Airport Layovers Unraveled: Can You Leave The Airport During A Layover?

A Long Layover Gives You A Chance To See A New Place, But It Can Also Be Risky. Here Are Some Things To Think About Before You Leave An Airport Between Trips.

Unexpected Chances Can Lead To Great Adventures, And The Break On A Trip Is One Of Those Chances. That’s Right, The Fact That You Can’t Get A Straight Flight When You’re Planning Your Holiday Travel Can Be A Good Thing.

If You Don’t Have To Be Somewhere Right Away, A Layover Can Give You A Chance To See A Place You’ve Never Been To Or Catch Up With Old Friends. But Not All Of These Small Stops Are The Same, And You Can’t Always Use Them. So, When During A Break Can You Leave The Airport?

Time Is Very Important, So It Really Depends. Not Every Airport Has Easy Choices For Layovers, And You Also Have To Think About How Stressful It Can Be If Something Goes Wrong And You Might Miss Your Next Flight.

Here Are The Rules You Need To Follow About Layovers The Next Time You Fly. You Should Think About These Rules Before You Buy Your Plane Tickets. Also, Keep In Mind That A Changed Schedule Or Canceled Flight Could Totally Change Your Plans For Your Layover.

How Does A Break Work?

When Your Trip Involves Multiple Flights That Connect At Different Airports, The Time You Spend At The Connecting Airports Is Called A Layover Or A Stopover, Based On How Long It Takes To Get From One Flight To The Next.

“Standard Layovers Are Usually Up To Four Hours On Domestic Flights And Up To 24 Hours On International Flights,” Says William J. Mcgee, Senior Fellow For Aviation At The American Economic Liberties Project.

He Adds That Layovers Are Most Common At Hub Airports. “Places That Don’t Have Many Direct Flights Are Usually Small Or Rural Towns With Few Travelers, So The Hub System Lets People Connect To A Wider Range Of Places. “Stopovers” Are Usually Longer Than Four Hours.

Say You’re Leaving Upstate New York To Go On Your Dream Vacation In Kenya. You Would Probably Fly From Buffalo To Jfk In New York City, Then To One Of London’s Six Major Airports Or Maybe Paris.

You Would Take Another Flight To Get To Lagos, Nigeria, And Then Take Another Flight To Get To Nairobi. Each Of These Stops Could Be A Few Hours Apart Or Even A Day Or Two. Most Layovers Aren’t Very Exciting And Can Last From Less Than An Hour To A Few Hours.

Why Do We Have Layovers?

Flying Is Cheaper For Both Customers And Carriers When There Are Layovers. Using The “Hub-And-Spoke” System, Airlines Can Build A Cheap Way To Get Customers From One Major Airport To Another, Where They Can Change To A Flight To Their Final Destination.

Smaller Cities Don’t Get Enough People To Support Bigger, Direct Flights From Faraway Places, And High Fuel Prices Make The Problem Even Worse. Smaller Towns Are Usually Served By Regional Airlines With Shorter Flights From Hub Airports.

These Airlines Work With The Airline That Took Them There. This Is Normal In Mexico, Where International Travelers Often Land In Mexico City Before Taking A Flight To León, Mérida, Or Any Of Dozens Of Other Smaller Airports In Mexico.

Even Though Connecting Flights Can Be A Pain, They Have Helped Make Flying Much Cheaper In The Last Few Decades. One Reason Is That Planes Can Save Money On Fuel, And Another Is That Airport Fees Are Lower In Places Like Frankfurt.

For International Flights, Like From New York To Delhi, You Might Be Able To Find A Straight Flight That Takes 17 Hours Or Connections That Take 54 Hours. There Could Be A Big Change In Price.

Back In The Day, Planes That Needed To Refuel Or Get Repaired Also Needed Layovers, But That’s No Longer The Case. “Since Ultra Long-Haul Planes Came Along, This Has Become Rare.

“With A Few Exceptions, You Can Now Fly Nonstop Between Almost Any Two Major Cities In The World,” Says Patrick Smith Of Ask The Pilot. “Today, It’s Less Of A Technological Problem And More Of A Test Of How Strong People Are.”

During A Stopover, Can You Leave The Airport?

In Theory, Yes, That’s True! In Real Life, It’s Hard To Know If You Should Leave The Airport During A Break. If You’re Traveling Within Your Own Country, You Don’t Have To Think About Customs Or Visas.

However, You Still Have To Leave The Airport, And Coming Back Doesn’t Give You Any Advantage Over Other People Who Are Checking In For That Flight. You’ll Have To Go Through Security And Check In.

Also, You May Need To Get Your Bags Between Trips, So You’ll Need To Find Out If The Airport Has A Place To Store Bags, Because Not All Of Them Do.

Depending On The Airport And Airline, You May Be Able To Check Your Bag For The Next Trip And Then Leave The Airport During Your Layover.

There Are Visa And Customs Issues To Deal With On The International Level. When You Go To A New Airport In A New Country, You May Have To Go Through Customs Both To Leave And To Return To The Airport.

They Might Even Need A Visa, Which They Might Have To Apply For And Pay For Ahead Of Time. Again, It Depends On The Airport And The Airline, Which Is Why Mcgee Warns Travelers To Do Their Study.

At The Very Least, You’ll Always Have To Check In For Your Flight And Go Through Security When You Leave The Airport And Come Back For The Next Part Of Your Trip.

The Federal Aviation Administration (Faa) Has Rules About Layovers, But If You Leave The Airport Between Flights, You Take A Risk And Are Responsible If You Miss Your Flight. The Company Could Give You A Discount, But They Don’t Have To.

How Long Does A Stopover Have To Be Before You Can Leave The Airport?

Since Layovers Are Up To You, You Can Leave Whenever You Want, But Mcgee And Other Experienced Travelers Rarely Leave Airports For Less Than Six Hours. After All, Airports Don’t Tend To Be In Busy Or Interesting Places.

You’ll Need To Get To Where You Want To Be, And That’s The Catch: You’ll Need To Plan For The Time It Takes To Get To Your Goal And Back To The Airport.

Urban Trains Are Usually The Most Efficient Way To Get Around, But Like In Madrid, It Still Takes At Least 30 Minutes To Get To The City Center. Then There’s Whatever Else You Have Planned, Like Places To See, Food, Travel, And More.

What If Something Goes Wrong, Though? Getting To And From The Airport Is Time-Consuming And Dangerous, Especially On Holidays. Buses Aren’t Always On Time, And Taxis Can Get Stuck In Traffic.

If There’s A Road Race, Work, Or A Protest Going On, Your “Fun” Trip Out Of The Airport Might Not Be So Fun After All.

Ann Woodward Is A Frequent Traveler Who Has Been To 78 Countries In The Last 11 Years. She Loves Layovers In New York Because She Can Meet Up With Friends. But Even Though She Knows The City And Transit System Very Well, She Likes To Do That When She Has 10 To 11 Hours To Kill.

She Says, “I Always Give Myself A Lot Of Time To Travel And Check In.” She Also Doesn’t Stop At Interesting Places On Her Way To See People And Do Things.

“Some People Drag Their Feet And Waste Time, But I’m Not One Of Them.” As A General Rule, You Should Always Expect That Something Will Go Wrong.

What Can You Do When You Get Out Of The Airport?

Anything, But It’s Best To Avoid Places That Are Busy Or Have Big Lines. Depending On How You Can Get Around, The Things You Can Do During A Break Will Vary From City To City. But Airports With Subways And Trains Are The Best Places To Plan Layovers.

For Example, Madrid Is A Great Place For Layovers Because It Only Takes 30 Minutes To Get To The City Center By Train, Which Is Perfect For A Walking Tour Of The City Center.

Think About Museums, Architecture, Getting A Tour Guide, Or Meeting A Long-Lost Friend For A Drink In A Beautiful Place That Maybe Only Locals Know About.

Woodward Took The Airtrain From Jfk To 74th Street In Jackson Heights During A Recent 10-Hour Stay In New York. What’s The Plan? She And Her Friends Ate Their Way Through Queens.

With Four To Five Hours Spent In Queens (About 12 Miles Away) And Five Hours Left For Check-In And Travel, It Was Possible To Go On An Ambitious Food Tour.

She Says, “I Made A Late Lunch Of Momos From A Himalayan Restaurant, Followed By Empanadas From Colombia And Pudding From An Asian Bakery.”

Also On The Schedule Was A Stop At An Indian Food Store To Buy Special Chili Flakes For A Friend She Would See Soon In Europe.

To Get To Your Next Flight, Do You Have To Go Through Security Again?

Since You Won’t Be Leaving A Secure Part Of The Terminal To Get To Your Next Trip, You Probably Won’t Have To Go Through Security Again.

But At Big Airports Like Jfk, London’s Heathrow, And Rome’s Leonardo Da Vinci Airport, You May Need To Change Terminals To Get To Your Flight. In That Case, You’ll Probably Have To Go Through Another Security Gate.

In Either Case, Airlines Plan For That Time, But You Need To Know How Much Time You Have When You Buy Your Plane Tickets Or Check In For Your First Trip. Feel Free To Ask The Flight Staff About The Airport At The Gate Or Even On The Plane.

Often, They Can Help You Figure Out How Quickly You Can Get To Your Next Flight’s Gate Or Even Make Arrangements To Get You There On Time.

During Your Layover Between Planes, If You Leave The Airport, You Will Have To Go Through Security Again.

That’s Because You’ll Have Left The Part Of The Airport Where Tsa Security Is In Place, And You Might Have Bought Food You Can’t Bring On The Plane, Or Worse, Something Illegal Or Dangerous. Everyone Will Be Safe If You Follow This Rule.

What Do You Do With Your Bags If You Have A Break And Leave The Airport?

On Trips With Layovers, Your Luggage Will Usually Be Moved From One Flight To The Next, Leaving You With Only Your Carry-On To Deal With During The Layover. But You Should Check With The Check-In Desk Or Call The Flight Ahead Of Time To Make Sure.

People Could Use Lockers At Most Airports Around The World Before 9/11, But They Can’t Do That Anymore. “Most Airports No Longer Have Lockers Or Places To Store Bags Because Of Security Concerns,” Says Mcgee.

“However, Based On The Airline, The Airport, And The Country, You May Be Able To Check Your Bags All The Way To Your Final Destination. Different Rules Apply. Check With The Airline Ahead Of Time To See If You Need To Get Your Bags And Recheck Them Between Trips.

But Third-Party Companies Like Excess Baggage Offer Bag Storage In Airport Terminals All Over The World. If You Look For “Luggage Storage” Or “Storage Lockers” On The Airport’s Official Website, You Can Usually Find Out If Your Layover Airport Works With Companies That Offer Storage Between Flights.

The Most Important Thing To Remember Is That Airports, Cities, And Countries All Have Different Rules, So You’ll Need To Research Your Choices Ahead Of Time.

What Happens If I Don’t Make It To My Next Flight?

So There You Have It, Explorer. During Very Short Layovers, Airlines Are Meant To Give You Enough Time To Get To Your Next Flight’s Gate, But They Don’t Do This For People Who Leave The Airport During A Layover.

If You Leave The Airport And Don’t Get Back In Time To Catch Your Flight, You’re Probably Out Of Luck. You Need Enough Time To Check In For The Flight, Go Through Security (And Maybe Customs) Again, Maybe Give Covid Paperwork, And Then Get To The Gate. Being On A Break Doesn’t Give You More Time To Get Back On The Plane Than Anyone Else.

And Here’s More Bad News: It’s Unlikely That Your Travel Insurance Will Pay For The Mishap. Most Likely, You Will Have To Buy A New Ticket.

When I Have A Break, What If I Don’t Want To Leave The Airport?

Then You’re Not Alone, Since Traveling Can Be Tiring. Woodward Says, “There’s Also A Tipping Point For Staying Healthy.” “I Went To A ‘nap Hotel’ In Mexico City To Sleep And Take A Shower.

Going To A Museum Isn’t Always Better Than Lying Down For Two Hours At The Airport And Taking A Hot Shower.

Yes, You Read That Right. In Some Airports, You Can Take A Real Nap (And Not Just Slouch Over In An Awkward Chair And Close Your Eyes). Woodward Says That You Can Rent Short-Term Sleep Pods Or Capsules In Mexico City When You Have A Short Stay.

Other Big Airports Around The World, Like Munich, Hanoi, And Dallas–Fort Worth, Also Have Pods Like This.

Depending On Where You Are, You Can Also Find Pay Showers, Yoga Classes, Massage Centers, Play Areas For Kids, Places To Eat, And, Of Course, Simple Phone-Charging Stations To Help You Recharge And Refresh.

There Aren’t Many Better Places To Spend A Day, As Long As You Bring Books, Charging Cables, And Toiletries In Your Carry-On, And You Can Also Buy Duty-Free Things There.

Want A Little More Fun? Portland International Has Some Over-The-Top Features, Like A Movie Theater. Athens Has A World-Class Museum, And The Singapore Changi Airport Has A Rooftop Pool And A Butterfly Garden.

And That’s Just The Start Of The Things That Can Happen At An Airport That Can Make People Feel Like Their Layovers Are Too Short For All The Things They Can Do. Make Sure To Do Study On Both Your Final Destination And The Airports Where You Will Change Flights.

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