If the word layover confuses you, or the thought of a layover is causing you concern, read on to understand exactly what a layover is, what will happen and how to navigate a layover without any stress…
What is a layover?
In very general terms, a layover is a change of plane or a stop at an airport that is not your final destination. The first thing you need to understand is the difference between a layover and a stopover. This can get a little confusing because it means something different depending on whether you’re taking a domestic flight or you’re flying internationally. For a domestic flight, the term layover is used for a stop of up to four hours. Anything longer then it’s referred to as a stopover. For an international flight, a layover is anything up to 24 hours, and any longer is classed as a stopover.
Do you get off the plane during a layover?
Usually, but not always, a layover will involve a change of plane, so in most cases, you’ll get off the plane to continue your journey on another aircraft. Occasionally you may be on the same plane, perhaps it has stopped to refuel. In this case, it’s more usual to disembark the plane and then board again. Occasionally, if the layover is very short, you won’t need to get off the plane at all. One tip is to check your flight numbers. If the two flight numbers for each leg of your journey are different, then you have a change of aircraft and will definitely disembark.
Will your bags be automatically put on the next flight during a layover?
If both your flights are with the same airline, then it’s most likely that your bags will be transferred over for you, so you won’t have to visit baggage reclaim and check them in again. If you’re changing airline, then you could well have to collect your bags and re-check them. It’s useful to know in advance which procedure you need to follow, you don’t want to end up at your destination and your bags are still going round on the carousel at the connecting airport, so when you check in for your first flight, ask the check-in staff, they will know the sure answer.
Do you have to check in again for a connecting flight?
If both the flights are with the same airline, it’s most likely that you’ll be given both boarding passes for your upcoming flights when you check in for the first flight, this will probably also be the case if you’re flying on a partner airline. If you’re flying with two different airlines then you may need to collect your second boarding pass at the layover airport. Again, ask the staff when you check in, so you’ll know exactly what you need to do.
Do you have to go through security during a layover?
For domestic flights, you probably won’t have to go through security unless your next flight is leaving from another terminal. Sometimes the airports have security at each terminal. For international flights you will nearly always need to go through security again, so don’t forget to get rid of any liquids you’re carrying before you get there.
Can you leave the airport during a layover?
Many people don’t realize that you can usually leave the airport on a layover. If you have a long layover, it could be a good opportunity to explore a new city or country you may never have visited before, and a great way to kill time. You may need a transit visa which allows you to visit a country for a short time, these are usually easy to get on arrival and are not expensive.
However, it’s so important that you don’t underestimate the time this will take. Most airports are quite a distance from the city center and so travel time needs to be taken into consideration. Also, the time it takes to navigate the airport both to leave and re-enter can be lengthy. Unless you are sure you have enough time, it’s probably wise simply to stay in the airport.
How to pass the time on a layover
When you have several hours to spend in the airport it can seem like a real bind, but there’s generally quite a lot to do at most major airports. You can enjoy a leisurely meal and browse the shops. Research your layover airport before you go and you may discover some fantastic opportunities for your layover. Some airports have free cinemas, spas, gardens and art galleries. Another good option is to book an airport lounge for your layover. This will be more tranquil and luxurious than the main airport areas and you’ll have food and drink on hand too.
How to reduce layover stress
If your layover is short and you’re worried about catching your next flight, try to stay calm. There will be plenty of other people in the same boat. Find out in advance which gate your next flight is leaving from, perhaps ask on the plane if anyone else is catching the same flight, they may know the airport better than you. Once you disembark, don’t frantically run around the airport, ask a member of staff, they’ll know exactly where you need to be and will help you.
What happens to your bags if you miss the connecting flight?
If your bags have been automatically transferred to your connecting flight but you yourself don’t manage to get on that flight then it could be that your bags will be travelling without you. You’re going to be catching another flight eventually, so it’s not a total disaster. Go to the airline ticket counter and let them know. They should then be able to hold your bags at your destination and you can be reunited with them when you eventually get there. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to keep a spare outfit in your carry on luggage and any important items you need such as medication.
Don’t dismiss the idea of a layover if you’re a thrifty traveler
There’s no need to stress about a layover, it can even be fun. A chance to stretch your legs, explore a new airport or even a new city. Many people will choose a direct flight for the convenience, and of course it’s going to be quicker, but by opting for an indirect flight with a layover you can save a lot of money on your flight tickets. If you don’t mind a layover then it’s well worth checking out flight prices for different routes, you could well find they’re a lot cheaper than flying direct.
Emily is an avid writer with a passion for the travel industry. She also loves learning and writing about nutrition and healthy living. Emily is based in the UK.