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What Is a Layover?


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Flight layover is a stop between flights.

It’s a term you hear when reading about connecting flights. You have not one but two or more flights, and layover is a stop between flights. Sometimes it’s referred to as a connection. It’s not the same thing as a stopover. And there are also differences depending on how you have booked your flights.

Sometimes you have more rights, other times — less.

We will talk about these differences here.

Dubai Airport Entrance
Dubai Airport Departures

1. What Is a Layover?

First, let’s look at how connecting flights work.

You fly from one place (A) to another place (B), and you are also stopping somewhere on the way (C), where you change planes. Yes, you have to get off the plane and go to another plane during a layover. No matter if you are flying with several different airlines or one airline.

Connecting flights visual demonstration
Connecting flights

You have a layover in C.

Because you are stopping there.

In that country. That city. That airport.

Time between flights is called a layover time. If your plane arrives at 13:30, and the next plane departs at 15:00, your layover time is 90 minutes / 1 hour 30 minutes. This is considered a short layover. Sometimes layovers are only 45-minutes long. And, yes, a 45-minute layover is enough. If it’s a connecting flight and this is what airline has come up with, not a self-transfer flight.

If you miss connecting flight, you may have a right to flight compensation. You have to claim it, so it’s good to know the rules. At least the basics. Sometimes you can receive 600 euro for a 3-hour flight delay. And you also, may have a right to care from airline.

There are short layovers and long layovers. The maximum length of an international layover is 23 hours 59 minutes. Anything longer than that is considered a stopover.

Read more: Why Are Some Layovers So Long?

Flight delay? Cancellation? Denied boarding? File a claim online.


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2. What Happens During a Layover?

Here’s what you can prepare yourself for:

  1. You get off the plane. Everyone gets off the plane. You take your carry-on baggage and leave the airplane.
  2. You go to the next plane. Look at your boarding pass, what’s the next flight? You get boarding passes for connecting flights all at once. Even if there are several airlines. Look at airport information screens to find out where does your next flight leaves from. What boarding gate?
  3. Follow the signs for connecting passengers. Sometimes there are special signs. Often there are special counters for connecting flights passengers. Follow these sings. If you have any questions, go to the connecting flights / transit counter.
  4. Security control? Maybe. Do you have to go through security again for connecting flight? It depends from the airport and your flight. Mostly there’s at least some kind of security checkpoint between flights.
  5. Passport control? Maybe. It may be a very easy transit, and you may not have to take out anything from your bag, or even to empty your water bottles, but it may also be a “full package” with security and immigration control.

You don’t have to collect your checked baggage. Your airline will take it to the next plane, your next flight. Unless you are transiting through the US or any other country requiring that of all international travelers. In the US, you also need an ESTA or visa also for a layover. Read more about visa requirements for connections in the US.

What’s important to understand about flights with layovers is that everyone on the same plane may have a completely different final destination. So, don’t be surprised when during a layover everyone else goes somewhere else than you — just go to your next flight, next boarding gate.

Note — it’s not the same with self-transfer flights.

We talk about self-transfer flights next.

3. What Happens During a Self-Transfer “Layover”?

Self transfer these are separately booked flights.

These can be flights with one or several airlines. These can be flights with low-cost airlines or full-service airlines. Or it can be a mix. This doesn’t matter. Mostly this is how it will work – what you will do:

  1. You get off the plane. Everyone gets off the plane. You take your carry-on baggage and leave the airplane.
  2. You go to the next plane. Look at your boarding pass, what’s the next flight? With self transfer, you check in for flights separately. You also get boarding passes separately.
  3. You go through passport control. Your first flight has landed. You have to go through passport control, if there’s any. If it’s necessary for you in this country, you may need a visa. Sometimes, you need a visa for connecting flights like this.
  4. You collect your baggage. This is one of the biggest differences between protected connecting flights and self transfer. With self transfer, you collect baggage after every flight.
  5. You check in / check in baggage. Again, with self transfer you do this for every single flight. See the flight information screens, find your next flight and see at what counter can you check in / check in baggage.
  6. You go through security control. You have a boarding pass. You have checked in baggage. Now, it’s time to proceed to boarding gate. You have to go through security control for that.
  7. You go through passport control. Yes, again. It depends from your destination, but you may have to go through passport control twice. If you have a self-transfer flight.

This is how it works with self transfer.

Dubai Metro
Dubai metro

4. Can You Leave the Airport During a Layover?

It depends from the country and their entry rules.

Mostly you can leave the airport during a layover.

We talk more about in the guide here.

5. Layover vs Stopover

The main difference is length.

Stopovers, basically, are long layovers. A stop between flights that is longer than 24 hours is considered a stopover. You can book stopovers using a multi-city flight booking option on airline websites.

Sometimes there are special deals on stopovers.

For example, Etihad Airways has such a deal. Etihad Airways offers both discounted and free accommodation, depending on how you are you planning to stay in Abu Dhabi. The offer is available for transiting passengers only.

With our Best of Abu Dhabi stopover package, get up to 40% off Abu Dhabi’s most exclusive hotels for up to six nights. Or choose a one or two-night stopover on us in selected 3* and 4* hotels. Or if you’re connecting in Abu Dhabi for 10 – 24 hours, book our complimentary Transit connect package.

How to book Etihad Airways free hotel stay / stopover deal?

It must be done online at

But book your flights first.

Learn more about the Etihad stopover programs here.

Read more: Layover vs Stopover: Comparison

What is your experience with layovers? Have you ever had a short layover? Did you make it on time? Did your baggage make it with you?

About the author:

Co-founder and Chief Editor at Connecting Flights Guide

Kaspars is a digital nomad and travel blogger who’s been traveling the world extensively since 2013. Since 2017, Kaspars has been writing about the less-known aspects of air travel, things like air passenger rights laws and regulations. He’s really good at simplifying complex concepts and making them easily understandable. Kaspars favorite airlines are Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines.


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Connecting Flights Guide

Your go-to guide to air travel rules and regulations. Connecting flights, self transfer, onward tickets and more – we want you to understand air travel better

This article may contain compensated links. Learn more in our disclaimer.

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