How European Airlines are Transforming the Layover

Analyzing consumer conversations to see how airlines have made layovers a travel trend

There is little in this world better than vacation, but actually getting to the destination is a different story, particularly the annoying layovers. Sitting for hours on end in an airport filled with over-priced food, long lines, and a strangely high number of luxury designers.

But the layover is in the midst of a makeover. In recent years, some consumers have stopped dreading layovers and actually started to seek them out, especially in Europe. What’s changed?

While layovers have been seen as a necessary evil for years, many European air travel providers have begun to change that by offering an extended stopover before consumers fly to their final destination at no extra charge. IcelandAir, FinnAir, and TAP Portugal offer up to 7 days to visit their hub airport (Reykjavik, Helsinki, and Lisbon, respectively) to try and capture some of the European travel market that’s dominated by other countries like France, Italy, and Spain.

By analyzing hundreds of thousands of consumer conversations, we’re able to understand:

  • Layover sentiment among brands that do and do not offer extended stopovers
  • How people utilize these stopovers, and what they like about them
  • Top brands in the stopover conversation

Leaning Into Layovers

Everyone hates a layover right? Not so fast. The rise of stopovers invites consumers to use the respective airline for a “freebie” destination and attract travelers to lesser known destinations.

Not only is this a great strategy for travelers who want two destinations for the price of one, but it’s great for the airlines offering these deals and the countries trying to compete with European tourism giants.

Compared to American airlines, who don’t offer these extended layovers, European airlines are leading. Delta, JetBlue, and United all fall between 51-64% negative sentiment in conversations about their layovers. IcelandAir, FinnAir, and TAP Portugal all fall within 69-96% positive sentiment for their stops.

Utilizing the Option

When looking at posts about the different airlines’ layovers, there’s a clear disparity between quality. Delta received criticism for their flight times and a flyer being forced to have a five-hour layover on his way to Newark while another recounted their layover in LAX with a photo of a television being the highlight.

IcelandAir, on the other hand, was mentioned in posts about people hiking to waterfalls and glaciers, showcasing how their flyers can take advantage of landing in Reykjavik, and exploring before they even arrive at their destination.

But it’s not just about how people can take advantage of their stopover. The campaign has brought more people to Iceland, through the stopover program or just by increasing awareness of the destination to stand by itself.

Over the last five years, the conversation has grown almost 5-fold, and while the seasonal peaks and valleys occur today, the amount of travel conversation around Iceland has skyrocketed in a short amount of time.

Making an Impact

And sure, Iceland may have some examples of a long layover and the destination might be becoming trendy, but seeing just how often people utilize the option shows how popular they’ve become. Comparing extended layovers to regular ones for both IcelandAir and Delta, you can see that IcelandAir’s conversation is dominated by extended layovers. The extended layover share of voice never dips below 50%, and at times accounts over 90% of the conversation, compared to Delta who never experiences more than 10% share of voice for extended layovers.

This type of two-for-one travel destination has caught on in Europe, so when will American companies catch up? Imagine taking a vacation and getting a free couple days in a smaller city that you might not otherwise have thought to visit, it could bring some awareness to a city while potentially finding some increased positivity that is much needed for American airlines.

To learn more about the airline industry, read our report: Which Airline Owns the Sky on Social?

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