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What is a Layover in Air Travel?

Airline Carriers are pretty much the same when it comes to transporting passengers from one place to another. Sometimes, flights also need to make brief halts for a couple of reasons before taking off again to its final destination. One such type of halt is called a layover when travelling by air. In this blog post, we will provide you an insight on what is a layover when flying with a major or low-cost airline carrier to your destination.

Definition of Layover in Flights

A layover in air travel can be defined in simple words as a brief halt made by a flight while on its way to the final destination.

This brief halt is usually a few minutes or a couple of hours only, generally up to four hours. Both domestic and international flights served by various airline carriers make such brief layovers at “connecting” airports. Thus, in such a situation, it will be referred to as “connecting flight(s)”. So, if you say that you have a connecting flight, it generally refers to a layover on your trip.

When you book a flight, whether it’s domestic or international, if your itinerary includes connecting flight(s), this information will also be included in the ticket (or e-ticket, if booked online). This gives passengers a sort of notification that he/she has a connecting flight while en route to his/her destination.

Now, it is possible that there may be just a single layover or multiple layovers. This may be the case, especially if there are connecting flights that certain passengers may need to board from another airport(s). Some long-distance flights usually have one or more layovers, depending on the route.

Why do Flights make Layovers?

In the aviation industry, it is essential for airline carriers to prepare and issue regulations, particularly in their travel policies. Therefore, the same applies to how airline carriers manage their flights that are served at airports along with stops that are either short or long.

On certain routes, the flight you are travelling may require to make a layover at a different airport before arriving to your destination. The reasons for such halts could be a few. However, one common reason why a flight needs to make a layover is because some passengers would have to change planes part-way through their journey. Another reason could be that your flight is not bound to your destination and thus, can only continue to the airport between the airports in the itinerary.

For instance, on some airlines, if you are flying from New York City to Los Angeles in the United States, your flight may make a layover in Houston. This brief stop can be for a duration of not more than four hours.

So, passengers that need to change or board another “connecting flight” will have enough time to go through security and the boarding process again before leaving for one’s destination.

In addition to the reasons stated above, there are also situations where flights may need to make layovers. These may include the following:

  • If the aircraft needs refuelling
  • If the aircraft needs maintenance, repair etc.
  • If there is an emergency, such as a passenger suffers a serious health condition, or in the event of death of a passenger/passenger’s companion etc.
  • If there is an order from the government or authorities associated with the government

However, if your flight needs to make a longer stop at a connecting airport, then it will not be called layover, but stopover.

Are Layover and Stopover the Same?

From the definition given above, a layover is a brief halt that flights make at airports while en route to its final destination. On the other hand, if that halt is of a longer duration, for example, 24 hours or more, then it will be called a stopover. This is the main difference between the two.

Thus, whenever you plan your trip, it is also important to check if the flight you are going to book includes a brief layover or a much longer stopover before you arrive to your destination.

You will usually find this information at the airport’s ticketing counter, when booking flight online or via phone – the representative will provide you information on layovers, depending on your itinerary and the airline carrier.

Check-in and Boarding during Layovers

It may be that you might have to change your plane or simply continue your journey on the same plane.

If you change your plane during a layover, some airports may require you to go through the check-in and boarding process again. Here, a new boarding pass will also be issued to you for the new flight. This also means if you have multiple layovers, you may have to go through this process each time you land at the connecting airport.

Also, during a layover, if you need to switch terminals or you exit the airport terminal and re-enter, you may be required to go through security checks, in such cases as well.

Baggage Check and Customs and Immigration during Layovers

Aside from going through check-in and boarding process again on a layover, passengers that are entering a bordering country, such as the United States from abroad, going through baggage check and customs and immigration will also become mandatory.

If you need to go through baggage re-check, your checked luggage will be automatically dispatched to your final destination from the airport.

Some airports, however, may not require you to go through customs and immigration check when you land at the connecting airport to catch a different plane.


Sometimes, layovers can give you enough time to explore new places for a while before catching your next flight bound for your destination. Some airports also have art galleries, plane spotting areas, children’s play areas, spa and massage services, where you can spend time.

Alternatively, you can just relax at the airport’s lounge or at an in-airport or nearby hotel. This can be very useful if, for example, you have a late night or overnight layover.

However, if you do not like layovers during your journey, it is suggested that you book a direct flight with the shortest route to your destination.

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