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Imagine you want to buy a round ticket from A to C. You have one stop in B (all three cities are in different countries).

A -> [B] -> C -> [B] -> A

B is actually an interesting place and now that you have to land on it you may like to stay there for like some days so you can visit B without buying extra tickets. The problem is that I cannot choose the dates of my flights to and from B and the booking system selects them without my control. If I do so it will not be considered a round-trip and the cost of a multi-city booking is like buying three or four one-way tickets that are way more expensive than my round-trip with one stop.

If I try the multi-city option on Google Flights, to buy tickets from A to B, B to C and C to A, I have to pay for three one-way tickets! and the overall cost is way more expensive than buying a round ticket from A to C! (it's even more expensive than the total cost of two round travels (AC+BC).

Are there any solutions?

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  • What city combinations are you interested in?
    – jcaron
    Mar 18, 2023 at 13:39
  • 2
    Whilst not a direct answer to your question, the answer at travel.stackexchange.com/questions/11501/… will give you some idea of how these things work!
    – Doc
    Mar 18, 2023 at 16:37
  • This is difficult to do for any timeframe if you don't want to collect and recheck your luggage. Airline logistics intentionally minimize your layover, which would often require you to book multiple itineraries of you wanted longer layovers.
    – user27701
    Mar 18, 2023 at 18:57
  • @user27701 I don't mind to collect and recheck my luggage. Mar 18, 2023 at 21:29

4 Answers 4

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If it is an option for you to have four flights instead of three, you could buy two round-trip tickets, A-B-A and B-C-B (which makes the whole trip ( A -> (B -> C -> B) -> A ). Pros: easy to find two round-trip tickets. Cons: splits the visit to B into two periods and adds one extra leg.

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  • 5
    A major downside of this approach is that it typically requires two separate tickets, with all of the risks of such a setup. If any of the flights is delayed/cancelled/rescheduled, you will likely have no right to adjust the other ticket to match (because it's formally an unrelated trip), so making the necessary arrangements tends to be really expensive in such a situation.
    – TooTea
    Mar 18, 2023 at 21:45
  • 1
    Yes, that is what I thought too and is brilliant. I was looking to find a way to make it cheaper to book them all-together and hopefully considerably cheaper. Mar 18, 2023 at 22:09
  • 2
    @TooTea That is not a concern here as the distance between each flight is not short (it's a stopover and not a layover). Mar 18, 2023 at 22:10
  • 4
    @HandsomeNerd I shouldn't have mentioned delays,but cancellations are still a big concern. If the A-B-A airline tells you "we're cancelling your flight, here's your refund" a few days or so before departure, you'll be left with a completely useless B-C-B ticket unless you book a replacement for the first part,which will likely be really expensive at that point. I'm assuming the three cities are relatively far from each other so that flights are scarce or expensive (otherwise you could have made a separate trip to B whenever you wanted).
    – TooTea
    Mar 19, 2023 at 6:51
  • @TooTea, airlines usually have to offer an option to rebook you, can't just give you a refund unless you agree to it. Otherwise, they could routinely kick off cheap fare passengers whenever a higher-paying one shows up.
    – dbkk
    Mar 20, 2023 at 17:10
22

What you are looking for is a “stopover”.

Policies on stopovers are extremely variable. Some airlines, in cooperation with tourism boards of their home country, actually encourage stopovers in their home country/city (often with special deals on hotels or simplified formalities for visas).

That is (or was at some point) the case for Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong, Turkish Airlines in Istanbul, and at least one of the middle-eastern carriers (can’t remember which of Qatar Airlines, Emirates or Etihad), but there are probably many more.

Note that this is usually only valid for trips with a stop in their main hub, not in other locations.

Other airlines on the contrary will charge extra for stopovers and/or make it difficult to book stopovers.

If the website does not spontaneously suggest a stopover when you try to book a trip, the standard option is to use the “multi-city” option, which should try to find a matching round-trip fare allowing a stopover if one exists (otherwise it will indeed fall back to much less favourable fares).

If you want to find possible combinations (of airports, airlines and fares), you can use a tool like Expertflyer to list all fares from A to C and check the fare rules of each fare to see if stopovers are allowed, and if so, where, and at what cost.

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  • 2
    AIUI even when there are no stopovers available a "multi-city" option is still likely cheaper than buying singles separately because the legs can usually be priced at "half return" prices rather than "single" prices. Mar 18, 2023 at 18:31
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    It currently is all three of the Middle-Eastern carriers you named! Emirates gives you a free hotel and transfer, Etihad and Qatar heavily subsidize it.
    – user71659
    Mar 20, 2023 at 4:48
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    Reykjavik in Iceland is also a common stopover location for Europe<->North America flights. There are usually direct alternatives skipping Iceland but if you wish to stay Icelandic airlines usually help you do that
    – SztupY
    Mar 20, 2023 at 11:02
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    And TAP Air Portugal has recently been advertising Lisbon as a stopover.
    – A. R.
    Mar 20, 2023 at 20:07
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    This July 2022 article from ThePointsGuy describes stopover programs from (deep breath) Avianca, Copa Airlines, Emirates, Etihad, Ethiopian, Finnair, Iberia, Icelandair, Oman Air, Qatar Airways, Swiss International, TAP Air Portugal, and Turkish. Their generosity varies, from "extra time with no extra charge" to "complementary hotel for an overnight stay". Mar 20, 2023 at 20:27
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You want to search for "multi-city" or "open-jaw" tickets. They can work out cheaper than individual one-way tickets but not always – see the answers to What are the "rules" for multi-city flights? for how they work.

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My process is the following:

  • Look for a return ticket between A and C, (mentally) note the name of a city (B) that you are interested in visiting and where you find a cheap connection. You can use any flight search website for this.
  • Use ITA Matrix and manually look for a ticket going from A to B, B to C, and C to A together. You need to use the “multi-city” option (the third tab) to be able to do that. Using this instead of a simpler flight search lets you specify how flexible you are with the dates for each of the legs.
  • Once you find something you like, go to the relevant airline website (or possibly an online travel agent) to book the ticket, using the exact same route and dates in their “multi city” search.

Sometimes you will stumble upon attractive fares where adding a stopover does not change the price. Sometimes the price will be different but still better than a series of one-way fares or separate trips. And sometimes adding the stopover will make the ticket horribly expensive and you simply cannot visit this city on the cheap using this trick.

@Doc wrote a great answer explaining why that is and how it works behind the scenes but I am not aware of any tools or search engine that would search for good stopovers for you. Checking fare rules requires a paid tool and combing through hard-to-read text. Running a couple of additional searches can be faster and a powerful multi-city search tools like ITA Matrix will help you figure out what's available and surface relevant fares for your destination.

Theoretically, it's also entirely possible that a ticket with a stopover could be even cheaper than the original return fare so this approach could miss some good combos but I don't think that's common.

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  • I'd also note that Google Flights uses ITA Matrix under the hood and has an easier UX.
    – JonathanReez
    Mar 20, 2023 at 17:15
  • @JonathanReez Does it? I know they bought it years ago but when I run the exact same search, I get different results (connections ranked differently, different fares). I don't find Google Flights really easier to use, especially when you want to play with the options.
    – Relaxed
    Mar 20, 2023 at 18:14

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