Why This European Airport Is Known As One Of The World's Best For Layovers

We're all familiar with that dreaded feeling when it's announced that your layover has just been extended. It's often the reason many of us weigh down our carry-ons with extra books, headphones, and other forms of entertainment. Unlike some of the world's other airlines, like Southwest, Delta, and United, Turkish Airlines has created an innovative solution to resolve travelers' frustration with delays by providing a cultural enhancement while en route to their final destination. Rather than staring out the window at the skyline wishing you could be out exploring the city, why not embrace this reality with a detour through the side streets of Istanbul, Turkey?

Turkish Airlines launched what is perhaps the best complimentary flight program to ever grace airline travel, exclusively for travelers passing through Istanbul Airport. The airline's Stopover Program provides weary travelers with a revitalizing mini-trip in between their departure and arrival points. While airline credit cards and hotel programs offer rewards, it would take a lot of time to reach the financial equivalent of this free, no-strings-attached offer. If taking a few extra days to scour the city just doesn't fit your travel plans, Turkish Airlines has also created a program called Touristanbul, an alternative way to see the sights of the city in just a few short hours while still making the most of your layover. Say goodbye to countless hours watching the minutes slowly tick by with this dreamy Turkish travel program, and hello to your new mini getaway in Istanbul!

Turkey's iconic Istanbul Stopover Program

You've probably never guessed that flying through Istanbul could mean a free mini-trip on the side! Depending on your status with Turkish Airlines, passengers with layovers exceeding 20 hours are eligible for complimentary one- or two-night stays at one of Turkish Airlines' partner hotel brands. Economy passengers receive one night free at a four-star hotel, while business class passengers can receive two nights at one of Istanbul's luxury five-star hotels. If it's looking like your Istanbul bucket list isn't squeezable into one or two days, passengers have the option of extending their stay at certain hotels for just $49. 

Travelers should note that only round-trip flights to specific departure and arrival points are eligible for participating in this exquisite opportunity. However, with over 50 countries that meet this criteria, passengers should have no problem meeting this requirement. Eligible countries include the Netherlands, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Greece, Canada, and Belgium.

Applying to the program is simple. At least 72 hours before departing their first flight, passengers can submit their travel info and apply online with any additional requests regarding their stay and accommodations — the airlines handle the rest! The only requirement left in the hands of passengers is making sure they have a valid eVisa, which typically costs around $50 — a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things!

Touristanbul — An equally alluring tour alternative

If you're eager to get on the move or simply don't have the extra travel time to spend a few days in Istanbul, Turkish Airlines has created an alternative complimentary service to encourage all travelers to see the sights of this buzzing city. Those with a layover between 6-24 hours are eligible to embark on a guided tour throughout Istanbul that highlights the city's most prominent landmarks and cultural hot spots. To ensure your flights are compatible with either the Stopover Program or Touristanbul, pay close attention when booking your travel route. Designated flights are flagged with a logo that indicates whether or not they're eligible for the Stopover Program or the Touristanbul excursion. 

Istanbul Airport offers eight different tour times to accommodate passenger's flight schedules while ensuring a smooth transition from start to end. Tour highlights include the Grand Bazaar, Hagia Sophia, the Golden Horn, the Yedikule Fortress, and the Old Samatya Armenian District. Never fear, you won't be going hungry on this tour! Each passenger is treated to a complimentary upscale meal at a local restaurant where you can feast on the flavors of authentic Ottoman and Turkish cuisine while treating your inner foodie. Each tour is curated to suit specific sets of preferences, ranging from sightseeing, historical tours, and shopping sprees in Galataport. Afternoon, evening, and half-day tours are also available at your fingertips to help you make the most of your layover, regardless of when you touch down in Istanbul!