Got a connection of six hours or more? Air Canada offers a nifty stopover program, which allows you to spend a night or more in Montréal, Toronto or Vancouver at no additional airfare, and many Air Canada tickets include a complimentary night’s stay at a nice hotel.

To make things even more enticing, you can route through one city on the way out, and another on the return, allowing you to see two top Canadian destinations in just one side trip! Our recommendation? Vancouver.


It’s hard to think of a more enthralling city to unwind in than Madrid, and Iberia just launched a new stopover program which lets you. Called “Hola, Madrid”, you can now stopover in Madrid for up to six nights with no additional airfare.

Even better, Iberia has negotiated discounts up to 40% with Melia hotels, and wrangled stopover passengers three free beers from Mahou, as well as savings all over town from museums to transfers. Madrid is amazing any time of year, so use this whenever you find a great Iberia fare!

a plane flying in the skyQatar Airways

You can enjoy a free night hotel stay and take in the city of Doha when flying with Qatar Airways, thanks to the Qatar+ Stopover program. Nationals of 80 countries are able to take advantage of visa-free transit in Qatar, making it easy to split up your trip with a relaxing break in the city by the sea.

The stopover program offers many excellent hotels, which will more than help you pass the time! Be sure to check out these Doha tips before you go.

a white airplane in the skyFinnair

Finland is an exciting country with bountiful natural beauty and over 3 million saunas. With Finnair’s excellent stopover program you can stay in Helsinki anywhere from 5 hours to 5 days without any additional flight costs, which is a nice perk.

Check out their website for special rates on hotels, attractions and fun things to keep you entertained in Helsinki and the rest of the beautiful country. If we had our way, we’d venture up to Lapland for some Northern Lights tourism! And of all things, Finland sometimes even lets you “Rent a Finn”, to take you on nature walks in the country.

the nose of a planeEthiopian

If you’re facing an Addis Ababa connection of 8 hours or more, Ethiopian wants you to enjoy it no matter what cabin you’re flying in. For passengers with connections between 8-24 hours, the airline will sort out a complimentary hotel to passengers and bus service to get you there.

It’s a great city to visit, too! To get your hotel, you’ll need to visit the interline transit desk on arrival. Make sure you have a transit visa or be sure to grab one on arrival for the smoothest process.

a large airplane flying in the skyEmirates

Who’s going to say “no” to a couple extra days relaxing in the sunshine at a five star luxury resort in Dubai? If Emirates is your best flight option, chances are you’re going to be connecting in Dubai, so why not make use of their easy stopover program to take in the buzzing atmosphere, great shopping and sunny beaches?

Booking is simple and by taking advantage, you can also score exclusive rates at some of the best resorts, services and attractions just by showing your boarding pass. No joke!

a waterfall in a green valleyIcelandair

Iceland is an extremely popular place to visit, and rightly so – it’s absolutely stunning. You can now use Icelandair’s stopover program to explore this magnificent country while connecting to your final destination, and sometimes they can even arrange one of their employees as a stopover guide.

It already offers great prices, like Icelandair’s recent $263 round trip sale from San Francisco to London, and with stopovers up to three days at no additional cost, this can be an excellent way to see geysers, glaciers, volcanoes and so much more.

a bed in a planeEtihad

No matter what cabin you’re flying in, Etihad offers some highly worthy stopover options for your transit through Abu Dhabi. If you’re flying economy, you’ll get a discount on your first night stay – and if you choose to stay two nights, the second night is on the house!

For those lucky enough to fly business class, you’ll receive a free night stay in a 5-star hotel, and first class passengers can enjoy two free nights. Shelling out for The Residence will not only get you an apartment in the sky but will also get you two free nights at the Luxurious Emirates Palace in the Khaleej Suite. It would be rude not to take advantage!

a city skyline with a body of waterSingapore Airlines

If you’re flying through Singapore on Singapore Airlines, you should most definitely check out the airline’s clever stopover holiday package. Starting from S$45, you can get incredible value from these stopover offers, which include a nights hotel stay, complimentary SIA hop-on bus rides and access to many of the wonderful attractions Singapore has to offer.

Next time you’re on a long flight around the world, think about breaking things up and adding a fun extra stop to your itinerary. Here’s a few tips for your time in Singapore too, including the must see new Jewel waterfall and mall at the airport.

a white airplane on a runwayTAP Portugal

Turn your Europe trip into a 2 for 1 by adding a stopover in either Lisbon or Porto, with up to five nights at no additional airfare. TAP offers special discounts on hotels, as well as great prices on attractions and experiences helping you to make the most of your time in the spectacular cities.

For an already budget-friendly destination, this can be the perfect way to get even more bang for your buck. And right now, the airline is actually also offering a 10% discount at the moment on all flights with code TAP10FLY, or TAP10FLY3006.

Have you taken advantage of airline stopover programs?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. I’d like to see a similar post focused on stopovers with award ticketing. Are there any award programs where you can get a free hotel night? I love using Alaska miles to fly Cathay or JAL F and getting a free stopover in HK or Tokyo.

  2. Turkish Airlines – Istanbul stopover! They offer free city tours with breakfasts and lunches (depending on the time of the day)

  3. Qatar not so obvious. To make stopover you need to book multi city trip. And the price automatically goes up. Dramatically.

  4. Can I get the free stop over in Doha if I’m flying on Qatar airlines using American Airlines miles? And the free Hotel night?

  5. Make sure you know the T&C’s on Qatar’s Doha stopover. Because there was a (significantly more expensive) option which would not have required a lengthy layover in Doha when my company bought my ticket, QA advised I did not qualify for a free hotel.

  6. Emirates DOES NOT offer complimentary hotel stay to all its passengers. Mostly, First, business class passengers are catered. Only those economy class passengers qualify who have spent at least $1200 for the itinerary.
    I usually use Qatar for layovers, thought of using Emirates this time around. I am hugely disappointed as I just found out about it 24 hours before my flight departs, as no where in the terms and conditions this $1200 spend condition is mentioned.

  7. Ethiopian Airlines also offers a free stopover in Addis Ababa. I took advantage of it and quite enjoyed the city.

  8. I have never done a stopover flight before and need some advise. My husband and I are going to do a 28 day cruise from Singapore to Tokyo in January 2021 flying from Tampa, Florida and I dont want to fly for that long where could we do a stopover for a few days each way to shorten our flight without adding too much expense?? Thanks Muriel

  9. Singapore Air has the same issues as Qatar — you need to do this as a multi-city booking and it’s very likely the price of the flight will double, even for a very minor stopover (24-48 hours). This is hardly free.

  10. I just called Delta I wanted to book a flight to Saudi Arabia and have layover in Paria for 2-3 days . The price was very high. Booking the trip without the layover was almost half price, so This didn’t work for Air france, Klm, Delta

  11. Maybe I’m missing something, but I’ve looked at the Qatar programme before and it’s not a free hotel just a heavily reduced rate. Anyone else had any experience to the contrary?

    1. It can be seasonal, or based on cabin but for more than half the year business class usually received a free night, same for economy during summer I believe.

      1. Nope. I booked LHR-PEK Business when you sent that alert earlier in the year – and putting in multi-flight not only bumped the price up slightly (£150) but there’s no free hotel either, just heavily discounted so might well be free!

        And that stopover programme expires end of this year so really hope it’s renewed for when I’m flying in March

  12. Great article Gilbert! And it’s totally different from what other bloggers are writing about. Love it! My question is the same as Mara’s. My wife and I are booked overnight through Doha from IAD to Greece for next spring on AA miles. Because of AA award booking rules we had to buy two separate tix – IAD-DOH and DOH-ATH, but the stopover is 12 hours. I’m assuming from what others are saying that are visa won’t be free and that we’re on our own for the night?

    1. Hey Tim, visa should still be free based on US citizenship, but no transit hotel because it only applies to tickets booked on Qatar stock, so a American stock ticket would be ineligible. Hope that helps, if not, please so let me know and we can try again 😎

      1. Thanks Gilbert – can I just get the fee-free visa on arrival, or is there a site I can go to in advance? Our stopover will be about 14 hours

  13. Turkish will fund two free nights in a 5 star hotel if flying business class and one night if in economy.

  14. Do you know if Eva Air offers something for 18hrs stop over? I can’t find anything and I called and the girl didn’t know hahaha

  15. We enjoyed the stopover in Doha with Qatar airlines. The tour from the airport was amazing! Unfortunately, the free hotel night did not apply to our award travel.

  16. Thanks for this article. I am a big fan of stop overs and have marked this link so I can take advantage for my future flights 🙂
    One more that needs to be added is Air China. Not only do they offer a free stop over they also have a Visa Waiver for up to a few days in a few cities. We were flying from SFO to Mumbai and stopped in Beijing for 5 days and it was a wonderful experience!

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  18. I don’t know if its still offered, but about 5 yrs I booked my sister & dad a business class flight from SYD to LGW (I was meeting them later in Europe and coming from MEL) on Vietnam Airways. Due to health issues they both needed Business class seats, I didn’t. QF, BA, etc were all too expensive, VN was much better value albeit on lower quality hard product. VN used to adverise a layover experience, I found the old T&C’s online and shuffled their internal domestic connecting flights between Hanoi & HoChiMin to give them enough time in 1 city for each trip. Local VN office didn’t know about this Layover experience and even said wasn’t possible, an old promotion, etc, – I pushed them to check with HQ, – HQ came back and said YES. So, they were escorted thru immigration to a nice car for a tour of the city & a geat meal TWICE – HoChiMin on the way there, and Hanoi on the way back – plus they were the only ppl from the J cabin doing the tour! They had never been to Asia, so it was a great experience for them!…Never hurts to ask, – worst thing that can happen is they say ‘no’ ( – but do yr research beforehand, so they’re not just fobbing you off!)

  19. I enjoyed the stopover in Reykjavik on Icelandair on my long haul flight between Los Angeles and Glasgow. It included a free hotel night that I really appreciated.
    The Icelandic people were amongst the friendliest I’ve ever met, I suspect they are eager to make contact with foreigners because they are so isolated, and insular. I look completely foreign to them so they gravitated to me. One guy in the hotel steam room showed me how Icelanders use sauna facilities. Of course you have to love fish if you visit Iceland, or expect to lose weight during your stay.

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