A Lesson Learned About Maximizing Open Jaw and Stopovers on United Award Tickets

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Change two one way United awards into a roundtrip award to add a stopover

I recently haphazardly booked an award ticket on United because it was the only business class day available on the award calendar. Only after did I realize that I actually would like to enjoy a stopover on the first leg of my open jaw flight. Since I booked two one way flights, I could not add a stopover to the existing ticket because United only allows stopovers on round trip reservations.

One of the reasons United award tickets are so valuable and my favorite to use is because of United’s current rules about including stopovers and open jaw bookings on round trip reservations. United only allows stopovers on round trip reservations, so you cannot add a stopover to one way tickets. If you try to do this the award ticket will include the miles for the extra flight.

By adding a stopover you can include another destination or possible roundtrip flight within the final destination country, as in my case within Turkey. To maximize United Mileage Plus miles with an open jaw and stopover you will need to book this as a multi destination ticket. The cost of your award ticket will be the same as a round trip, but you are adding another leg to your trip with the stopover.

On international roundtrip award reservations United allows:

  • One stopover
  • Two open jaws

So lets look at my original two one way flights, and how I was able to change them into a round trip with a stopover without incurring any fees or costing more points.

My two one way award reservations:

PDX –> IST on August 31

ZAG –> PDX on September 27

I booked the flight to Istanbul before I had the rest of my plans finalized because there was only one day available with business class award tickets. The following day I booked my return flight from Zagreb to Portland.

Shortly after I booked my flights, I realized that it would be ideal to make a stopover because I wanted to see different parts of Turkey, so I figured it was worth a chance to call United to see if they would be willing to budge on waiving the $150 cancellation and award redeposit fee. United is known to hold firm on not bending any rules, and my request was shot down.

Essentially I wanted to maximize my award reservation by including a roundtrip stopover flight within Turkey on the first leg of the trip. I was not willing to pay the $150 fee so I waited to see if United made any changes to my schedule which would allow me to cancel one leg of the flight without paying the fee. (see How to Avoid Paying Airline Fees)

When United makes any changes to the flight schedule, often by only 5-15 minutes, it is enough to warrant you to cancel your reservation without paying the fee.

This is exactly what happened and how I was able to turn two one way award bookings into a round trip reservation with a stopover, all without paying a single fee.

You will be notified of a schedule change when you login and view your reservation on your Mileage Plus account
You will be notified of a schedule change when you login and view your reservation on your Mileage Plus account

My flight from PDX to IST showed a 5 minute change on the first departure when I logged onto my Mileage Plus account to view my reservation. United will not send you a notification about a change, so you need to check your flights periodically online to see if there have been any changes.

I decided to give United a call, and simply told the representative that my flight times had changed and that the new flight time would not work for me. It is easiest to keep things vague, but I had to add that I had a meeting that morning and was already cutting it close, and the 5 minutes will not work with my schedule. The representative placed me on hold and consulted another department or superior, and then returned saying that he will cancel my ticket and my miles will be deposited back into my account sans fee. I politely said, “thank you and have a nice night.”

Next, I reviewed my remaining one way flight from ZAG to PDX under ‘My Account’ on my Mileage Plus account. From here I clicked ‘change/cancel’ and added a business class award flight from PDX to DNZ (Denizli, Turkey) for a stopover. Then I added a flight back to Istanbul. So essentially, I was able to add a roundtrip flight within Turkey from Istanbul because I was already routed through IST on my way to DNZ, and then return to IST.

For those who are wondering, I already had a separate ticket to fly from IST to Croatia for $65.

The flights that I added to my existing one way award ticket:

PDX –> DNZ (new, via IST)

DNZ –> IST (new)

ZAG –> PDX (existing)

I ended up paying $6.80 more in airport taxes/fees, but it was obviously well worth it because I added a roundtrip flight within Turkey that served as a six day stopover when I added a leg to an existing one way reservation.

My final reservation including an open jaw and stopover
My final reservation including an open jaw and stopover

I was able to avoid the cancellation and change fee when converting two one way tickets into a roundtrip award ticket.


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About The Author

Rand Shoaf

Rand Shoaf

Introduced to traveling at a young age, Rand has since traveled to over 45 countries. Learning how to maximize credit card sign-up bonuses in college has allowed him to earn millions of travel miles and points. Using the same tips and tricks he writes about here has ultimately allowed him to explore the word for pennies on the dollar.

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4 thoughts on “A Lesson Learned About Maximizing Open Jaw and Stopovers on United Award Tickets”

  1. Thank you so much for this information. I have been trying to figure out how to plan our flights from Asia back to Los Angeles with several South Pacific stops. This has been supremely helpful!
    Thank you!

  2. I think you answered my question with this post.

    Q: on a united award, if an open-jaw lasts longer than 24 hrs, is it also considered a stopover?

    • @ Adam – United allows up to two open-jaw and one stopover with roundtrip award tickets, you can play around when booking a flight to see what it will allow you to book. You can have one stopover longer than 24 hours as well as two open-jaws that is longer than 24 hours.


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