If you’re not flying non-stop to your destination, you probably have a layover. Or you may have a layover. Or you might just have a direct flight with a stopover.
It’s okay, that’s why we’re here.
Stopovers, layovers and stopovers are three different ways your flights can be split up, and it’s a good idea to know what’s part of your route because it can change both what you can do with the time between legs and and what protections are available to you if something goes wrong during your trip.
According to Lulu Lima, founder of the Texas-based travel agency Book Here Give Here, layovers are usually just a few hours and are meant to give you some breathing room while you change planes, but stopovers are longer, sometimes with days in between. flights to gives you the chance to explore an additional destination as part of your trip.
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“It really just depends on how the ticket is made,” she said, noting that layovers are usually multiple flights on the same ticket.
Here’s how it all works.
What is the difference between a layover and a layover?
► Layovers are probably the most common type of break in an airline route these days and can also be called a connecting flight. Basically, a layover is the time the airline gives you to change planes between flights. With an airline-planned layover, you’ll likely be traveling on the same ticket for every flight included in the itinerary, and you may have some time to kill at the airport.
“It could be anywhere from 35 minutes, which is considered a legal relationship, unfortunately, and it could be a down time of, I’ve never seen more than about 14 hours, but it could be a little bit more,” Lima said.
Especially on long intercontinental routes, an overnight stay is not unheard of, and the airline may even let you collect your luggage and head to a hotel before your next leg in the morning. For shorter layovers, luggage is usually sent straight to your final destination, although if your connection involves a transfer from an international to a domestic flight, you may need to claim and recheck your luggage for customs.
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► Long layovers approach the territory of a layover, which is essentially an even longer layover.
“A road stop is a legal stop (of) your journey,” Lima said. “I’ll use Icelandair as an example… They have the ability to tell you, stop in Iceland for a few days before moving on to another destination.”
Lima added that with official layovers and stopovers, passengers usually have some level of protection if something goes wrong. For example, if the first flight on your itinerary is delayed or canceled and you miss the connection, the airlines will have to re-accommodate you. However, she said, passengers sometimes create their own layovers or stopovers by buying tickets on different airlines or buying flights separately even on the same carrier but on unrelated bookings. In those cases, she said, you can be on your own if something goes wrong.
“If one of those legs is not on the same ticket and something happens to my flight and misses the other, I’m not protected,” Lima said. “You’re really at the mercy of the airlines.”
Sometimes he’ll book unofficial layovers or stopovers for customers who want to visit additional cities on their trips, but Lima said he’s always careful to create a buffer and educate travelers about what could happen if something goes wrong in those cases .
How do I book a stopover to add a destination to my trip?
Unless you’re working with a travel agent like Lima who can book a stopover for you, you’ll need to do a little extra work yourself.
On Icelandair’s website, for example, routes that connect via Reykjavik include an option to add a landing in Iceland on the booking page. Other carriers, such as Hawaiian Airlines, may require you to use the multi-city route search feature to select different flight legs separately. For complex itineraries, it may be a good idea to work with a travel agent who is familiar with the individual carrier’s policies to make sure you have all the protections you need if something goes wrong.
Direct vs Direct Flight: What’s the Difference?
Nonstop vs. direct is very much a square vs. rectangle issue.
All direct flights are direct, but not all direct flights are direct.
A direct flight may involve a stopover at another airport that does not require you to change planes.
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“It just means you’ve unfortunately extended your trip a bit,” Lima said.
Southwest Airlines and Breeze Airways are the airlines best known for having nonstop flights on their schedules these days, with Breeze’s nonstop flights branded as “BreezeThru” service.
Zach Wichter is a travel reporter based in New York. He can be reached at [email protected]