Five best destinations for an airline stopover

From the world’s tallest indoor waterfall to the fastest growing city in Africa, embrace a two-for-one holiday.

Airline stopover programmes offer travellers a smooth and hassle-free way to see multiple places in one trip and are refreshing “pitstops” before arriving at your destination.

Many airlines offer stopover packages that can be pre-booked with your flight. These can provide excellent value for money and can include a choice of hotel accommodation, transfers, city tours and perhaps even discounted sightseeing.

Arrive for your holiday in style and enjoy a two-for-one holiday with these recommended stopover destinations.


In March, Singapore Airlines upped its Johannesburg frequency, adding three evening flights on the route. Currently, travellers can choose from 10 flights a week to this Southeast Asian island destination, departing from either Joburg or Cape Town.

Singapore is worth visiting — even if you don’t plan on leaving the airport! Trust us, tearing yourself out of the airport may prove to be a challenge.

Jewel Changi Airport — an entertainment, retail and multifunctional complex on the landside of Changi Airport — was unveiled in April this year. The development was reported to cost US$1.25 billion and spared no flight of the imagination.

The jewel in Jewel Changi’s crown is its 40-metre-high Rain Vortex, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall surrounded by floor after floor of forest greenery. You could easily spend 48 hours in the airport alone.

Head out of the airport to explore the futuristic, multicultural diversity of the exotic city-state where modern marvels meet age-old tradition.

“Consider Singapore Airlines for your next trip and ask your Flight Centre travel expert about the stopover holiday programme,” said Sue Garrett, general manager of marketing and product at the Flight Centre Travel Group.

“This usually includes a one-night hotel stay, airport and hotel transfers, a free city tour, a transit voucher worth 20 Singapore dollars, and free Wi-Fi.”


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Ah, Dubai. This list wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Emirates’ stopover programme in Dubai. It’s long been a favourite with South African travellers eager to break up their eight-hour plus flight to Europe and beyond with a stop in the Middle East.

Dubai was the first Middle Eastern destination to put the region on the South African map as a stopover destination.

A Dubai stopover package with Emirates gives you a fascinating glimpse into the city long known for pushing the boundaries of innovation. Easily navigate your way through the world-class airport before heading out into the desert heat (don’t worry, everything is air-conditioned).

Shop till you drop in the mega malls, relax poolside at your fabulous hotel (take your pick from the array included in the stopover programme – there’s something for all budgets), get your bearings on a sightseeing tour, and prepare to be wowed at the many adventure parks. Ensure you have enough time to take in the view from the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa.

Visitors can also take advantage of the My Emirates Pass, which allows them to redeem discounts and special benefits in over 500 locations across the UAE using their boarding pass. From luxurious spa treatments and five-star culinary experiences to outdoor activities and waterpark entries, it’s a great way to make the most of a stopover.

Book your flight first, taking into account your stopover dates, and then book the stopover package. Inform your travel agent and they can arrange this for you.


Qatar Airways, the national carrier of Qatar, boasts a rapidly expanding network and attractive fares.

The airline recently announced plans to expand its hub, Hamad International Airport (HIA), to increase the airport’s capacity to more than 53 million passengers annually by 2022.

The expanded airport will feature a stunning 10,000 sqm indoor tropical garden and 268 sqm water feature. A further 11,720 sqm of landscaped retail and food and beverage space will be added to the airport, integrating world-class art and refreshing greenery with contemporary retail and dining concepts.

A destination in itself, HIA was named the fourth-best airport in the world and the best airport in the Middle East at the SKYTRAX World Airport Awards 2019.

Outside of the airport, a jam-packed, 48-hour stopover in Doha awaits. Like many of its Middle Eastern neighbours, the city is incredibly family-friendly. Learn about the region’s rich heritage and culture at the Museum of Islamic Art, shop and dine in Souq Waqif, or hit the dunes on a desert safari.


Turkey has enjoyed a massive spike in popularity in the South African travel market. Flight Centre data showed that flight bookings to Turkey were up 79% from 2019 to 2020.

Reasonable airfares, a far-reaching network (Turkish Airlines flies to more destinations than any other carrier), and the allure of Istanbul beckons travellers to stopover and enjoy longer, fuller holidays.

Obtaining visas is also a breeze. Apply for the free e-visa online at least 48 hours before departure.

The airline offers a stopover package to passengers with a layover of 6-24 hours. The complimentary ‘touristanbul’ service includes transfers, access to historical sights of interest as well as a sampling of Turkey’s famed cuisine.

Enjoy a smooth transfer from Istanbul International Airport to your hotel, drop your bags and head out to explore with a city pass. Cruise the Bosphorus, the divide between Asia and Europe, for a view of the city’s grand palaces and landmarks from the water.

The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace are must-do highlights. Browse the Grand Bazaar, strip down and relax in a traditional Turkish bath, and feast on kebabs, baklava and strong Turkish coffee.


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Ethiopian Airlines’ incredibly attractive fares, often the cheapest on offer, have resulted in an influx of rand-carrying passengers choosing to transit via Addis Ababa.

The airline is seriously expanding its network and have this year alone announced flights to Athens (Greece), Houston (Texas), Marseille (France), several Chinese cities and more.

Ethiopian Airlines offers a free city sightseeing tour for passengers transiting six hours or longer in Addis Ababa and arriving before 8am. There are also stopover packages to explore Addis Ababa, the fastest growing city in Africa. Tourism is growing at an unprecedented rate with the economy projected to grow by 9% in 2019/2020.

Hop on a full-day city tour and experience a traditional coffee ceremony, a visit to the National Museum – home of the world-famous hominid Lucy, and so much more. Or take a day trip to the Wonchi Crater Lake, the Debrelibanos Monastery and Jemma Valley, Debrezeit Crater Lakes, Gulelle Botanical Garden and more.

“Ask a Flight Centre travel expert for advice and recommendations when booking and considering a stopover,” added Garrett.

Each airline has specific terms and conditions, such as booking the right class of air ticket to limiting stopover packages to particular airports. Avoid any confusion or regrets by consulting an expert and embrace the two-for-one holiday.


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