People at my workplace told me that all airlines issue free hotel stay voucher to flight passengers having at least six hours layover. But they’re all wrong. The check-in personnel at Jeddah International Airport denied me this perceived privilege when I was having a twelve-hour layover in Doha. Fortunately, through clever convincing, I was able to acquire free hotel stay vouchers from Qatar Airways.
On my first flight back to the Philippines after a year of working in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, I purchased a roundtrip Qatar Airlines flight ticket to Manila. Although it was cheap, I had to spend 12 and 9 hours layovers in Doha for my flight from Jeddah to Manila and Manila to Jeddah, respectively.
The first leg of my flight was to leave at 5:40 in the afternoon. However, I purposely went to the airport five hours earlier so I could arrange for my free hostel stay in Doha, if possible. I explained my twelve-hour layover to the check-in personnel and inquired if I qualified for a free transit hotel accommodation. However, the airline personnel’s response was negative; there was no free hotel stay allocated for my ticket.
Assessing that there is no way I could sway the airline personnel, I did not pursue further arguments and collected my boarding passes instead. But I had a plan.
As soon as we arrived at Doha International Airport, I approached the first Qatar Airways staff I spotted and recited the spiel I prepared earlier. I narrated that the airline personnel in Jeddah advised me to claim a complimentary hotel accommodation upon arrival in Doha. It was obviously a lie. And looking skeptic of my narrative, the airline personnel advised me to the transfer assistance desk on the second floor.
I recited the same spiel at the transfer assistance desk and, after checking my passport and boarding passes, the desk officer handed me a set of forms and gave me directions to the hotel reservations at the ground floor lobby where I could claim my free hotel voucher.
Fast forward thirty or so minutes later, I passed through passport control and a service van drove me, along with several other passengers, to Doha Grand Hotel.
It was a mid-level business hotel. I had a single-bed room with free dinner and breakfast. Nothing fancy, just a place to spend the night. I couldn’t roam around the city either because it was nighttime and my the hotel reception kept my passport.
On my return flight, I followed the same “script” that worked for me in Jeddah. While checking-in in Manila, I asked for a free hotel stay voucher and when denied, I had to tell the same fabricated story at the flight transfer desk in Doha.
Again, I successfully acquired a free hotel stay but this time I got a twin-bed room at the Grand Qatar Palace Hotel.
The following year, I was having an 11-hour layover in Dubai for my Emirates Airlines flight from Jeddah to Manila. Again, the airline refused to issue a free hotel voucher and when I insisted, I learned that it was because there is another flight leaving for Jeddah during my layover. Emirates Airlines only issues free hotel stay voucher to a passenger when there is no other available flight to the same route during the layover.
The incident prompted me to search for complimentary transit hotel stays. I learned that Qatar Airways actually issue free hotel stay voucher to a passenger having at least eight hours layover. However, similar to Emirates Airlines’ condition, there must be no available flight to the same route during the duration of the layover.
Lesson learned — Airlines will not automatically grant you a free hotel stay just because you’re having a long layover; you also have to meet several other conditions.
Even without following my lead, you may also avail of free hotel stay voucher from your airline if you meet a standard set of conditions. The following is a comprehensive list of airlines offering complimentary hotel accommodations with links to the corresponding conditions.
List of airlines offering free hotel voucher during layover
- Air Canada – Comfort, Latitude, Premium Economy, and Business Class transit passengers staying for more than six hours Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver airports can stay in a hotel for free or at a reduced rate.
- Air China – Passengers having overnight transit to and from Hong Kong China, Macau China, and Taiwan China, either domestic or internation, within 24 hours receive free hotel stay with brakfast and airport transfers.
- China Eastern Airline – Passengers fying to and from the United States, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand with layovers in Shanghai, Kunming, Xi’an or Beijing airport may be eligible for complimentary overnight accomodations. Passengers bound to or coming from other countries may inquire at their corresponding ticketing agencies for free overnight hotel stay eligibility.
- China Southern Airlines – Passengers having eight to 48 hours transit in Guangzhou, Beijing, Wuhan, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Urumqi, and Canada may stay at a hotel for free.
- Emirates – Free hotel accommodation, meals, ground transport, and visa for First Class and Business Class passengers having six to 24 hours layover in Dubai if no prior connecting flight is not available. Economy Class passengers staying at the airport for more than eight hours but less than 24 hours can avail of the same amenities.
- Ethiopian Airlines – The interline desk at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport will arrange for free hotel stays and ground transfer facilities to passengers having eight to 24 hours layover as long as they carry a transit visa.
- Etihad Airways — This airline only offers free stays at a 5-star hotel to Business Class (one night) and First Class (up to two nights) passengers.
- Gulf Air – Connecting passengers may avail of a complimentary hotel accomodation when having transit time of over eight hours at Bahrain Internation Airport.
- Japan Airlines – Except for overnight connections (which is still under the discretion of the airline), there are no clear information at the airline’s website about free hotel accommodations. However, we have several travel bloggers reporting that they have received free hotel stays and transfers, food, and visa in cases of long layovers. It never hurt to inquire at any flight transfer desk at the airport during your layover.
- Qatar Airways – Passengers can avail of free hotel stay with ground transport, visa, and meals for eight to 24 hours layover in Doha, Qatar if no prior flight is available.
- Royal Air Maroc – The Moroccan flag carrier offers free hotels, meals, and hotel transfer to passengers having over 24 hours layover at the Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca. However, the airline does not provide the passenger a transit visa. Information pertinent to securing a Morrocan visa is available at the airline’s website.
- Royal Brunei Airlines – There is no current information regarding free hotel stays at the airline’s website but I had several colleagues who stayed in hotels for free when they had overnight layovers in Bandar Seri Begawan.
- Royal Jordanian Airlines – The airline may award free transit accomodation to passengers having connecting flights of over eight hours but less than 24 hours when the same day connection is not available.
- SriLankan Airlines – The airline will arrange accommodation for passengers with eight to 24 hours transit in Colombo when no flight is available in the same sector. However, obtaining a transit visa is the sole responsibility of the passenger.
- Turkish Airlines – This airline offers hotel stays not only in their main hub in Istanbul but also any in city in the world within the scope of their stopover program. Business Class passengers can stay up to two days in a five-star hotel for free, while Economy Class passengers can stay for a day in a four-star hotel for free for one day at no charge.
In retrospect, I no longer have a way to find out whether I acquired my previous hotel stays in Doha by coercing airline staff. Perhaps I actually met the airline conditions and no relevant information about such amenities relayed to the ground and check-in personnel.
But all of those are irrelevant now. Having to take flights between Manila and Jeddah for the past several years, I have found many ways to keep myself busy during ungodly long layovers. I no longer seek to go out for overnight hotel stays which I found to be rather boring, if not detrimental to your flight if a sudden transport incident prevents you from reaching the airport in time.
Having said that, I will continue to update this list in case new airlines start offering free transit stays. Alternatively, you may browse through my archive for layover guides should you decide to explore a city while waiting for your connecting flight.