Hanging around between flights in an airport transit lounge may make your heart sink. But it need not be like that, especially if you’ve planned it that way all along.
But, first, let’s deal with the money side of breaking a journey. Booking flights so you have a stopover can save bundles of cash: as much as 40 per cent or more in some cases.
As most people’s instinct is to fly direct, competition pushes up fares. Yet by looking at flight websites such as Skyscanner, Kayak and Kiwi it’s possible to check how much cheaper flights with stopovers can be.
Stopovers can save travellers as much as 40 per cent or more in some cases
This is particularly so with flights from London, because regional airports have fewer departures and, therefore, fewer price options. Given that people are increasingly accustomed to flying — taking more than just a summer holiday — larger numbers than ever are deciding it is worth the wait.
So what to do at your stopover airport? This is where another form of competition is on your side: airports across the globe are desperate to attract transit passengers because they know each one represents extra cash spent at their retail and food outlets.
So expect spas offering massages, free relaxation rooms with loungers, complimentary wifi, choices of places to eat (some serving exotic local cuisine) and, even, the odd ‘Zen garden’ with pools of fish — alongside all the brand-name boutiques and duty-free shops.
Sites such as worldtravelguide.net and sleepinginairports.net — as well as the websites of transit airports — offer all sorts of ideas. Finding the best stopover deals has become something of an art form. Jack Sheldon founded jacksflightclub.com in 2016, which picks out the top bargains — often utilising great stopover rates.
Airports across the globe are desperate to attract transit passengers because they know each one represents extra cash spent at their retail and food outlets
He says there is a ‘booking sweet spot’ of between six to 12 weeks before flights when fares tend to be lowest. Although for peak holiday season periods, 11-12 months in advance is best.
Sheldon recommends ‘tracking’ routes on sites such as Skyscanner. You are unlikely to find great savings on the most popular — London to New York, for example — but patience with other destinations can pay off. Here we have taken a snapshot of possible savings by flying indirect on ten routes — with a tip or two on killing time on a stopover.
Perth – saving £441
Direct: £1,047 (Qantas, from Heathrow), 16h 45m.
One stop: £606 (Malaysia Airlines, from Heathrow), 20h 35m with a 1h 50m stopover in Kuala Lumpur.
Stopover tip: Reflexology foot, shoulder and head ‘urban reflexology’ massages available (main terminal).
Best food: Street stall-type Malay.
Cape Town – saving £380
Direct: £797 (British Airways, from Heathrow), 11h 30m.
One stop: £417 (Ethiopian Airlines, from Heathrow), 15h 45m with a 1h 30m stop in Addis Ababa.
Stopover tip: Buy packs of excellent local ground coffee.
Best food: Try a local ‘wat’ stew of chopped onions, turmeric and beef or chicken.
Moscow – saving £132
If you take a stopover en route to Moscow, pictured, via Riga, you could treat yourself to a facial at the Embassy of Wellness spa at the airport
Direct: £280 (British Airways, from Heathrow), 3h 50m.
One stop: £148 (Air Baltic, from Gatwick), 13h 35m with a 9h 20m stop in Riga, Latvia.
Stopover tip: Treat yourself to a facial at the Embassy of Wellness.
Best food: Fish and chips or a burger — plus a cocktail — at Tickerdaze.
Ho Chi Minh City – saving £140
Direct: £492 (Vietnam Airlines, from Heathrow), 13h 25m.
One stop: £352 (Air China, from Heathrow), 20h with a 5h 10m stopover in Beijing.
Stopover tip: Have a foot massage in T3, then relax by the fish ponds in the Zen garden (you can feed the fish).
Best food: Get chopstick practice at Master Kong Chef’s Table beef noodle restaurant (T2).
Bangkok – saving £97
During a break at Doha’s Hamad International Airport en route to Bangkok (pictured), the Moroccan tagine at the Qataf Cafe comes recommended
Direct: £487 (British Airways, from Heathrow), 11h 35m.
One stop: £390 (Qatar, from Gatwick or Heathrow), 15h 25m with 1h 4m stop in Doha.
Stopover tip: Buy gold at the AU Gold Boutique — or just take a nap in the free rest lounge.
Best food: Moroccan tagine at the Qataf Cafe.
Rio de Janeiro – saving £155
Direct: £530 (British Airways, from Heathrow), 11h 45m.
One stop: £375 (Lufthansa, from Heathrow), 16h 20m with 3h 15m stop in Frankfurt.
Stopover tip: Shower for £5, with gel and towel (T1 and T2).
Best food: Pretzels, sausages and traditional Bavarian beer at Reingold Bar (T1).
Las Vegas – saving £260
To get yourself ready for the bright lights of Las Vegas (pictured) plan a stopover in Los Angeles and indulge in an ‘oxygen aromatherapy’ massage in T1
Direct: £750 (Finnair, from Gatwick), 10h 50m.
One stop: £490 (Air France and Spirit Airlines, from Heathrow) 15h 24m with 3h 3m stop in Los Angeles.
Stopover tip: Try an ‘oxygen aromatherapy’ massage in T1.
Best food: WPizza by Wolfgang Puck offers a fennel and sausage topping (T7).
Hong Kong – saving £248
Direct: £641 (Cathay Pacific, from Manchester), 11h 40m.
One stop: £393 (Air France and KLM, from Manchester), 15h 10m with 1h 45m stop in Paris.
Stopover tip: Enjoy fine art in T1 and T2, sometimes on loan from the Louvre.
Best food: The Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar at T2.
Mumbai – saving £247
Direct: £686 (Air India, from Heathrow), 9h.
One stop: £439 (Gulf Air, from Heathrow), 14h 25m with 4h 5m stop in Bahrain.
Stopover tip: Meditate in one of the prayer rooms.
Best food: Bar snacks and a pint of Guinness at the Habara Irish Lounge and SkyBar.