United

Understanding Stopovers and Open Jaw Award Tickets



What’s a stopover?

A Stopover is one of the best ways to maximize your points during your award travels. Without using more miles, you’re able to book an additional stop either on the way to your final destination or before returning home.

What a stop over isn’t

Stopovers are not the same as a layover, although they are very similar and only differ in amount of time spent at the median destination. A layover is a stop that lasts less than 24 hours, at least on international flights. For domestic flights, a four-hour stay is considered a stopover. A stopover destination is one that is already on the route of your travel plans or is the hub of the airline you are flying with. So for example, if Greece is your intended destination, but you also want to spend some time in France, then you can have a stopover in Paris and not have to use more points than a normal round trip award from your departure city to Greece.  Some airlines don’t allow you to have stopovers in the US, including United Airlines, in case that was something you were looking forward to. Using stopover to visit more destinations by using the same amount of miles as a normal round trip award is a great way to maximize miles and adventures!

What are open jaw tickets?

An open jaw is when you fly into one city, then fly out of another. For example, you fly into San Jose, Costa Rica, but take a bus to Panama City a few days after arriving and you decide to fly home from Panama instead of Costa Rica.

Our upcoming trip is an open-jaw itinerary with a stopover:

Portland to Istanbul, with a stopover in Denizli, Turkey. Then on to Sarajevo with an airbus. Shortly after, travel through Croatia and return home from Croatia which would be an open jaw because we originally flew into Istanbul.

Like mentioned earlier, a stopover is any stay of more than 24 hours, but the maximum length you can take advantage of your stopover before returning home is one year from the issue date of the ticket. You just need to make it back before your ticket expires.

Which airlines offer the best maximization options?

In my opinion, United miles are some of the most valuable miles out there because they offer a great value when redeemed using international stopovers. With 27 partner airlines within Star Alliance to options are virtually endless. I have found that it is fairly easy to book stopovers virtually anywhere with partner airlines–many that offer a much higher business class product than United!

United has some of the most lenient award booking rules out of all the airlines which allow stopovers and open jaws in the same ticket. The rules even allow for two open jaws with a stopover, whereas other airlines would consider this as two roundtrip awards! What this means is that from your original destination, you can travel to another destination using an economic airline, bus, car or train then fly again to the next booked destination. From there you can repeat the travel in between, add a stop over and return to your starting point.

Maximizing United miles by using stopover and open jaws

United’s stopover and open jaw rules:

1-You cannot book stopovers or open jaws on domestic tickets.

2- You cannot book stopovers or open jaws on one way tickets.

3- You can book one stopover two open jaws on international round trip tickets.

Essentially there are 4 different types of itineraries you can create that include stopovers and open jaw tickets:

1. One stopover

example: Portland to Paris (stopover) – London – Portland

How much are you saving?

A round trip fare to London costs 110,000 miles plus $94 in fees and if you include a stopover in Paris, you save 110,000 by turning two destinations into one trip. Both trips separately would cost you 220,000 miles!

2. One stopover and one open jaw

example: Portland to Paris (stopover) – London – drive to Oslo – Oslo to Portland

Using one stopover and one open jaw to your advantage, you’re not spending more than 110,000 Miles and $110.20 on your airfare even flying out of four countries.

3. Free one way (One stopover and two open jaws)

To create a trip using two open jaws, book one of your open jaws at home so you can stop there and later continue to another city, for the cost of one round trip fare. Though from your last open jaw, you need to book a one way ticket back home, so depending on where you are can be from 12,000 to 55,000 miles which is still a deal.

example 1: Portland to Paris (stopover) – London – drive to Oslo – Oslo to Seattle

example 2: Portland to Paris – Paris to Portland – stay for one month – Portland to Guatemala City

4. Free round trip within destination country (one stop over and one open jaw)

One of the easiest ways to travel within a country, especially one as large as Turkey, is by using a stopover to act as round trip fare within the destination country. Then include an open jaw from any other location. On our upcoming itinerary, we plan to head to Turkey with a week long stopover in Denizli before continuing on to Istanbul. After Istanbul, we will be traveling through Croatia by car and flying back to Portland from Zagreb for 110,000 points.

example: Portland to Denizli (stopover) – Istanbul – drive to Zagreb – Zagreb to Portland

Bottom line:

Taking advantage of stopovers and open jaws is one of the best ways to maximize your awards. You’re essentially able to book a few trips for the price of one award and your options are so broad that you can create the trip of a lifetime with it (often).

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4 Comments

  • I am still having trouble understanding this. Using example 1 with a standard award redemption, How are you saving 110k miles? It seems to me that it’s a free one way flight to London, which would be a savings of 25 K miles. What am I missing?

    Portland to Paris: 55k miles (one way)

    Paris to London: Free (saves 25K)

    London to Portland: 55k miles (one way)

    • The example given is to show why it’s useful to avoid taking two separate trips

      Trip one pdx to London = 55k each way (110 rt)
      Trip two pdx to Paris = 55k each way (110 rt)

      A standard one way economic flight is 55 k / rt is 110k

      By creating a stop over trip rather than spending 110k points on the second trip, you’re getting it for zero points.

  • Thank you for this post. I have made several open jaw award fights with United but not to the degree of what you are suggesting. Can these types of one jaw flights along with stop overs be made using the web or do I need to talk to an agent and thereby get charged a fee for using a “real” person? I’ve tried several times to fabricate a possible itinerary online but I always get a error message saying my itinerary cannot be completed.

    thank you!

    • Most of the time you can book award tickets with open jaws and stopovers online (make sure you are following all the award booking rules), but sometimes you will still get the error message and have to make the call in to United to book. There are various reasons why the United site may not let you book–it can be a bit finicky at times Remember to mention to the rep that you should not have to pay the phone booking fee because the website would not allow you to book it.