Ethiopian Airlines’ Free Transit Hotel Program

Ethiopian Airlines’ Free Transit Hotel Program

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Ethiopian Airlines has a large global route network through its Addis Ababa hub, as the airline flies to four continents from there.

Given the carrier’s complex network, in some cases, passengers might find themselves with an extended layover in Addis Ababa. The good news is that if your layover is long enough, you may be entitled to a free hotel room, which can make your travel experience much more pleasant.

In this post I wanted to take a closer look at how exactly the program works. I’ve written in the past about similar programs offered by Emirates in Dubaiby Qatar Airways in Doha, and by Turkish Airlines in Istanbul. This is particularly relevant to me, as I plan an upcoming trip on Ethiopian Airlines (in a separate post I wrote about Ethiopian Airlines’ different kind of business class seats).

Basics of Ethiopian Airlines’ stopover hotel program

Ethiopian Airlines offers passengers with extended transit periods a complimentary hotel stay. On top of that, eligible travelers receive a complimentary transit visa, free meals, and transport to and from the hotel, as needed. As you’d expect, there are some terms to be aware of when it comes to the free hotel program, so let’s go over all of those details (and thanks to this valuable FlyerTalk thread for clarifying many of the common questions).

How long does your connection have to be?

In order to get a free transit hotel from Ethiopian Airlines in Addis Ababa, you need to have a layover of 8-24 hours. You wouldn’t be eligible if you’re spending less or more time in Addis Ababa than that.

Unlike with some other airline stopover programs, there’s no need to take the next flight in order to be eligible for this. In other words, you could intentionally book a connection for a later flight to receive a stopover hotel. Interestingly when paying cash you’ll notice that Ethiopian ordinarily charges $70 (or so) extra for a longer connection, but that doesn’t apply when redeeming miles.

Get a free stopover hotel with an 8-24 hour connection

Who is eligible for a free stopover hotel?

Ethiopian Airlines has fairly few restrictions beyond the above regarding who is eligible for a transit hotel. It doesn’t matter if your ticket was issued by Ethiopian Airlines or a partner airline. Furthermore, award tickets qualify, regardless of which program you book through.

The only major restriction is that you must be both arriving and departing on Ethiopian Airlines on a single ticket to be eligible for a stopover hotel. So you can’t be arriving on one airline and departing on another airline.

How do you book your free stopover hotel?

There’s no need to book your stopover hotel in advance. Instead, when you check-in for your Ethiopian Airlines flight, you should be given all the vouchers that you’ll need. This includes the vouchers for the hotel, meals, transportation (if applicable), a transit visa, and more.

In the event that you don’t get these vouchers at check-in (for whatever reason), you can proceed to the transit desk in Addis Ababa, and they can help you there.

Do you need a visa for entering Ethiopia?

This stopover hotel program automatically comes with a transit visa, so you’ll be given the documentation required for that. This applies regardless of your nationality. If you plan on staying in Ethiopia for longer than 24 hours (not in conjunction with this program), then standard visa policies apply.

What stopover hotels does Ethiopian Airlines use?

Ethiopian Airlines doesn’t guarantee which hotel you’ll be given with your stopover package. However, the most common option seems to be the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel, which is owned by the airline. The Ethiopian Skylight Hotel is the largest hotel in Africa, and has both an in-terminal location, and a location past immigration.

So while it’s no guarantee, hopefully you’re accommodated at one of those, and they’re both pretty well regarded. The location in the terminal is probably ideal if you have a shorter connection (closer to eight hours), where you just want to maximize rest, while with a longer connection (closer to 24 hours), you might like to get into town, see some sights, etc.

Ethiopian Airlines Skylight Hotel in terminal

Bottom line

Ethiopian Airlines offers an excellent complimentary hotel program for those with long layovers in Addis Ababa. You can take advantage of this with a layover of 8-24 hours, regardless of the cabin you’re traveling in. You’ll also receive meals, transportation, and a transit visa. This can be a great way to get some rest between flights. This is definitely a program worth understanding if you find yourself with a long layover in Addis Ababa.

If you’ve used Ethiopian Airlines’ free stopover hotel program, what was your experience like?

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  1. Yas Guest

    Will we get a voucher at check in if we booked our flights via an agency?

  2. Christian Guest

    I cannot confirm what is written here. Used the stopover program on about 20 flights in the last month and I have only once been put into the Skylight Hotel. All the other times I have been allocated for or less dodgy downtown hotels. Only Business Class gets a Skylight guarantee, not Economy

  3. Rishita Guest

    Hello.. do we need to complete any formalities at the country of departure for this complimentary room? I need to know asap as I travel in 2 days and my halt is almost 9 hours..

  4. Oaklee Guest

    I collect passport stamps, I wonder if it is still possible to request for entry and exit stamps using the free transit hotel scheme? I happen to have yellow fever vaccine certificate.

  5. Hiro Guest

    I have booked ET flights thru United Airlines using miles, and my ADD stay will be less than 24 hours next month (Dec 2023). Do I still get the free hotel stay as discussed here in this web? Please let me know your comments.

    1. Hiro Guest

      OMG, I am now staying at Skylight for tonight, as explained in the web. Still working so, regardless of my award mileage ticket thru United!

  6. Bert Guest

    I will be travelling to ADD on Ethiopian from Singapore, in February 2024, and have a 16 hour layover, before continuing on to Toronto on an Aeroplan reward Business Class ticket. As a Canadian citizen, I can not find any info on the transfer program on the Ethiopian website. Does anyone have a link to specifics/details on the free transit visa/stopover program. I am just a bit concerned about just checking in with Ethiopian in...

    I will be travelling to ADD on Ethiopian from Singapore, in February 2024, and have a 16 hour layover, before continuing on to Toronto on an Aeroplan reward Business Class ticket. As a Canadian citizen, I can not find any info on the transfer program on the Ethiopian website. Does anyone have a link to specifics/details on the free transit visa/stopover program. I am just a bit concerned about just checking in with Ethiopian in Singapore and not having a visa. Any assistance is appreciated.
    Thank you.
    Bert

    1. GGZED Guest

      When you check inn for your flight in SIN, you will normally receive a transit voucher, and if not, when you land at ADD, go to the "Transfer & Layover Office." For any layover between 8-24 hrs, you will receive a free stay with the visa and meals, as long as it is an ET-ET connection. No need to pre-arrange any visa. This flyertalk forum is very helpful on this topic: https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/other-middle-eastern-african-airlines/1877754-ethiopian-airlines-add-layover-18.html

      When you check inn for your flight in SIN, you will normally receive a transit voucher, and if not, when you land at ADD, go to the "Transfer & Layover Office." For any layover between 8-24 hrs, you will receive a free stay with the visa and meals, as long as it is an ET-ET connection. No need to pre-arrange any visa. This flyertalk forum is very helpful on this topic: https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/other-middle-eastern-african-airlines/1877754-ethiopian-airlines-add-layover-18.html

    2. Bert Guest

      Thank you very much GGZED. I appreciate your assistance, and yes, I should have mentioned my ticket is on ET from SIN and ET from ADD to YYZ.
      Have a great day! and I am looking forward to experiencing ET and seeing ADD, even though it will be a brief visit. Bert

  7. Tayo adeyemo Guest

    I really love the airline..my brother and I had a stop over at Addis Ababa and we re giving hotel voucher before leaving Nigeria and they lodged us there it was a very good memory for us..shuttle bus was excellent...friendly staffs at the skylight hotel.

  8. Constance Simapa Guest

    I enjoyed my stay and the rooms were very neat staff was very friendly will definitely have another stop over. Shuttle bus staff excellent friendly l really enjoyed my trip with a stop over. The hotel voucher l was issued boarding

  9. ahmed Pandor Guest

    Hi,
    Firstly i am regular traveller of ETHIOPIAN AIRLINE.
    secondly very nice information.
    thanks

  10. David h. Guest

    If you dont have a yellow fever vaccine dont cross past immigration.

    It happened to me back in 2018, I was on my way to Thailand and had a free stopover in Addis (it was fine, ok hotel and ok food) but when I arrived in Bangkok and the health department guy saw my ethiopian stamp he wanted me to put me in quarentine for 7 days!!! (I was going for 9 days to...

    If you dont have a yellow fever vaccine dont cross past immigration.

    It happened to me back in 2018, I was on my way to Thailand and had a free stopover in Addis (it was fine, ok hotel and ok food) but when I arrived in Bangkok and the health department guy saw my ethiopian stamp he wanted me to put me in quarentine for 7 days!!! (I was going for 9 days to thailand by the way)

    Since I dont have a yellow fever vaccine I just lied through my teeth and told them I only left the airside of the airport for lunch and they fortunately let me in to Thailand.

    So double and triple check the health requirements of your next destination after Ethiopia.

    1. Sean M. Diamond

      They don't stamp your passport anymore on the STPC transit.

    2. Edvard Member

      In previous years, all arrivals from Africa into BKK had to go via Health Desk and fill out form. This is pre-immigration. So, no way of denying your inbound flight.

  11. Edvard Member

    Can those with recent experience to ADD confirm that transit Visa is free?

    ET info only says "For those nationals/ citizens who are eligible for transit visa on arrival, interline desk will facilitate such transit visa."

    Currently a normal e-visa is 82 USD.

    1. Sean M. Diamond

      It was free as of yesterday afternoon. :)

    2. Simon Guest

      Yes. You do not need a visa as an American. It is visa free. Did it a few weeks ago. Great experience. Hired a private tour guide to drive me around, they are very cheap. Definitely recommend, navigating a Addis by yourself is chaotic.

    3. Edvard Member

      That is incorrect Simon.

      You need a visa for entry into Ethiopia if you have a United States passport.

  12. David Bola Oladiran Guest

    I once partook in this program, it was a Lagos / Dubai flight . It was a wonderful experience. Nice hotel, nice food, and good pick up arrangement.

    David

  13. Imtiaz Mosam Guest

    I had a stopover flight and spent a night at the new Sky light hotel. Every thing went very smoothly excellent service friendly helpfull staff.

  14. AwesomePossum Guest

    Did this a few months ago, was travelling J MNL-ADD-FCO; was accommodated in the Skylight, nice hotel and good food options (included) though after 24 hrs or so you’ve had enough. Despite having no visa I went and visited the city (hired a driver, very cheap, have a look on Tripadvisor forums, there’s a super active British poster who has all the info & tips). The city is generally safe, though not much to write...

    Did this a few months ago, was travelling J MNL-ADD-FCO; was accommodated in the Skylight, nice hotel and good food options (included) though after 24 hrs or so you’ve had enough. Despite having no visa I went and visited the city (hired a driver, very cheap, have a look on Tripadvisor forums, there’s a super active British poster who has all the info & tips). The city is generally safe, though not much to write home about, and I didn’t bother visiting again on my flight back. Also note that despite promising me the Skylight hotel when booking, they tried to dump me in the in-terminal hotel when I arrived in ADD, which I pushed back against-seems there’s a lot of vagueness on the part of ET, you need to know your rights and not let them push you around. Hotel was literally 2 mins’ drive from airport, and even walkable to be honest.

  15. Alan Diamond

    I did this in 2018 as an economy passenger. The hotel was a barely adequate African style hotel about a half an hour from the airport. The food was buffet style and also barely adequate. I would not have given the hotel even one star. However, I had never been to Ethiopia so I took advantage of the day and traveled to the city center and even had an Ethiopian guy end up inviting me...

    I did this in 2018 as an economy passenger. The hotel was a barely adequate African style hotel about a half an hour from the airport. The food was buffet style and also barely adequate. I would not have given the hotel even one star. However, I had never been to Ethiopia so I took advantage of the day and traveled to the city center and even had an Ethiopian guy end up inviting me to his restaurant/hotel so I have no complaints but I sure would not have wanted to spend the day in the hotel.

    1. Rayya Guest

      You are lucky they let you do, as for me being US citizen they didn't let me and clearly it was fact due to my ethnicity.

  16. Amar Palaniswami Gounder Guest

    It is fraud. They provide bed and food which even cats can not consume at the yransit hotel. I experienced personally. They ud why I changed the carrier to TK fir my travel which is more cheaper and good.

  17. Haashi Guest

    Ethiopian Airlines fulfilled what they promised, I was in long transit twice and both times enjoyed nice clean hotels with complimentary food and drink, transport and free Visa as well. Lovely
    But, Qatar and Emirates both declined my long transit.
    I was in Doha Airport transit for 12 Hours and in Dubai for 9 hours, both of them treated me badly and ignored me.
    Don't trust Qatar airways and Emirates.
    Viva Ethiopian Airlines.

  18. Ta Guest

    If you end up in a hotel that is outside of immigration (not the in terminal one) and traveling to Tanzania, would this trigger requirements to have yellow fever vaccines?

  19. Hiro Diamond

    From what I’ve been hearing Skylight is mostly for business class passengers only, together with Radisson and Hilton. Economy passengers seem to get a lot more cheaper options in town as many have commented here.

    1. Sean M. Diamond

      Since the Skylight extension has opened in May 2023 (increasing the room capacity there to 1000+ rooms), I have only been allocated Skylight for all my layovers in Economy.

    2. Bruno Guest

      Could it be because you’re *G?
      I believe years ago they allocated already “better” hotels (harmony, friendship) to *G than to pax without status.

    3. Sean M. Diamond

      No. They have been allocating Skylight to pretty much everyone on the flights I've been on.

    4. Constance Simapa Guest

      Skylight also accommodates economy passengers me went there no questions were asked

  20. Nick Guest

    We booked a flight on Thursday night to Addis Abba from Nairobi and then onwards to Cape Town Friday morning, all on one ticket. They said that because Friday morning had another flight from Nairobi, we didn’t qualify for the free service. So it does seem that you can’t actually book a later flight to self qualify for this.

    1. Sean M. Diamond

      Someone gave you bad information. If you are taking a flight in a city pair that has same day connections but you choose one that triggers an STPC instead, there is an automatic $70 "Q" surcharge built into your ticket to cover the costs of the stopover package. You can price this on the Ethiopian Airlines website and check for yourself. ET309/ET847 connection in the same fare buckets costs $70 less than the ET319/ET847 connection.

    2. Nick Guest

      Thanks Sean - that response came from the airline contact centre. I’ll drop them another note as it was indeed more expensive as you point out.

  21. Français Guest

    I wouldn’t feel safe transiting that continent.

    1. Darryl Stewart Guest

      Let me guess!? American!?! Well guess what, dink, Africa as a continent has a 7.6% higher combined median HDI than the US, factor in the population of Africa being nearly the same as the United States, you are safer in Africa than at home.

    2. David Guest

      Speaking of dinks, you really want to paint the entire country like that? I’m American. I spend as much time as anyone on here in Addis and flying ET.

    3. Darryl Stewart Guest

      "I spend as much time as anyone on here in Addis and flying ET"... how oddly unspecific.

      And what are you talking about "paint the entire country like that"?

    4. Eskimo Guest

      @Français I didn't remember asking for your feelings.

  22. Sean M. Diamond

    If you don't get your voucher at your originating station, you need to go to the "Transfer & Layover Office" (located on the extreme left of the transfer security area before the security checkpoint) and NOT to the Transit Desk (which is located after security on the departure concourse level).

    Also, even once you have your voucher, you need to get it stamped at the Ethiopian Airlines transport desk located immediately after exiting customs. If...

    If you don't get your voucher at your originating station, you need to go to the "Transfer & Layover Office" (located on the extreme left of the transfer security area before the security checkpoint) and NOT to the Transit Desk (which is located after security on the departure concourse level).

    Also, even once you have your voucher, you need to get it stamped at the Ethiopian Airlines transport desk located immediately after exiting customs. If you don't get this stamp, you will be sent back to the airport from the hotel to get it.

    Finally, keep in mind that Ethiopian Airlines requires you to declare if you are carrying >$3000 equivalent in cash and are taking advantage of this program (even though Ethiopian Customs permits up to $10000 cash). You have to sign a declaration to this effect before they stamp your voucher at the transport desk.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      What's with the $3000 declaration?

      So they can target people with money who would leave in a short time, too short to report or investigate?

    2. Eskimo Guest

      Wait, never mind - I just figured out that it is actually required under African Continental Law.

    3. Hiro Diamond

      This. At the departure hall of check in area there are random dudes in uniform asking to show all the cash I was carrying in public space. Luckily I have spent most of the USD cash being the end of African trip so I was a bit relieved, bit it was not the most comfortable experience. This was May 2022.

  23. Adam Guest

    I did this in 2015 when I flew from Abuja to Maputo via Addis (economy) and they put me in an awful little hotel. I don’t remember the name. But it was really cheap and tacky.

  24. Darryl Stewart Guest

    Will be interesting to see if they launch their own hotel chain. I suspect it would be a global success if so and potentially convert Addis Ababa into the next Dubai.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      Sarcasm, let have some fun.
      Airlines and hotel chain. Historically that worked well.

      You have Pan Am and InterContinental, Air France and Le Meridian, United and Westin, JAL and Nikko, Swissotel and Swiss, and a few more that I'm probably missing.

      You forgot car rentals. Hertz was proudly owned by United.

    2. Darryl Stewart Guest

      You're not understanding my initial statement obviously as I never said that they should build a global hotel chain, rather a chain in Addis Ababa for their passengers. Going global would be a failure.

      Plus, talk to Pan Am who sold InterContinental in the 1980s for $500 million in order to pay off their aircraft and own their fleet to become a more lean organization.

    3. Eskimo Guest

      Sorry, Darryl, you're right about that.

    4. Eskimo Guest

      If "convert Addis Ababa into the next Dubai." isn't sarcasm then what is?

      While they seem like complemental businesses, they operate entirely different. Unless you're saying "a chain in Addis Ababa" is also sarcasm.
      Even without seeing the numbers, it's easy to guess that they are better off paying bulk rates than running a hotel.

    5. Darryl Stewart Guest

      Please tell me this is a parody account?

    6. David Guest

      Try reading the article. It’s called the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel.

    7. Darryl Stewart Guest

      @Eskimo see, try reading the article?

    8. Eskimo Guest

      Piss off. I read the article, and I'm explaining to Darryl (if you would read my above posts) that it isn't a chain like he is insinuating.

  25. Davisson Guest

    In my previous stop over transit last month (Oct 2023), we were put on a pretty crappy hotel called Destiny Addis hotel near the airport. Hotel was decently clean but overall very basic amenities, they included food for both breakfast and dinner. For what’s worth, we were traveling on award ticket but with in the group that staying at the hotel, there were folks on paid tickets.

  26. Mike D. Guest

    I've used this twice in the past month, and it's great. Generally, they put economy passengers in a hotel about 40 minutes drive from the airport on the opposite side of town, while business-class passengers are put in the in-terminal hotel. Both are comfortable (by African standards) but the in-terminal hotel is quite nice.

    One thing to note is that you don't have a reservation at the hotel, but rather a voucher. So when you...

    I've used this twice in the past month, and it's great. Generally, they put economy passengers in a hotel about 40 minutes drive from the airport on the opposite side of town, while business-class passengers are put in the in-terminal hotel. Both are comfortable (by African standards) but the in-terminal hotel is quite nice.

    One thing to note is that you don't have a reservation at the hotel, but rather a voucher. So when you show up, there is a small chance the hotel could be fully booked already. The line to get a room is also fairly chaotic (in true ADD fashion). Having said that, I had no problem getting into the Skylight Hotel during my multiple overnight layovers.

    Addis is a great city if you get the chance to check it out at all!

    1. Oaklee Guest

      Do you get entry or exit stamp on your passport?

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Sean M. Diamond

Since the Skylight extension has opened in May 2023 (increasing the room capacity there to 1000+ rooms), I have only been allocated Skylight for all my layovers in Economy.

3
Sean M. Diamond

If you don't get your voucher at your originating station, you need to go to the "Transfer & Layover Office" (located on the extreme left of the transfer security area before the security checkpoint) and NOT to the Transit Desk (which is located after security on the departure concourse level). Also, even once you have your voucher, you need to get it stamped at the Ethiopian Airlines transport desk located immediately after exiting customs. If you don't get this stamp, you will be sent back to the airport from the hotel to get it. Finally, keep in mind that Ethiopian Airlines requires you to declare if you are carrying >$3000 equivalent in cash and are taking advantage of this program (even though Ethiopian Customs permits up to $10000 cash). You have to sign a declaration to this effect before they stamp your voucher at the transport desk.

3
Sean M. Diamond

It was free as of yesterday afternoon. :)

2
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