If you’re not flying non-stop to your destination, you probably have a layover. Or, maybe you have a stop. Or, maybe you have a direct flight with a stopover.
It’s okay, that’s why we’re here.
Stopovers, stopovers and layovers are three different ways your flights can be split up, and it’s a good idea to know which part of your itinerary is which, as it can change both what you can do with the time between tracks and what protections are available if something goes wrong during your trip.
According to Lou Lima, founder of the Texas-based travel agency Book Here Give Here, layovers are usually just a few hours and are designed to give you some breathing room while you change planes, but layovers are longer, sometimes days long between flights to give you the opportunity to explore an additional destination as part of your trip.
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“It really just depends on how the chart is made,” she said, noting that stopovers are usually multiple flights on the same chart.
Here’s how it all works.
What is the difference between stopping and stopping?
► Layovers are probably the most common type of layover in an airline’s itinerary these days, and can also be called layovers. Basically, layover is the time the airline gives you to change planes between flights. On an airline-scheduled layover, you’ll likely be traveling on the same ticket for each flight included in the itinerary, and you may have time to kill at the airport.
“It can be anywhere from 35 minutes, which is considered a legal relationship, unfortunately, and it can be a break from, I’ve never seen more than 14 hours, but it can be a little bit longer,” Lima said.
Especially on long intercontinental routes, overnight layovers are not uncommon, and the airline may even let you collect your bags and head to your hotel before the next 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 stops are approaching stop territory, which is essentially an even longer stop.
“The state is a legal stop (for) 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 you go to another destination.”
Lima added that with official stops and stops, 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 your connection, the airlines will have to re-accommodate you. However, she said, travelers sometimes create their own layovers or stopovers by purchasing tickets on different airlines or purchasing 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 with my flight and I miss the second one, I’m not protected,” Lima said. “You really are at the mercy of the airlines.”
Sometimes they’ll book unofficial layovers or stops for customers who want to visit additional cities on their trips, but Lima said she always makes sure to build in a buffer and educate passengers 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 layover for you, you’ll need to do a little extra work yourself.
On Icelandair’s website, for example, itineraries connecting via Reykjavik include an option to add a stopover in Iceland on the booking page. Other airlines, such as Hawaiian Airlines, may require you to use the multi-city itinerary search function to select different flight legs individually. For complicated itineraries, it might be a good idea to work with a travel agent who is familiar with the rules of the individual carrier, to make sure you have all the protection you need if something goes wrong.
Direct flight vs non-stop flight: what’s the difference?
Continuous vs. direct is very much a square vs. rectangle issue.
All direct flights are direct, but not all direct flights are non-stop.
A direct flight may include a stopover at another airport that does not require a change of aircraft.
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“It just means you’ve made your trip a bit longer, unfortunately,” Lima said.
Southwest Airlines and Breeze Airways are the airlines best known for having nonstop flights on their schedules these days, and Breeze’s nonstop flights are labeled as “BreezeThru” service.
Zach Wichter is a travel reporter from New York. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org