The only good thing about American Airlines stopover rules

Well, I guess there are two things I like about AA’s stopover rules but in terms of routing I only like one. The non-routing perk is that you can have stopovers on one way awards. This essentially gives you two stopover awards. However, they are strict in that they only allow stopovers in the North American gateway city. No international stopovers. With United you can book stopovers in seemingly any location on the way to any location. It’s awesome. But AA has a stopover in the AA gateway city.

Despite their strict routing rules, the only thing that makes AA stopovers salvageable is their qualifications for a gateway city. Unfortunately, they seem strict on their definition of North America (US, Canada and Mexico). But the only qualification on whether or not your stopover is a valid routing is whether or not it’s the last place that touches North America… or the first returning. So most of the time people make stopovers in the major hubs, like ORD, JFK, MIA, etc… But in fact, you can do it anywhere that touches the US first/last. Rather the city that connects north America to your international destination.

First go to the OneWorld route map. This shows all kinds of connections in North America that aren’t OneWorld hubs. Let’s just run through this using Europe to the US as an example.

Madrid not only connects to the AA hubs but also connects to other ones:

Madrid to:

  • Mexico City
  • Boston

Dusseldorf to:

  • Cancun
  • Ft. Myers

London to:

  • Calgary
  • Seattle
  • Vancouver
  • San Fran
  • San Diego
  • Las Vegas
  • Pheonix
  • Denver
  • Houston
  • Atlanta
  • Toronto
  • Orlando
  • Ft. Myers
  • Philadelphia
  • DC
  • Raleigh
  • Montreal
  • Boston
  • Mexico City
  • Cancun

Although the one bad thing about British Airways is that they actually pass on fuel surcharges, even on AA awards. Which is very expensive and I completely avoid this.

Paris to:

  • Boston

Helsinki to:

  • Toronto

Technically you can make a stopover in any of these locations on any route. I mean a stopover in any of these cities is possible from anywhere. Again, the only thing that verifies if it’s a valid route is if it’s the last city. So if you take one of these flights, the North American city is a valid stopover for any trip.

I could start in Charlottesville, VA (CHO) and fly to Cancun CUN) via Chicago (ORD) and then fly to Europe via Dusseldorf, Germany (DUS).

Screen Shot 2013-07-06 at 2.40.12 PM


Unfortunately I already have reservations in Greece and don’t have the time to do this route when we leave in a month. But I love Mexico and will perhaps try the route coming home. The other perk is that coming home will be during off-peak and the entire route will only cost 20,000 miles. Stellar.

This is exactly why I say these “free” oneway awards are not the best use of miles. Perhaps, it fits your schedule and that’s fine. But creating a free oneway in Mexico (stoping over in your home and then having a later “free” vacation to Mexico), is not free at all. It’s just making you buy a ticket that perhaps you wouldn’t have otherwise. Plus, it’s making you buy a oneway return when it’s already possible to book a stop in Mexico for no extra cost.

But to be fair, AA limits this a lot and if your desire is to go to Belize or elsewhere, perhaps tacking on a oneway could make sense. AA has limited the connection opportunities for stopovers.

I’m detracting…

The point is that AA doesn’t worry about back tracking. You could go from New York to California and stopover before going to Europe as long as it’s a “gateway” city. Heck, if BA or someone ever creates a direct flight to Hawaii… that would be awesome. You’d be able to route through Hawaii as it would be the first/last North American city. Make sense? Maybe I should stay away from hypotheticals but it does work the other way to/from Asia and the South Pacific.

Look at Hawaiian Airlines route map.

There are plenty of stopover options in Hawaii.

And back to the free oneway thing, the real reason I’ve said that AA is the airline where free oneways make sense, is if you combine what I’ve said about airline award charts being very generous from Hawaii. What I mean is that Hawaii is a great set up for saving miles on other trips. If that doesn’t make sense, perhaps you should read the Secrets of Award Pricing Engines. And then look at the award chart for United starting from Hawaii. And with United, you could open-jaw back to your hometown on the return.

So while AA is more strict, for this stopover example at least they don’t mind back tracking at all. Can anyone think of any other great stopover routes available with AA that are within North America? And as always, feel free to ask questions.

Thanks for reading.

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  1. Hi Drew, sorry to comment on an older post– I’m trying to get a NRT-SAN-HNL (free oneway to HNL, I know, you hate it but this would be the best situation for me), and it’s pricing out as 65K+22.5K=87.5K online. To get this stopover, do I have to do this over the phone? Sample dates are 1/1 to SAN, and 6/13 to HNL. Thanks a bunch, I’ve never really done this on AA.

    • It’s a good redemption given that it’s one of the only things they let you do with stopovers. :-p
      So you can do it online. If you go to, in small print under the search bar you can click “refine your search”.
      Then click award and then Multi-City.

      From there you put it in just like United or any other flight. If there’s availability it should be bookable.

    • It’s still showin as 87.5K miles, but shouldn’t this show as 65K?

      Or.. I see NRT-SAN available on JAL business through which would be a waaay better product. Free one way can be done if I’m redeeming on partner airline? so NRT-SAN on JAL, and tack on a SAN-HNL on an american flight?

      Not sure if I’m playing with this reservation system wrong. Thanks Drew.

  2. Hi! And can you actually leave in the middle of a connection flight? It appears that in US Airways the flight from Orlando to San Francisco via Phoenix is cheaper than actually from Orlando to Phoenix. I’d like to explore Grand Canyon, so think about whether I’m allowed to simply leave from the airport once I get to Phoenix? Also I’m traveling with the luggage. Will I be able to send it just to Phoenix?


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