In 1927, Charles Lindbergh electrified the world with his daring 33-plus-hour nonstop flight from New York to Paris. The award-winning feat set the aviation industry on a seemingly never-ending quest for flight plans with ever-longer “legs” – skipping from origin to destination and avoiding over those pesky stopovers along the way.
While some impatient passengers are mostly looking for the fastest, most direct connections, many of the world’s airlines – and the countries they serve – have rediscovered the old fashion stopover. And with so-called ‘bleisure’ travel on the upswing, business travelers are increasingly looking forward to the delights of exploring a destination somewhere between where they came from and where they’re going.
Long layovers can be a drag, even if you get to hang out in a luxurious airport lounge. However, instead of a time-wasting inconvenience, here are some of the many transit hubs which have turned the stopover into a bonus for adventure-hungry fliers. Airlines, frequently teaming with local tourism boards, are marketing these oft-hidden gems as desirable and sometimes even free packages to boost travel to the stopover destination.
A stopover is a break in a round-trip journey that lasts over 24 hours, allowing an overnight or multi-day stay in the connecting city. Stopovers and long layovers give travelers the opportunity to explore two cities for the cost of one round-trip airfare. As an added incentive, many offer free stopover packages and tours.
Brussels & Beyond
Weighing in with the latest stopover option, Brussels Airlines has launched a new offer for passengers connecting through Brussels to visit their choice of two Belgian cities from a list of 14 possible destinations. Belgium Stop Over allows travelers from the US, Canada, Israel or India to Africa, Europe, the US, Israel, Canada or India to visit Belgium for one to five days. The stopover program includes free access to several museums and sites in their choice of Brussels, Antwerp, Charleroi, Eupen, Ghent, Leuven, Liège, Louvain-la-Neuve, Mechelen, Mons, Namur, Tournai and Ypres.
For more information, go to brusselsairlines.com/BelgiumStopOver
Istanbul & the Bosphorus
One stopover program that continues to expand belongs to Turkish Airlines, which has just added a new service for transfer passengers departing from all nine US gateways and flying to Africa, eastern and southern Europe and the Balkans, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Russia, Iran and Kazakhstan. Passengers flying to these destinations who have more than 20 hours of connection time in Istanbul can receive complimentary accommodations; for economy class passengers, that means a one night stay at a 4-star hotel in Sultanahmet, while those flying in business class will enjoy two nights at a 5-star hotel in Taksim.
This ‘stopover’ program is in addition to the airline’s recently introduced Istanbul Bosphorus Experience as a way to explore Istanbul during a layover. The Bosphorus Experience is available for business class passengers who have a transfer time of seven hours or more. It includes a boat tour of the Bosphorus and exploration of historical landmarks.
For details about stopover visit turkishairlines.com
Reykjavik & Environs
Icelandair has what is probably the granddaddy of all stopover plans, dating back to the 1960s when it was fondly nicknamed “the hippie express.” Backpacking college students from the US have long been using the airline’s low fares rates from the East Coast to get to Europe and taking advantage of the free stopover of up to seven nights in Reykjavik and the surrounding areas. However in the last few years, tourists have discovered this geothermal fantasyland, and Icelandair’s generous stopover policy has certainly contributed to that growth.
Meantime, ultra low cost competitor WOW air has joined the fray with a similar stopover policy. WOW air stopovers are only available on round-trip reservations on transatlantic flights, and while the length of the stopover doesn’t seem to have a limit, you’ll need to do a little legwork to put together your own best-price itinerary.
Find out more at icelandair.com or wowair.com
Singapore Airlines may have retaken the crown for the world’s longest nonstop flight, but that doesn’t mean a free stopover in its hub city isn’t in the cards for many travelers. A Lion City stopover can be booked online using the multi-city option (instead of the standard roundtrip – comes out to more or less the same price) and inexpensive packages are available by the night. There’s plenty to see and do, between Merlion Park, Marina Bay Sands and Sentosa, and you can still leave time for the cocktail at the Raffles Long Bar.
Find more information about Singapore stopovers at singaporeair.com
Lisbon or Porto
TAP Portugal, the country’s eponymous flag carrier, allows travelers up to a 5-night stopover in either Lisbon or Porto en route to their final destination at no extra cost. Customers can choose to stop either on the outbound journey or the return on medium and long-haul flights, and even on flights ticketed one-way.
To sweeten the deal to stop in Lisbon, one of Europe’s more budget-friendly destinations, TAP Portugal has partnered with area hotels to offer stopover guests exclusive discount rates, and with local restaurants where visitors get a free bottle of Portuguese wine.
Discover more at flytap.com