Free Stopovers on One-Way Tickets

Taiwan airport

Here’s the plot: Fly to Amsterdam, ride a bicycle south and then fly back to Canada from somewhere in Spain or Portugal. For characters, there is only my sister. Now the plot twist: Any day now she might go online and lasso cheap one-way flights.

You cannot be serious, I thought. But absolutely she was, not having a clue about the jacked-up cost of one-way tickets between here and Europe. Is there any hope? Now that’s a question worth asking.

So, sister, this one’s for you.

The bottom line is one-way tickets are shockingly expensive. But anybody who reads The Tarmac knows we’ve always got a “but.”

Some airlines offer free or minimal-cost stopovers. (Let’s define stopovers as overnight or multi-day stays.) The same way tickets obtained with frequent flyer miles often do. I’ve always believed allowable multi-city pairings are the best thing about ticketing with miles. To use the technical term, it’s wicked cool.

Stopovers are usually in hub cities with connections to final destinations. From the get-go they offer a reprieve from a long flight.

Icelandair is on the A-list that allows no-charge stopovers (usually). It has long allowed free parking in its hub city of Reykjavik. Although 24 hours in that mystic place can set you back the price of another airline ticket.

Wait a minute. Why doesn’t every flagship carrier offer a stopover in its home base to boost the local economy?

Well, Japan Airlines does. They offer free stopovers in Tokyo Haneda and Narita airports, as well as Osaka. USA Today instructs us to use JAL’s multi-city booking tool and select “make stopover.” (What a scoop for the nation’s newspaper!) They also suggest, “if you’d like to arrange a shorter trip, try the standard round-trip booking tool.” (Going for a Pulitzer with that one!)

Other airline websites also have multi-city booking pages. It takes some time; they don’t call it the Web for nothing. Sometimes it’s more art than science. But plug away and you might find a deal.

Singapore Airlines offers a free stopover in its hub city. I suspect the Singapore Tourism Board would clip the airline’s wings if it didn’t. Emirates also offer a stopover in its Dubai hub, “that includes complimentary visas for stays of up to 36 hours.”

Domestically, Hawaiian Airlines “in many cases” allow a few days in Honolulu while en route to another island.

A Finnair rep told USA Today: “We do offer a free stopover in Helsinki, apart from the lowest fare classes.” The paper even reports finding “a much more affordable price for an itinerary with an overnight stopover in Helsinki than the price of a similar itinerary with a short connecting flight.”

But none of this helps my sister. What about stopovers between major European capitals if you want to pinball around? Wouldn’t it be sweet if she had a frequent flyer ticket?

Last summer I told her to read Brian Cohen at The Gate, follow his advice and she’d have a free multi-stop frequent flyer ticket by this summer. But she never listens to me.

Anybody got advice for her?

The Tarmac’s View:  Dear readers, I apologize. I wrote this little item, nuanced and conflicted as it is, for no other reason than to poke my sister after feeling snubbed because she won’t ask advice on something as trivial as a cheap airline ticket. Won’t even ask the really smart people out there on FlyerTalk threads. To her, if it’s not on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio, it’s not happening.

Nonetheless, good on her. If you don’t live your dream, why live? And for me, a story needs more than plot and character. It needs controversy. And there is nothing more complex than families.

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Comments (Showing 5 of 5)

  • mcdevit at 10:15pm June 11, 2014

    Am I missing something? Why buy two one way tickets? Just do an open Jaw say: YUL-AMS//MAD-YUL.

  • Brian Cohen at 12:06am June 12, 2014

    Thank you, Gerry. I appreciate it.

    By the way, I am looking to book a one-way ticket from Seoul to the United States. One possibility I found is that Philippine Airlines is currently offering a flight with a stopover in Manila for 21 hours and 15 minutes for slightly greater than $700.00 – less expensive if traveling in November.

    I am still searching for other options…

  • garydpdx at 3:12am June 12, 2014

    Sometimes, but not always, i am able to get a 1 or 2 day stopover in Chicago on United when I have to connect to a third city. (Me and the missus live in different cities, I must ‘commute’ to work on the west coast.) This usually happens in non-peak periods (summer after August 15, shoulder seasons) and not usually on holiday long weekends. Sometimes on the outbound, sometimes on the return. It’s hit or miss and we have only been able to do this once since the UA-CO merger.

  • bigeyejim at 5:11pm June 12, 2014

    I was thinking the same scenario. Well, except riding the bikes…

    I have a “milestone” birthday coming up, and I haven’t been to Europe yet. Yes I said that out loud on FlyerTalk. Noooobbb.

    I thought just for the hell of it, I would kiss the Blarney Stone, take a ferry or Ryan Air to Scotland, drive/train down to London, check it out, then Chunnel it to Paris where I would go up in the Eiffel tower and take an awesome selfie. Something like that anyway.

    Then when I punched in the routes and dates, it seemed like the only one way that was reasonable was Aer Lingus. Cool.

    HOWEVER, in doing this, I wanted to experience code shares, partner flights and whatever else I could get with my miles. They are through UAL. AND, I want to experience planes other than the ERJ’s that we are stuck with in the midwest, non hub towns. (That’s why I moved to Delta – real planes).

    So then I plugg and chugg the routes forwards and backwards and figure I would go a week early, start in Paris and work backwards. Then I could fly the 777, and pick the 747 -8 Intercontinental from Lufthansa. I wanted to fly Aer Lingus just for the accents, but I don’t know….It seems the backwards trip (Paris first) possibly via FRA would be ideal.

    Ahhhh, who knows. I have until November to get it done!

    Great article though. Sorry for the ADD rambling!

  • Brendan at 5:16am June 13, 2014

    Mcdevit has beaten me to it. Spot-on! Such an open-jaw will price as 2 half-round-trips, not 2 one-ways.

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