This is one of those acronyms you come across infrequently. STPC stands for “Stopover Paid By Carrier”. I have used this facility only twice and have flown over 3 million miles. You are not using STPC when an airline just put you to a hotel due to delay, misconnect, cancellation etc. Those are just regular accommodations during irregular operations.
The irony is that these “stopovers”, less than 24 hours, are not actual stopovers but rather transfers. If the transfer is more than 24 hours, it is then considered to be a stopover that might affect the ticket price and the airport taxes.
How to know if you are eligible for STPC? This is a tricky part. It is borderline impossible if you are using one of the online booking sites. Only competent travel agent can probably tell you when this service is available, and if there is a fee for it. The STPC is not usually listed on the fare rules either. Normally, the required connection must be at least 6 to 8 hours when there are no other flight options available between the origin and destination. It is not always offered for economy passengers when it is for business or first class ones, or there may be a charge for economy passengers and free for business first. I have seen this only to apply for revenue tickets i.e. award tickets in business or first are not usually eligible.
Depending of the airline you may need to request this service at the time of ticketing, few days before departure through the airlines office, or sometime upon arrival to the connecting airport.
My two STPG (Stopover Paid By Carrier) Examples:
Czech Airlines Business Class Damascus to Helsinki via Prague
Couple of years ago, I was looking or flights out of Damascus (Syria) to Helsinki (Finland). Obviously there aren’t any direct flights between these two cities. I ended up buying a business class ticket on Czech that was priced for about the same as economy. The flight out from Damascus left in an ungodly hour in the middle of the night, and the transfer in Prague was like eight hours. I had neither arranged nor inquired about the STPC before arriving to Prague. When I inquired about it, I was told to go to the transfer desk. There I was promptly issued a STPC voucher for the airport Courtyard.
This summer, I had similar transfer in Prague but was ticketed in business using an award. Then they refused this service. Luckily, I predicted this and had a Marriott’s Look No Further reservation made for the same hotel.
SriLankan Airlines Business Class Bangkok to Dubai via Colombo
About a month ago, I was on my way to Dubai from Bangkok , and I was ticketed on SriLankan (UL) Airlines in business class. I had to change my flights around, but there was no connection from Bangkok to Dubai on UL without having to spend a night in Colombo. I hadn’t had time to look into the transfer hotel in Colombo. On my previous visits, I had always made my way to Colombo downtown and stayed at the Hilton hotel there. It wouldn’t have made sense on this trip, as my transfer was only ten hours.
To my surprise the check in personnel in Bangkok informed me about the STPC hotel in Colombo. This was Jetwing Sea hotel in Negombo, which is a beach destination close to the airport. Upon deboarding the place in Colombo, there was a lady with a sign, which had my name, waiting for me. She took me to the STPC desk, guided me through the immigration – no forms needed to be filled, then through the customs, and to the transportation desk in the arrivals hall. From there the car took me to the hotel and back to the airport in time for the flight to Dubai. This was completely seamless experience.