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I understand that most airlines have a 24 hour stopover rule which states that on an international flight if the connecting time at the intermediate point is less than 24 hours, it will count as a layover instead of a stopover (which typically costs extra). For example, the United Contract of Carriage states:

Stopover means a deliberate interruption of travel by the Passenger, agreed to in advance by the carrier, at a point between the place of departure and the place of destination. For International flights a Stopover will also be deemed to occur at an intermediate point from which the Passenger is not scheduled to depart on the date of arrival, but if there is no connecting departure scheduled on the date of arrival, departure on the next day within 24 hours of arrival shall not constitute a Stopover. If a portion of the routing is traveled by surface transportation, one Stopover shall be deemed to have been taken for such portion. For Domestic flights, a Stopover will also occur when a Passenger arrives at a point and fails to depart from such point on:

1) The first flight on which space is available; or

2) The flight that will provide for the Passenger’s earliest arrival at intermediate or junction transfer point(s) or destination point, via the carrier and class of service as shown on the Passenger’s Ticket; provided, however, that in no event will a Stopover occur when the Passenger departs from the intermediate/junction point on a flight shown in the carrier’s official general schedule as departing within four hours after arrival at such point.

My question is: what is the definition of an International flight? If I fly, from Los Angeles to London stopping in New York City on the way, can I spend up to 24 hours in New York without counting it as a stopover? The first segment is domestic (LAX-JFK), but the second segment (JFK-LHR) is international. How does this work? Does it depend on the airline?

Finally, what is the best way to book a ticket like this? I cannot get long layovers to appear on any site online.

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What passport(s) do you hold? –  Ankur Banerjee Sep 15 '12 at 16:26
    
All depends on the specific airline policy. Even if you stay under the 24h limit, the airline can price various flights differently, so there's no guarantee of a lower price. On the other hand, some airlines have free stopovers (e.g. Turkish allows up to a week in Istanbul). Booking stopovers online can be tricky, contacting the airline (or using an old-fashioned travel agent) is usually the best way. –  dbkk Dec 26 '12 at 17:34

3 Answers 3

This is one of those areas where the answer can vary from airline to airline.

There are a few "official" definitions of an "international flight", such as in the Montreal Convention and Warsaw Convention, and these define an international flight as including any domestic segments that form a part of transporting a passenger between two points in different countries (and/or territories). In effect, the domestic legs are considered international if there isn't a stopover between them and an international leg.

Although technically this isn't the definition that airlines have to use for pricing decisions like stopover v's layover, it is the one that most airlines use.

Thus on an itinerary like MEL-SYD-LAX-JFK, ALL of the flights would be considered "international", presuming you didn't have a break of over 24 hours at any point. Thus you could technically have up to a 24 hour break at each of SYD and LAX, and neither would be considered a stopover.

Using your example of LAX-JFK-LHR, you can most certainly have a "free" up-to-24-hour layover in New York without issue.

However, what's allowed under the ticket rules, and what a travel website will 'price' could be two very different things. Sometimes websites will price such an itinerary as two separate legs, thus increasing the total fare. If you talk directly to the airline they should be able to book it for you, but may charge you a phone booking fee for doing so!

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Alright, To make things simple best thing to do is to check the available/offered flights by the website and check the best price that would suit your budget.

However a little hint about how it works. It will definitely varies from one airlines to another and from one fare to another and sadly chances are REALLY SLIM to get to talk to someone who is knowledgeable enough about how the airlines that he works for builds the fare. plus there is an article in the ticket fare rules with the title "Stopovers" actually most of the time you'll find it say "One stopover permitted or two .. or one from the first connection and so on" so this is how it works for the sake of the knowledge but it won't help you get a better fare because most probably you're using a website which is auto pricing anyway. But if you are building a ticket manually in a Computer Reservation System that would make a major difference for sure

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Don't rely on it, but recently I ended up with a layover-price 48 hours stay:

I had a layover of 22 hours (including overnight) in a country, then I missed my flight the day after, and was allowed to board the plane the next day at no extra cost. So I was able to enjoy that country twice as more. I would never do this on purpose, though.

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