International travel can be as exhausting as it is enriching, especially when you add long layovers between connecting flight legs. But instead of spending those excruciating layovers curled up uncomfortably in an aiport seat or wandering aimlessly through the concourse, you might actually be able to enjoy that time in a comfortable hotel -- for free.
It’s not something airlines necessarily publicize, but many will actually accommodate you if you’re stuck with a long layover -- typically known as a transfer -- between flights. In fact, the industry term is “stopover paid by carrier,” and their duration is between six and 24 hours. There are some rules: You can’t just schedule yourself on a later flight so you can score a free vacation-within-a-vacation. But if your itinerary requires a relatively long delay between connecting legs because no earlier connections are available, you might be in luck.
The key, says Karina Martinez-Carter of travel site MapHappy.org, is to check specifically with your airline about its policy -- especially because an airline might not volunteer the information. In fact, a number of carriers may list no official policy, but many posters at forums like FlyerTalk.com have reported getting free accommodation on airlines like Korean Air and Asiana Airlines.
There are airlines that are well known for their accommodation policies and usually explain details on their websites. Turkish Airlines, for example, offers complimentary hotel accommodation for transfers that are longer than 10 hours (seven hours for business class passengers).
Below is a partial list of airlines that have documented transfer accommodation policies. If you don’t see yours here, check with your airline individually -- you might still be able to get your hotel stay covered.