How to Score Free Accommodations During a Layover

PHOTO: Photo by Anna on Unsplash

A long layover can be a bit drab when you’re just sitting around in the airport. These airlines can set you up with a free hotel stay.

For a lot of travelers, international flights can include extended layovers or stopovers in other countries, especially if the price of the ticket is low. But a longer layover can feel a bit mundane. You have to try to keep yourself entertained in the airport, or try to figure out how not to spend any extra money finding activities or accommodations outside of it.

Luckily, airlines and destinations have realized that the more passengers sit in the airport, the less opportunity they have to see the beauty of the country they’ve landed in. Currently, there are a variety of international carriers that offer complimentary hotel accommodations for passengers with long layovers. The best part? These offers are not exclusive to business and first-class passengers. Budget travelers can reap some of these benefits as well. Here’s how it works:

Layover Time

Most airlines only provide free hotel accommodations for passengers that have a layover between 8-12 hours or overnight. However, each airline is different, so be sure to check your carrier’s website. Some airlines like Air Canada, Hainan, and XiamenAir allow for layovers over 6 hours. Obviously, the layover needs to be long enough to allow you to get through border control, leave the airport, check into your hotel, get back to the airport to check in for your next flight, go back through border control, and make it to your gate.

Pay Attention to Your Transit City

Some airlines only offer free stopover accommodations if you’re in the airline’s major hub city. For example, in order to receive free layover accommodations when flying with Qatar Airways, your layover transit city must be in their hub city Doha. Doha is the capital city of Qatar and offers amazing experiences if you have enough time to participate in them. Many Chinese carriers like Air China, China Eastern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, and XiamenAir have transit hubs in more than one city.

Booking

Some airlines require that you book your flight directly through their site and not through a third-party website. In some cases, you can book through a travel agent, but it’s important to double-check the airline’s website for the rules around their stopover programs. Also, don’t assume that, just because you have a long layover, the airline is automatically going to set up your stopover accommodations for you. That’s definitely the wrong move.

Emirates Airlines only accepts pre-booked arrangements made no later than 24 hours before your departure. China Eastern Airlines requires you to make your stopover arrangements with them no later than 5 business days before your departure. However, airlines like Ethiopian and China Southern allow you to book once you’ve landed and made your way to the transit desk, on arrival.

The more information you have, the better, so it’s best to check directly with the airline’s site, email, or call to find out if you are eligible for these perks.

Additionally, Finnair, TAP Portugal, and Icelandair offer stopover programs that allow you to book a stop in their major city hub at no additional flight cost but do not provide complimentary accommodations. Their stopover programs allow you to extend that experience and explore more of their country without paying extra. Singapore Airlines has a slight additional cost that includes a complimentary transfer from the airport to the hotel, one-night hotel stay, and a SIM card for your phone.

Here are 14 airlines that offer free accommodations—some based on which sort of ticket you’ve purchased.

Air Canada (Latitude, Premium Economy, & Business Class)

Air China (All seating classes)

China Southern Airlines (All seating classes)

Emirates Airlines (All seating classes)

Ethiopian Airlines (All seating classes)

Etihad Airlines  (Business, First, & The Residence classes)

Gulf Air (Falcon Gold passengers, Falconflyer Black cardholders, and passengers with tickets over $400)

Hainan Airlines (All seating classes)

Qatar Airways (All seating classes)

Royal Air Maroc (All seating classes)

Royal Jordanian  (Based on the airline’s discretion)

SriLankan Airlines (Based on ticket price)

Turkish Airlines (Economy over 12 hours/ Business over 9 hours)

XiamenAir (All seating classes)