International travel is back with a vengeance now that Covid is yesterday’s news – and a number of airlines are out here offering pretty irresistible flight deals. Whether it’s stopovers in amazing cities with no extra fees, free tickets to some of the world’s top rated attractions or even hotel stays, their customers will be spoiled for choice this summer…
Although entry rules have never been easier to navigate and countless destinations have reopened fully, the price of travel is skyrocketing as a result of a record-high demand. In places like Miami, hotel prices have shot up by more than 50%, making vacations not only less affordable, but even prohibitive for a majority of travelers.
Fortunately, these new flight combo deals will help ease the burden a bit:
What Are Layover Programs And Which Airlines Are Included?
While they are not everyone’s cup of tea, long layovers are a great way to tick yet another destination off the bucket list, usually for no additional costs. It is the ultimate definition of two birds, one stone, allowing connecting passengers to see all the main highlights of a city ahead of boarding their final flight.
Some destinations are, in fact, major ‘layover’ hotspots, particularly in the Middle East, where both West and East-bound routes overlap. In recent years, places like Istanbul and Dubai have gained traction as stopover hubs, mainly due to their strong connectivity and direct links to multiple cities in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa.
As these global cities rose in popularity, so did their so-called Layover Programs: the industry’s response to the needs of travelers on brief city breaks. These programs aim to make transiting airports easier, especially during interminable journeys where access to certain services is limited – and they have been revolutionizing long-haul trips since.
In case you missed this piece of news amid the spate of flight cancellations that has plagued airports lately, there are seven popular airlines offering layover programs with hefty benefits. These can range from free overnights in close proximity to the airport, to big hotel discounts and entry fee waivers for a number of tourist sites.
It may sound too good to be true, but we assure you these ‘on the house’ stopovers are very real, and they will come in quite handy now that travel is getting costlier. Ready to find out which airlines have joined the trend?
Here are the details in full:
Airlines Offering Free Hotels And Attractions
Emirates – On Dubai Routes
Emirates is ensuring customers have the best possible connection time in Dubai – even when transit times are long. Dubbing it the Dubai Connect, the luxury-loving airline has a surprisingly generous layover policy in place: all passengers transiting Dubai between 10 and 24 hours are eligible for the program, regardless of cabin class.
Emirates will continue providing the shortest possible connection, but anyone who cannot book seats on the quickest routes will be entitled to ‘complimentary hotel accommodation’, transfers, and even entry visas free of charge. Dubai Connect services can be added on eligible bookings through the ‘Manage’ section at least 24 hours before departure.
In sum, those flying Emirates and staying longer in Dubai now enjoy:
- Free hotels (5-star ones for First Class and Business passengers)
- Transfers to and from the airport
- Visa fees waived
- Access to the Dubai Connect Lounge
Free Entry Into The Country’s Top 3 Attractions
Additionally, the carrier has launched a new campaign allowing passengers who book flights through their website to obtain free tickets into the United Arab Emirate’s leading tourist attractions. These include the sky high Burj Khalifa building, the Dubai Fountain Boardwalk, both in Dubai, and Louvre Abu Dhabi, in Abu Dhabi.
In order to qualify, travelers must book flights froom July 1 through September 30, though booking dates, as well as terms and conditions, may vary by region. As reported by the Khaleej Times, once the reservation is confirmed, tickets can be requested via e-mail ([email protected]). The following are required:
- Booking reference
- Arrival date
- Name of the ticket holder
- Phone number
- Email address
Etihad Airways – On Abu Dhabi Routes
Following a pandemic-induced pause, Etihad Airways is officially relaunching its Etihad Stopovers with some ‘steep’ discounts. The scheme automatically grants Abu Dhabi-bound passengers flying with the carrier a 40% discount at a participating five-star hotel, or a one to two-night complimentary stay in a three or four-star hotel.
On top of that, Etihad is introducing its new Transit Connect. The initiative acts as an extension of Etihad Stopovers and permits guests on ‘eligible routes’ to book a complimentary hotel near Abu Dhabi International Airport for flight connections between 10 and 24 hours, similarly to their competitors. These include:
- Centro Al Manhal Abu Dhabi
- Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham
- TRYP by Wyndham Abu Dhabi
- Premier Inn Abu Dhabi Capital Centre
- Premier Inn Abu Dhabi International Airport
- Ramada Abu Dhabi Corniche*
- Ramada Abu Dhabi Downtown
- Traders Hotel Qaryat Al Beri
*This one is a dry hotel
As for the 40% discount, it can be redeemed in a total of 23 luxury properties around Abu Dhabi, including the famous Anantara Easter Mangroves, the Crowne Palza Abu Dhabi (Yas Island), Le Meridien Abu Dhabi, the Radisson Blu Yas Island Hotel, the Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche, and the InterContinental.
Turkish Airlines – On Istanbul Routes
Istanbul is unarguably one of the most exciting cities on the planet. A cross-continental behemoth, this metropolis is so vast it reaches beyond the Bosphorus Strait, past Europe and deep into Asia. Even better, all of its numerous landmarks and historical sites can be explored for free with Turkish Airlines’ signature Stopover In Istanbul.
Turkey’s flag carrier lets customers book hotel stays, free of charge, when transiting Istanbul for more than 20 hours. Business Class passengers can choose from a list of five-star hotels for up to two days, while Economy Fare ticket holders may pick a four-star overnight. On the downside, visa fees and transfers are not included.
More information can be found on this link, but here are some of the most important bulletpoints:
- Transits must be 20 hours long or over 20 hours
- The offer is only available for passengers transferring in Istanbul Airport (IST), on the European side of the city
- eVisa fees are not included (a requirement applying to American and Canadian citizens, but not Europeans)
- Applications for a Stopover In Istanbul must be submitted via email once booking is completed
In case you haven’t heard, Turkey is fully open for travel, having removed all of its Covid-related entry requirements to welcome foreigners irrespective of nationality or vaccination status (though visa restrictions still apply). Effectively, transiting Istanbul on a Turkish Airlines flight is as simple as it ever was.
Airlines Offering Luxury Hotel Discounts
Qatar – On Doha Routes
Hosting the World Cup later this year, the Middle Eastern country of Qatar is determined to leave a good first impression on foreigners (budget travelers included). Naturally, this involves boosting the attractiveness of Qatar Airways as a flag-carrier, with a massive Stopover discount that is set to make trips to Doha a lot more accessible.
Under this program, all passengers booking tickets through Qatar Airways with a minimum transit time of 12 hours in the Qatari capital will be able to book a stay in a 5-star hotel starting at only $54,00. There are three packages available, and prices vary based on hotel classification and the length of the stopover:
Standard Packages (4-Star)
- Starting at $14,00 for 1 night
- Starting at $22,00 for 2 nights
- Starting at $46,00 for 3 nights
- Starting at $69,00 for 4 nights
Premium Packages (5-Star)
- Starting at $21,00 for 1 night
- Starting at $36,00 for 2 nights
- Starting at $66,00 for 3 nights
- Starting at $97,00 for 4 nights
Luxury Packages (5-Star)
- Starting at $54,00 for 1 night
- Starting at $103,00 for 2 nights
- Starting at $166,00 for 3 nights
- Starting at $230,00 for 4 nights
Once they select their package and the duration of the stopover, which can be as long as four nights with no additional airfare fees, guests are free to ‘enhance’ their journey with add-ons, such as breakfast, a Discover Doha Tour, and airport transfers. Additional fees may apply and travelers are reminded Covid entry requirements remain in place.
Airlines With ‘Free Of Charge’ Stopovers
Iberia – On Madrid Routes
Iberia may not offer free hotel stays or airport transfers like Etihad or Emirates, but its ‘Hola Madrid’ Stopover program is still incredibly popular among transiting passengers in Spain. At no additional cost to the price of tickets, passengers can spend up to 6 nights in the Spanish capital, one of Europe’s most sought-after cities.
During the long stopover, other benefits apply, including up to 40% of discount on accommodation and free public transport for two days. Fortunately for budget travelers, Madrid is not nearly as expensive as Ibiza or Palma de Mallorca, and Spain’s simplified entry rules make it an easy country to visit.
TAP Air Portugal – On Lisbon, Porto Routes
Portugal’s TAP is another airline promising long city layovers at no additional costs this summer. When booking flights through TAP connecting in mainland Portugal, tourists have the option to extend their stay for up to five days in one of two of the most popular Portuguese cities: the picturesque Lisbon or the trendy Porto.
Lisbon is Portugal’s capital and an ideal destination for food and History enthusiasts. Strolling up the city’s hilltop Alfama district, visitors can find countless bakeries serving traditional Portuguese pastries, including the world-famous pastel de nata. Up North in Porto, the Dom Luis I Bridge spanning the River Douro and baroque buildings dominate the landscape.
Icelandair – On Iceland Routes
Few countries in the world are as mystical – and enticingly mysterious – as Iceland. Northern lights, rotten shark dishes, sledding tours, unique natural landmarks and amusingly quirky, friendly locals: it truly has it all. Luckily for those transiting Iceland, Icelandair allows stopovers of up to 7 days at ‘no additional airfare’.
Ahead of resuming the journey to their final destination, travelers on a long vacation have the opportunity to bathe in one of Iceland’s countless geothermal pools, engage in some sightseeing in the compact capital region of Reykjavik, and marvel at the wonders of the aurora on clear nights. It might also be worth mentioning Iceland has scrapped all Covid restrictions.
When booking international trips throughout 2022, we urge all our readers to purchase health insurance in advance and check both health, and non-health related entry conditions in place at their final destination. Lastly, all flight deals mentioned on this article remain subject to change and/or availability. Therefore, following airline updates is advised.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories