Frequent flyer miles are freaking awesome if only for the fact that you can have stopovers when using them. Of course, it’s awesome when you figure out how to get miles for free, but it’s all the more awesome when you can use those miles to get to see more places than you could on a paid ticket. And that’s what this post is about.
As always, let’s begin by defining terms a bit, just so we’re all clear about what’s what for the rest of the post.
A stopover is a stop in your ticket, much like a second destination. Generally for domestic trips it is a stop of 4 hours or more and for international tickets, 24 hours or more. The reason I describe it as a second destination is because it can be as long as you want. Heck you could spend longer at your stopover than your destination if you want.
An Open-Jaw is a gap in your ticket not filled by the airline. For instance an open-jaw is when you return home from a different airport than your destination, or it could also be when you fly home to a different airport than your original departure. The assumption with an open-jaw is that you will get yourself from one airport to another.
So now that we know the terms, there’s something else we have to be clear about. Not all stopovers are created equally, or rather, each mileage program has its own rules for stopovers and open-jaws.
American Airlines – 1 stopover in the “North American gateway city” on oneway awards
What’s great about this is that you can use stopovers on oneway award tickets, unlike most award programs.
Unfortunately you can only book stopovers using American Airline miles in North America. Very specifically the last city you touch when leaving the continent and the first returning.
But because it’s just programmed as the first or last city, the routing doesn’t have to be logical. If you find a ticket from LA to Europe, you could start in New York and stopover in California on your way to Europe.
And better yet, because it can be added to oneways, you can book a totally separate ticket back with another stopover.
US Airways – 1 stopover or 1 open-jaw
Better hop on these prices while you can. Plus the routing rules are very generous. And remember to explain to the agent which is the destination so he/she knows how to price it. 😉
United – 1 stopover and 2 open-jaws on roundtrips
As if I haven’t talked about United stopovers enough…
Unfortunately it’s not technically legal to get an open-jaw on a stopover. Meaning the open-jaw has to be added to the destination or the return destination. This isn’t a written rule but it’s how it’s programmed.
So at best you could have a stopover and then an open-jaw so there are three destination airports (two which the airline gets you to and one you get to another way), and then return to a different airport than you started your journey from.
I already have a long post with pictures about some of the tricks you can do (with United’s old prices) but I thought I’d mention one here that exists with the current prices. A trip to Africa would normally be 80,000 miles in Economy, but by making it a stopover on the way to Japan the price is 70,000 miles. Save miles, see more.
Read more about United Stopover Rules with Pictures here.
Lufthansa – 2 stopovers and 2 open-jaws
While their pricing system and fuel surcharges can be astronomical there are great deals to be had, and obviously 2 stopovers and 2 open-jaws is generous. I might recommend a trip to South America given that you’ll be able to avoid fuel surcharges this way.
Also, I don’t think you can add an open-jaw to a stopover with Lufthansa, but not 100% sure, but have a strong feeling that it’s so.
Air Canada – 2 stopovers or 1 stopover and 1 open-jaw
Delta – 1 stopover and 1 open-jaw
ANA – 3 Stopovers on a roundtrip (they say 4, but one of those stops is the destination)
The reason I consede and refer to every stop as a stopover instead of calling at least one of the stops a destination, is because the price is determined by the total distance flown and not based on the furthest distance or zones.
The reason the example is in South America is to avoid fuel surcharges. But other than some of the limitation of ANAs fuel surcharges, the award prices are very reasonable and 4 stopovers is very generous.
ANA is a transfer partner of SPG and AMEX.
The British Airways “Avios” program is a bit unique in that they charge based on each segment flown instead of the total distance flown. Therefore you can add as many stops as you want, as you pay per segment flown.
In fact, I’ve written about using strategic stops to save miles. Read the extensive series on using Stopovers to Save British Airways Avios.
Each airline has it’s sweet spot. Where the stopovers align with airlines that don’t have fuel surcharges. A spot where more flying and savings actually are combined.
This post doesn’t deal with the fuel surcharges or the technical details of each airlines rules but the basic routing ideas. I tried to use actual decent examples but the concepts are limitless.
Just because I picked Europe, doesn’t mean you couldn’t do the same thing with Asia. And just because I picked a picture with Bangkok, doesn’t mean that you can’t do the same thing with Bali. It’s all concepts and this post is hopefully a concept teacher.
If you have any questions, please let me know. Would love to know if this was helpful too!