airport stopover

Explore a new city by taking advantage of free airline stopover offers

A great way to see more of the world is to tap into free stopover programs offered by different airlines. These programs encourage travellers to break up a long journey by staying for a few days in a connecting city, typically the national capital of the flag carrier offering the service. It’s great for the traveller as it makes a long flight more bearable and it’s great for the airline’s host country as it diverts some tourism income into the local economy.

One of the more famous stopover service examples is offered by Turkish Airlines which announced this week that it has enhanced its offering by providing an extra complimentary night’s accommodation at partner hotels for both Economy and Business Class passengers. This initiative enables travellers to immerse themselves in Istanbul’s rich history and vibrant cultural scene at no additional cost when flying internationally from Canada with a layover in Istanbul.

Economy passengers with a layover of at least 20 hours in Istanbul will have the opportunity for a two-night stay in a four-star hotel, while Business Class passengers can experience a three-night stay in a five-star hotel. Passengers will also have the option of extending their stay at contracted hotels with special prices.

The Stopover in Istanbul program will also continue to offer the opportunity to explore the city through the complimentary Touristanbul service for passengers with layovers between six and 24 hours. With eight unique tour itineraries available, tourists can visit İstanbul’s most notable historical sites, enjoy authentic Turkish cuisine and return to Istanbul Airport in time for their departure.

Turkish Airlines connects via Istanbul to three gateways in Canada: Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.

Because of its geographic location, Istanbul is a gateway for North American travellers who are heading to Asia or Africa, but other Middle East airlines are competing with each other for passengers. As a result, others now have stopover programs, some of which are designed for longer stays to explore a local city, while others only offer a night’s hotel stay to break up a long layover.

Etihad Airways

The Etihad Airways Stopover Program offers passengers transiting through Abu Dhabi the opportunity to explore the city and the UAE. Depending on the class of travel, passengers may receive a complimentary hotel stay for one or more nights. For others, special rates at a range of hotels are available for those who want to extend their stopover.

The program also offers discounts on various tours and experiences, allowing passengers to explore cultural landmarks, shopping destinations and enjoy other activities the region has to offer.


If you’ve got a long connection time in Dubai and are flying Emirates, then you might be eligible for their Dubai Connect service which provides complimentary hotel accommodation, transfers, applicable meals and a visa to enter the UAE.

Dubai Connect Services are available to passengers with a connecting stopover time of eight to 26 hours for bookings , if you are traveling in Premium Economy or Economy Class. For those travelling in First Class or Business Class, you could be eligible for layovers as little as six hours.

One catch is your connecting flight must be the best available connection to qualify.

Qatar Airways

Qatar offers a similar package to Emirates for passengers who have a transit time of eight to 24 hours, but check with them before you book because the fine print contains the following sentence: “Transit accommodation is at the discretion of Qatar Airways. Not all fares are eligible for this stopover service.” In other words, plebians who fly economy might get shafted. Their package includes a complimentary hotel room for the duration of your stay, transfer to and from Hamad International Airport and a temporary entry visa to Doha, Qatar at no additional charge.


Several European airlines also offer stopover programs to encourage tourism in their home countries. One of the pioneers with this type of service was Icelandair which effectively put the country on the tourist map.

Its prime location in the Atlantic Ocean made it a perfect place for North American travellers to break up a transatlantic flight, much like they would have back in the era before passenger planes had the range they have today. With Icelandair, you can choose to add a stopover in Iceland at no additional cost to your airfare. You can stay for a day, or up to a week

As their website suggests, you can enjoy everything from geothermal bathing to northern lights gazing in Iceland, as well as all your final destination has to offer, giving you two destinations for the price of one.

TAP Air Portugal

Portugal is another European destination which relies heavily on tourism for its economy so it’s no wonder their stopover program offer is exceptional. Recognized as the best Stopover program in the world by Global Traveler for the sixth consecutive year, travellers can add a free stopover in Lisbon or Porto from one to 10 days. You can opt for this stopover on an outbound or return trip.

If you want to see more of the country, including islands like the Azores or Madeira, you can benefit from a 25 per cent discount on domestic airfare, plus there are more than 500 exclusive offers and discounts from the airline’s partners to make your stay even more memorable and affordable.


Portugal’s neighbour, Spain, is also a European tourism powerhouse, so they have also hopped on the stopover bandwagon with their Stopover Hola Madrid program. If you’ve got an inbound or outbound flight that flies through Madrid, you can stopover for up to nine nights. Like TAP’s program, Iberia’s offers special discounts and VIP offers to make your time in the Spanish capital more enjoyable.

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