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Complete Guide to Stopovers with US Airways

US Airways has many of the same loosey goosey routing rules United does in regards to adding a stopover. While they add a few more restrictions, they do have some great prices on their award chart. Some better than United. Here is a post explaining everything you need to know about booking stopovers when using US Airways miles.

First, let’s get down to the rules.

1 stopover or 1 open-jaw. No adding open-jaws to stopovers like United, in this case we have to choose one or the other. If I had to choose one, I’d most likely choose a stopover unless there was a specific need. In other words, you could fly in London and out of Rome  as an open-jaw. Or you could fly into London, then fly to Rome and then fly home, as a valid stopover. Makes way more sense to me.

Except there is one more relevant rule regarding stopovers with US Airways. Read the following from the terms and conditions:

For travel outside the continental U.S., Canada and Alaska, you’re allowed one stopover per US Airways itinerary at a US Airways gateway or international destination (or in a partner hub city if you’re traveling on an award partner).

This isn’t something to cry about but it does add restriction. It basically says that you can fly US Airways to a destination and then book a stopover, before continuing on to your destination. But, if you’re flying on a Star Alliance partner, the stopover has to be in their hub.

It’s almost the opposite of American Airlines’ stopover rules about stopovers in the North American gateway. It’s almost like the first place you land when arriving internationally. Maybe that’s not the best way of explaining it… ignore that.

Here is what you can not do. Unlike United, you can not fly into Munich on Lufthansa and then fly to Rome and make Rome your stopover. You could make Munich the stopover but not Rome in this case. You could make Rome a stopover if you flew there with US Airways. It is more or less trying to assure that your stopover is “on the way” to your destination.

How do we find places that are valid for stopovers?

First, look at the US Airways route map. When you click on it’s hub, Philadelphia, it will circle all the cities it flies to. Any city that US Airways flies to you can stop in.

Second, go to the Star Alliance route map. It will highlight many of the hubs for you but you can assume that if you’re flying out of the USA on a non-US carrier, wherever you land, you can make a stopover in that place.

Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 6.18.41 PM

Another way to do this is simply search United.com or Aeroplan’s award search engine for international routes. (Ironically you don’t want to fly United or Air Canada unless you’re going to a hub). If you find award space on a flight that leaves the US and lands in Europe, like Vienna for example, you can probably make a stopover there if it’s a non-US carrier. Why? Because if it’s a European carrier flying from the US, it’s probably flying back to it’s hub.

Also, if you can’t make it a stopover try making it a destination. Make sense? If you’re routing to two places and one wouldn’t make a valid stopover (not a US Airways destination or Star Alliance hub (or at least a city that goes from Europe to the US)), use it as your destination. In other words, make the second destination your stopover. Duh.

But enough about the rules already.

Finding award space

It’s pretty simple, just look on sites that search Star Alliance award space. United, Aeroplan, ANA, Avianca, etc… US Airways only has it’s flights loaded into it’s award search engine, so you want to only use it for finding US Airways flights, otherwise, use a partner website.

Note that airlines release less seats to their partners than they do to their own members. For example, United.com will show United flights that are not available to US Airways award bookings. Therefore if I want to use US Airways miles to book United awards, I use any flight but United.com.

Booking

You can not book stopovers, open-jaws or partner flights on USAirways.com so you need to call. Pretty straight forward.

Unfortunately there is a $50 fee for booking an award… which is absurd but at least they tend to waive the phone booking fee for Star Alliance awards since it can’t be booked online. Hopefully they do the same for all stopover/open-jaw awards.

I write down or keep open tabs with the available flights and then just feed the agent the flights I want one by one. Of course, the agent is able to search for flights but I like to prepare ahead of time.

The most important tip for US Airways phone bookings is just to know you’re at the agent’s mercy. US Airways appears to have a very manual pricing system and booking engine. While other airlines have systems that cause their agents to not be able to book something, US Airways relies more heavily on their agents knowing the rules. Unfortunately they don’t really publish their routing rules so you’re not in a position to say what they are or argue for them. So don’t argue.

The key to getting the booking you want can sometimes be calling back. If it’s not the right price, call back.

Very generous routings

US Airways for some reason allows many awards to be book that other airlines would have issues with. In some ways they are even more generous than United. Trans-Atlantic to Asia? Heck, anywhere really. But at the very least you can have a stopover in Europe on the way to Asia… and it could save miles.

Oddly enough it is cheaper for a business class ticket to North Asia than it is to Europe… even though you can route through and stopover in Europe.

I just mentioned this post, but perhaps more relevantly, you should 100% for sure read the Secrets of Award Pricing Engines. I have suggested that many of the same glitches in the United pricing engine talked about in that post also apply to US Air. Even more relevantly  it seems that they rely on their agents to price the tickets instead of relying on zones. This means that you should count on making the cheapest place your “destination” when booking the ticket. I even mean in lingo. Say ____ is my stopover and ____ is my  destination. If you can’t get what I’m saying and have read the earlier post… just use your imagination. When the agent doesn’t have the best geography, the world is your oyster… for whatever price you want.

In general I want to encourage people to see two places they love on two trips and US Airways will definitely let you see both in almost all situations. Enjoy the loopholes now, as we can only hope that they’ll still be around after the AA merger happens who-knows-when.

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9 Comments

  1. Few years back, I redeemed US airways miles to visit my family in Europe. The flights had 21 hour layover each way in Frankfurt, which was good, because we had a small baby and could spend the night. I was not as well versed in miles at the time, though. I really wish, we requested a longer stopover in Germany, so we could see the castles along the Reine. Maybe next time. I enjoy reading your blog, BTW.

    Reply
    • Thanks. I’m glad it’s helpful.
      Yea, stopovers can turn tiresome layovers into a nice break. We certainly push ourselves with seeing things on layovers but sometimes it’s too much. I actually have a layover in Dusseldorf for day and night. Perhaps I’ll try to hit some castles. :-p

      Reply
  2. Great stuff as always. It’s great how you explore the intricacies of booking with each airline to get more travel out of each trip. Have you thought of starting an award-booking service?

    Reply
  3. Let’s hope that if the routing flexibility disappears with the AA merger, so do the booking fee and the inability to book one-way at half the mileage. Great post. Since the website the rules are so fuzzily explained, understood and followed, it’s very helpful to know what is really possible to do.

    Reply
  4. @ Marcus – You know, I get that question more than you’d believe! It’s always seemed like a good idea but something I ultimately just don’t want to do.

    @ DaveS – I have no idea what to expect with this merger. I can’t imagine the routing rules being as loose.
    But yea, I’m not sure what’s worse, not knowing the routing rules or knowing them and having the agents know them too (and having to stick to them). 😀

    Reply
  5. What about stopovers on non-award tickets?

    Reply
  6. Great info. But I’m still a little unclear. Does this mean for travel outside the US, you can only do a stopover and not an open-jaw? I want to fly from PHL – AMS, then from BRU – PHL. Is this possible?

    Reply
    • Sorry for any unclear info! It’s an open-jaw or stopover. So no.

      Reply
  7. Drew, I’m looking at burning some US Airways miles on an award early next year. Do you know anything about whether their rules are roughly the same since the switch to OneWorld? Also, where does one ideally go to look for OneWorld availability? (I.e. who is their ANA?)

    Reply

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