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Travel and You

How to Win at the Stopover Game

March 06, 1988|TONI TAYLOR | Taylor, an authority on the travel industry, lives in Los Angeles.

If you want to visit Honolulu and Fiji on your flight to New Zealand or Australia, or add stays in Budapest and Prague en route to Moscow, or roam around Lima or Panama City while bound for Rio de Janeiro, you may be able to do it at little or no extra charge through the use of stopovers.

Many regular fares offer unlimited stopovers on an airline's route system within the mileage permitted for that flight. Promotional fares, on the other hand, may limit or not allow any stopovers, or impose an extra charge per stopover.

Such promotions as the advanced purchase excursion fare (APEX) don't permit stopovers to Europe, but promotional rates to the South Pacific, Orient and South America can present another picture.

The day of the week and whether it's high or low season also can affect the stopover picture. And don't forget that promotional fares usually mean conditions such as advance purchase, minimum and maximum stays, etc.

On domestic flights, if you stay more than four hours in a city it's generally considered a stopover. If your stay is less than four hours it's called a connection.

Internationally, it works like this: If there is no connecting flight on the same day you arrive, and if you continue on the following day within 24 hours of arrival, it's still considered a connection.

Point-to-Point Basis

The difference between a connection and a stopover is important, as your fare is on a through basis as a connection (a connecting flight means that you have to change aircraft, but not necessarily the airline). If your stopover is now allowed, your fare is calculated on a point-to-point basis.

Let's say you were booked on a Los Angeles-Atlanta-London flight on Delta Air Lines using an APEX fare (which would not permit stopovers) and with an 8:40 a.m. departure from Los Angeles International Airport and a 3:43 p.m. arrival in Atlanta.

The continuing flight from Atlanta to London is scheduled to depart at 7:15 p.m. As you would have less than four hours in Atlanta, you would be on a connecting flight. Your round-trip fare would be $568 or $598 depending on the time of the week.

But if you elected to catch the flight to London from Atlanta on the following day, your time in Atlanta would be classified as a stopover and you would have to pay the regular LAX-Atlanta and Atlanta-London fares, which would come to $1,091 on a regular weekday economy-fare basis.

If the flight from Atlanta to London was overbooked (or was canceled or postponed for weather or technical reasons) and you had to stay over in Atlanta, Delta Air Lines would treat your fare on a connecting basis.

Some travelers will book flights that have a stopover for the chance to have a quick visit to a friend, a business appointment or just a tour of the city.

They plan on arriving in a city too late to catch the airline's next flight to their destination. In such situations, some airlines will provide gratis overnight accommodations for travelers; this policy often depends on the fare type. Obviously, first- and business-class passengers are more likely to receive such perks.

No Extra Cost

On a regular fare from LAX to Rome on TWA you could stop over, at no extra cost, in New York, Paris, Geneva and Milan. The mileage on this stopover routing amounts to 6,792 miles, well within the mileage limit of 7,606 miles set for this route.

What's more, all the flight segments don't have to be on TWA. "Not all travelers realize they can use other airlines for some stopover flights, with these tickets still written in the United States," Diane Meese, area sales manager for TWA, said.

Delta Air Lines also offers unlimited stopovers to its full-fare business- or first-class passengers who fly on the carrier's routes. This means you could stop off with no extra charge at such domestic destinations as Salt Lake City, Cincinnati, Dallas/Fort Worth and Atlanta on an LAX-Atlanta-Frankfurt routing.

Lufthansa is another example. Using full fares, if you were booked on an LAX-Frankfurt-Moscow routing, you would be entitled to a free stopover in each direction, within the mileage allowed. In this case, you could stop off in Budapest eastbound and Prague returning to Frankfurt. And the Budapest-Moscow and Moscow-Prague segments would be on other carriers.

In planning trips, if you would like to visit many places, you might be better off paying a higher regular fare that permits free stopovers rather than a discounted fare that does not.

The TWA regular coach fare from LAX to Rome is $1,872 compared to $786 on an APEX fare. If you were to fly to several other cities in Europe from Rome after arriving there on an APEX ticket, your total air costs could easily go over the regular LAX-Rome fare. European point-to-point air fares generally are on the high side.

Free Stopovers Available

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