A layover flight involves making a stop on the way to your destination to switch planes.

The time between when your first plane lands and until you board the second flight is your layover period.

Most layovers are only an hour for domestic flights. But they can be as long as 23 hours and 59 minutes for international ones.

If your stay exceeds 23 hours and 59 minutes, it’s considered a stopover.

Layovers can be boring, but you may even be able to leave the airport during a layover and explore the city if you have a valid visa for the country the layover is in.

Layover Flight Example

A layover flight is when a journey is broken up at some point to switch to a different aircraft for the rest of the journey. 

For example, you could have a flight from Dubai to London with a layover in Istanbul.

  • The first phase of the flight would be from Dubai to Istanbul.
  • The layover would be during Istanbul, where you’d switch to a different plane.
  • And the remaining half of the journey would be from Istanbul to London on the new plane. 

How Much Time to Leave for a Layover

You should leave two to three hours for a layover to be on the safe side.

Domestic Flights

Most domestic flights won’t have layovers longer than an hour at most.

Shorter layovers for domestic flights are usually fine, since you won’t check in with customs. 

International Flights

For international flights, you should leave 2 to 3 hours of time between flights.

During this time, you’ll clear customs, enter passport control and have your bags re-checked. 

Do You Stay or Get Off the Plane?

You exit the plane and switch to another plane during most layover flights.

It’s extremely rare to get to stay in your seat during a layover. 

Can You Leave the Airport?

You can technically leave the airport during a layover.

You have no legal obligation to stay in the airport, at least for layovers in countries where you have a legal visa.

But whether you should leave the airport during a layover is another question. 

It would be unwise to leave the airport during short layovers of just a few hours, since you could miss your next flight.

The ideal time to leave the airport during a layover would be an overnight layover of 20 hours or more.

That, too, is only if you have a visa for the country where you have a layover. 

What Happens With Your Luggage

For domestic layovers, your bags are tagged at the check-in counter and loaded onto the new plane.

If you’re on an international flight with a layover, you may be required to collect your luggage and go through customs once again.

However, some countries don’t require you to check in your luggage during a layover. They simply load your luggage onto the new plane. 

In some instances, if you are flying on a single ticket (usually with just one airline), your luggage will automatically be transferred for you onto your next flight.

You’ll find out what happens to your luggage during your first flight’s check-in.

You Might Have to Check in Again

You don’t need to check in for domestic layover flights, but you might be required to check in for an international one.

If your layover destination is a country that requires you to check in again, you will have to. Otherwise, you can pass directly to your next gate. 

You’ll most likely be required to check in again if you’re flying with two different airlines. 

Do You Have to Go Through Airport Security and Customs Again?

You’ll most likely have to go through airport security again at some point for your layover.

But, you’ll only have to go through customs for a layover for international flights. 

4 Ways to Survive a Long Layover

You can do these activities to keep yourself busy during a long layover. 

  • 1. Explore the Airport

Most airports have plentiful entertainment in the form of food and shopping to keep you busy, though some are better than others.

For example, the Las Vegas airport has slot machines and a museum.

The Nashville International Airport has live music performances.

  • 2. Rest

Most airports have resting areas for tired passengers to sleep and rest while waiting for their next flight. 

  • 3. Take a Stroll

Sitting too long can cause deep vein thrombosis. So you could spend some time wandering the airport.

Most airports have ample space for you to take a walk. 

  • 4. Visit the Gift Shop

You can shop for souvenirs and gifts for your loved ones during your layover flight. 

Difference Between a Layover and a Stopover

A layover lasts less than 24 hours, but a stopover is at least 24 hours long.

That’s the only difference between the two. 

What is a Connecting flight?

A connecting flight is when part of your journey involves changing planes at least once or taking multiple flights to reach your destination.

In conclusion:

  • A layover flight is when your journey is interrupted by a stop of fewer than 24 hours.
  • During this time, you’ll switch planes.
  • If you’re on a domestic flight, your layover is unlikely to be longer than an hour.
  • You also won’t be required to check in again, and your luggage will be directly loaded onto the next plane.
  • During international layovers, your layover period may extend as much as 23 hours and 59 minutes.
  • You might also be required to check in again, depending on the layover country.
  • You can technically leave the airport during your layover time if you have a valid visa.

See Also: A Complete Guide to Airline Operations

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).