While some travelers avoid stopovers at all costs, sometimes a long stopover is an inevitable occurrence. Many airlines hope to alleviate the pain of lengthy stopovers by offering free hotel accommodations for travelers with qualifying itineraries and boost tourism in their hub cities.
Here is a rundown of some of the airline’s hotel benefit programs.
Airlines with the most generous stopover hotel programs
Emirates’ Dubai Connect program is available to travelers in all fare classes. The primary qualifier is an itinerary with a connecting flight in Dubai, and the best available connecting flight requires a stopover of 10 to 24 hours. Travelers wishing to take part in the Dubai Connect program must enroll within 24 hours ahead of their flight to Dubai. Emirates even provides a complimentary visa on arrival, subject to UAE Immigration approval.
Etihad Airways’ stopover hotel stay program is marketed as a convenient way to explore Abu Dhabi for a stopover in one’s itinerary. The stopover package must be booked at least 72 hours prior to the flight to Abu Dhabi and requires a minimum six-hour stopover time.
Etihad offers complimentary hotel accommodations for all fare classes, but benefits vary. For economy class, travelers can book a stay for up to two nights at 60 participating three- and four-star hotels and receive the second night free. Business class travelers can enjoy a free night’s stay at in a five-star hotel. First class travelers can receive up to two nights free at a participating five-star hotel. There are eight hotels to choose from for Business and First Class passengers.
Air China’s transit and hotel accommodation program is available to most fare classes, except for the “N” class, called the “Economy Superdeal” fare (all other Economy fare classes are eligible). Benefits include complimentary transit and single-night hotel accommodation, including breakfast. Accommodations are available in Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Wenzhou, and Wuhan, for either inbound or outbound flights. The benefit is available to travelers with overnight stopovers or same-day stopovers of at least six hours.
Ethiopian Airlines offers free hotel accommodations, including bus service between the Addis Araba Airport and the hotel for travelers with stopovers between eight and 24 hours. The airline’s website does not mention any restrictions based on fare class. The Interline Desk staff will also facilitate visas for travelers who are eligible for transit visas on arrival.
Turkish Airlines offers a maximum of two nights’ stay at a hotel of its choosing for economy class passengers with a stopover time of 12 hours or longer and for business class travelers with a stopover time of nine hours or longer. The program is available to passengers on international flights connecting via Istanbul Airport. Qualifying travelers can apply at the airline’s Hotel Desk at the Istanbul Airport.
Hainan Airlines provides free hotel accommodation for passengers with lengthy stopovers at several Chinese airports. This includes next-day connections to domestic flights and passengers who arrive at an airport between midnight and 06:00 the next day and have a stopover of more than six hours. The airline’s website does not indicate any restrictions based on fare class. Meals and incidental expenses are not covered by the airline.
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Additional notable stopover programs
China Southern Airways offers qualifying travelers with a stopover in Guangzhou of six to 48 hours in duration a complimentary single night’s stay in a hotel. The benefit includes transport between the airport and hotel, as well as breakfast. There are restrictions based on fare class and whether the itinerary is intercontinental or non-intercontinental.
Gulf Air provides complimentary hotel accommodations to travelers connecting at Bahrain International Airport with stopovers between seven and 24 hours. The stopover program is available to passengers whose purchased ticket value is $450 or more, though travelers who paid less for their tickets can access the program for an additional fee. The airline also provides a free visa.
SriLankan Airlines provides complimentary hotel accommodations for travelers with a connecting flight in Colombo with a stopover between 12 and 24 hours. Meal vouchers are available to travelers connecting in Colombo with stopovers between eight and 12 hours. There is a minimum ticket purchase price of $350 for one direction and $750 for both directions to be eligible for either hotel or meal voucher benefits. Passengers must make arrangements with the airline at least 48 hours in advance of their trip. Travelers are responsible for obtaining their visas.
It should be noted that airlines may not offer free hotel accommodation benefits to unaccompanied minors. Airline benefit programs are subject to change at any time, and this list is not exhaustive. It is always wise to check with your airline directly for details on stopover benefit programs prior to booking flights.