Do you have a long layover at an airport? Wait. You might be eligible for a stopover paid by carrier
We all know the situation: booking a flight to the other side of the world and the only tickets available are those with long transfers at the airport. It’s frustrating and it makes anyone reconsider changing the route or carrier. However, some airlines are trying to promote these flights by offering something called Stopover Paid by Carrier or STPC. These are completely free stays planned by the airline during your layover and depending from carrier to carrier they could include tours to the city, visa fees and even accommodation at luxury hotels.
I have used this service a couple of times in the past and although the first time I only wanted to take a long sleep and enjoy some time for myself at the hotel, the second one I decided to make the best of the stopover and go out to explore the city.
A short trip before the trip
When planning a normal stopover there are several information I check beforehand. Can I build my stopover into the itinerary by booking a multi-city flight, booking only one-way tickets with different airlines or taking advantage of some airlines to include an extra stop in their hub for no extra cost?
Lately I went on a trip to Ethiopia and since the cheapest flights from Berlin to Addis Ababa were with Egypt Air via Cairo, I decided to pay 100 EUR extra and add a 6-day stopover in Cairo. Here I was able to explore a new country without paying the full fare I would usually get if I plan a single trip to Egypt.
Many of my long travels are planned this way. It not only let me see more, but also save some money if I ever considered visiting that country anyway.
A Stopover Paid by Carrier works differently. It has to be the shortest connection the airline offered, and at the same time long enough that the airline consider you should not spend all the time in the transfer area.
Most travelers use their Stopover Paid by Carrier to take a rest and get ready for the next flight, others can book short day trips or use several advantages the airlines offer to these passengers to discover a new city.
Making the most of the day while on transit
In 2014 I went to Miami from Dusseldorf with American Airlines and a 7-hour stopover in Chicago. Although American Airlines does not have a STPC option, my friends and I decided to leave the airport, get a car and explore the city by ourselves. Since we knew about the long layover weeks in advance, we were able to get a good car rental price, plan a short route and even check out some of the key landmarks of the city.
It was supposed to be a very long and frustrating stopover. However, it turned into a nice day trip in a new city we didn’t expect to visit before. Unfortunately, these kind of day trips are exhausting and expensive – everything has to be booked for specific times and since time is so limited, there is not much flexibility in changing spontaneously the itinerary.
On the contrary, a STPC offer a way more comfortable stopover and in most cases completely free. In 2015 I went from Frankfurt to Singapore with Sri Lankan Airlines and an 8-hour stopover in Colombo. I filled all the conditions for a STPC and it was the perfect opportunity to give it a try and enjoy the perks of it.
Right after I exited the aircraft in Sri lanka’s capital, Colombo, I went to the information desk of Sri Lankan Airlines at the transfer area. They instructed me about the complimentary transit visa I need to get and basically joined my step by step through immigration. Outside at the arrival section, another Sri Lankan Airlines desk welcomed me to the country and informed me about the accommodation and transfers. At the same time, they offer me the options of simply relaxing and spending the day at the swimming pool or book one of the several day tours they offered to STPC passengers. For around 70 USD they provided me with a private driver and a half day tour to the cities of Colombo and Negombo.
I had enough time to explore the city, go to the beach and even take that dip at the hotel swimming pool before catching my next flight to Singapore.
Read more: How to make the best of your stopover
Still, not all airlines offer these advantages and packages for free. Singapore Airlines does not offer a free STPC. However, Singapore’s airport has free tours to the city for any passenger in transit. Moreover, Turkish Airlines offer an option of a complimentary hotel room or a free sightseeing tour in Istanbul. This is another great option for those who prefer to go out and explore instead of taking a rest.
Read more: How to plan your next holidays
Which airlines offer an STPC or complimentary services for passengers with long transfers?
Each airline has its policy and regulations, and although most of them work in a similar way, you have to read the small letters when planning a Stopover Paid by Carrier
These are the airlines offering the best benefits during a long layover at their hubs:
Sri Lankan Airlines
Although Sri Lankan Airlines is not very well known as most other airlines on this list, they have excellent service when it comes to offering a Stopover Paid by Carrier. Sri Lankan Airlines offers complimentary accommodation for passengers with stopovers in Colombo. The services included are free hotel, free transit visas, transfers to the hotel, and food.
Read the terms and conditions for a STPC with Sri Lankan Airlines
This is the airline with most connections in Africa and a great connection for travelers going from Brazil to China or from America/Europe to any part of Africa. They offer complimentary accommodation to anyone with a stopover in Addis Ababa between 8-12 hours. They will pay for your transit visa fees and even host you at their own 5-star Ethiopian Skylight Hotel.
Read the terms and conditions for a STPC with Ethiopian Airlines
The best airline in Europe and the airline with the most connections in the world have to be part of this list. Turkish Airlines offer complimentary accommodation to anyone with a stopover in Istanbul or a free city tour for those travelers who prefer to explore. The conditions are that you have a stopover longer than 10 hours, it was the fastest connection you could take with Turkish Airlines and all segments were done with them.
Read the terms and conditions for a STPC with Turkish Airlines
Although they won’t offer you free accommodation during your long stopover. Singapore Airlines takes it out of the stadium when it comes to the quality of their services in and out of the aircraft. Passengers with a long layover (planned or not) can book the Singapore Stopover Holiday. Starting 41 SGD (28 EUR), travelers can get accommodation and transfers to the city. If you are planning to do more, you can also purchase a package for 40 EUR which includes entrance to more than 20 different attractions, restaurant coupons and accommodation. A great value for one of the most expensive cities in the world.
Read the terms and conditions for a STPC with Singapore Airlines
Air China has interesting policies when it comes to a Stopover Paid by Carrier option. First, you can only apply for it if you have a minimum of 8-hour stopovers. Second, you are landing before 1 in the morning. Furthermore, It also applies only on selected cities (Beijing, Chengdu, Dalian, Hangzhou, Shanghai). On the other side, if you fulfill these requirements you will be entitled to free accommodation and a complimentary transit visa in China – something many travelers would appreciate.
Read the terms and conditions for a STPC with Air China
Other airlines offering different a STPC or other free services to passengers on stopovers are:
- Royal Air Maroc (Stopover Paid by Carrier for travelers with a 24 hour or longer stopover)
- Korean Air (Stopover Paid by Carrier eligible for certain flight classes)
- Royal Jordanian (Stopover Paid by Carrier eligible for certain destinations)
- TAP Portugal (You have to inform the airline beforehand about your interest in a STPC)
- Hainan Airlines (Stopover Paid by Carrier includes only accommodation)
- Xiamen Airlines (Stopover Paid by Carrier eligible for certain flight classes)
- Gulf Air (Stopover Paid by Carrier eligible for certain flight classes)
- Asiana Airlines ( You have to inform the airline beforehand about your interest in a STPC)