A “stopover” is generally defined as a connection or stop that lasts 24 hours or more for international travel and four hours or more for domestic travel (shorter connections are called stopovers). Normally, passengers hate long layovers which seem like wasting a lot of time. But with stopovers – and well-planned stopovers – you don’t necessarily have to spend your time at the airport. You can use the downtime between public transportation to explore and add another adventure to your trip.
Airlines with free layovers allow you to visit more places on the same plane ticket. Keep in mind, however, that sometimes you will have to pay more in airport taxes and fuel surcharges with this option.
Here are some of the best airlines for free stopovers on your next award or cash flight.
Main airlines offering free stopovers
Prioritizing airlines that offer free layovers can help you get better value for your miles and here are some of the best:
Japan Airlines’ frequent flyer program Mileage Bank has one of the best stopover policies, with very liberal rules. Travelers can enjoy free stopovers when booking a JMB Partner Airline Award or Oneworld award with Japan Airline miles.
JMB Partner Airline Award
The JMB Partner Airline Award allows you to travel with any single partner airline (except Jetstar Japan) with up to three free stopovers.
For example, you can fly American Airlines between New York and Tokyo and make three stopovers en route. Here’s what it might look like:
Tokyo-New York City (with stopover in Dallas).
All for the same number of points as a more direct return flight between New York and Tokyo.
Book one in two or more trips Oneworld Airlines with up to seven free stopovers. It’s amazing value if you have some spare time.
For example, you can book the following route:
Miami-Milan (American Airlines).
Milan-London (British Airways).
London-Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific).
Hong Kong-Osaka (Cathay Pacific).
Osaka-Tokyo (Japan Airlines).
Tokyo-Miami (American via Dallas).
Asia Miles allows up to five free stopovers (your destination is also considered a stopover) on its Oneworld multi-operator price. You can use at least three Oneworld airlines when one of your flights is on Cathay Pacific or on two Oneworld airlines without Cathay Pacific.
In other words, you can fly and stop in up to five cities for the same number of miles it would cost you to visit Hong Kong.
Here is an example of a flight itinerary:
Dallas-Hong Kong (American Airlines).
Hong Kong-Bangkok (Cathay Pacific).
Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia Airlines).
Kuala Lumpur-Tokyo (Japan Airlines).
Tokyo-Dallas (American Airlines).
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
Alaska Mileage Plan has an excellent stopover policy: you can have one stopover free on a one-way flight and up to two stopovers on a round-trip. It doesn’t include the destination, so you can visit three locations for the price of one.
Alaska has very generous reward tables for some of its partners, so there are a number of great options for using stopovers on the way to or from your destinations. You can stop in Hong Kong on the way to the Middle East or South Africa (Cathay Pacific), explore Tokyo on the way to Bangkok, or enjoy Fiji on the way to Australia.
ANA Mileage Club
You can only book a round-trip award flight with ANA, but it comes with a free stopover en route, whether you are traveling with ANA or its airline partners.
United allows one-way award travel, but a free layover is only accompanied by one round trip or a combination of three or more one-way flights. Double Advantage of the excursion, he has some restrictions, the most important is that its origin and destination must be in a single MileagePlus defined region.
Air Canada Aeroplan
Aeroplan no longer allows free stopovers, but you can add up to two for 5,000 points each on a return flight (or one on a one-way flight). While it’s not free, it’s more than reasonable. Better yet, Aeroplan has eliminated fuel surcharges, including the surcharges it added to partners (although it now charges a $ 39 fee for booking a partner’s flight).
The bottom line
If you want to optimize your spending (and your schedule allows), use free stopovers to see other amazing places for the same number of miles. You’ll still have to pay more in airport taxes and carrier-imposed surcharges (if applicable), but in most cases this will save you time, miles, and money compared to booking separate trips.
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