Book American Airlines Award Flights Like a Pro: Part 4 – One-way, Openjaws, Stopovers, & North American Gateway Cities

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I’ve updated this post to reflect the new American Airlines award chart that went into effect on March 22, 2016.

Book American Airlines Awards Like a Pro:


Fly Into 1 City and Return From Another With 1-Way Awards and Openjaws

One-way awards, openjaws, and stopovers, if used the right way, can help you better earn Big Travel with Small Money

One-way Awards

American Airlines lets you book 1-way award tickets.

This is great because it gives you a lot of options.  For example, you can book a 1-way ticket to Rome using American Airlines miles, but book a return 1-way ticket using United Airlines miles.

Open jaws

This is a nerdy way of saying that you fly from your origin (City A) to your destination (City B) , but then fly back from another city (City C) to your origin (City A).

For example, I fly from Chicago (City A) to London (City B), but I fly back from Paris (City C) back to my origin in Chicago (City A).

This scenario can be valuable if you are traveling to a lot of different destinations, such as a backpacking trip in Europe, and don’t want the hassle of having to get back to the city you 1st flew into. 

Since American Airlines lets you book 1-way awards, you can have openjaw itineraries very easily.  For example, I’d book Chicago to London on 1 award.  Then I’d book Paris back to Chicago as my 2nd award.


A stopover is when you intentionally take a break in your journey while traveling from your origin to your destination.

For example, say I am traveling from Chicago (origin) to Barcelona (destination) and decide to break my journey in London for 3 days.  In this case, I have made a “stopover” in London and my flights would be like this: Chicago (origin) – London (stop) – Barcelona (destination).

Or I am traveling from Kansas City (origin) to London (destination), but decide to break my journey in New York (stop over) for 5 days.  In this case, I have made a “stopover” in New York and flights would be like this: Kansas City (origin) – New York (stop) – London (destination).

American Airlines changed its rules in April of 2014 and no longer allows stopovers on an award ticket for more than 24 hours.  For example, you can fly from Dallas to Hong Kong, and then from Hong Kong to Singapore all on American Airlines’ oneworld partner, Cathay Pacific.

However, if you wanted to spend a day in Hong Kong, you would need the time between your flight landing in Hong Kong and then taking off again from Hong Kong to be less than 24 hours.  This does not provide much time to explore cities, but can be taken advantage of if you hurry!

There are, however, several tricks that would still let you stopover in another country. 

Tricks to Allow a Stopover

There are 2 general ways that you can still book a stopover:

1.  Book 3 one-way awards.  Say you want to go from San Francisco to London, stop for a few days in London, and then fly back to San Francisco from Berlin.  You’ll have to book 3 separate 1-way awards:

  •  1 award from your origin to your stopover city (San Francisco to London)
  • Another from your stopover city to your destination (London to Berlin)
  • And the 3rd from your destination city back to your origin, assuming you want to return to your origin (Berlin to San Francisco)

This will cost many more miles than it used to cost to book a 1-way award with a stopover.  However, if you don’t mind spending the miles and don’t want to pay more cash, this option could work. 

2.   Book an award ticket, and then buy a 1-way ticket.  You can always book an award ticket from your origin to your stopover city and then buy a cheap plane or train ticket from your stopover city to your destination.

Say you want to go from Dallas to London, stop for a few days in London, and then fly back to Dallas from Barcelona.

You would book a 1-way award ticket from the Dallas to London.  Next you would buy a cheap plane or train ticket from London to Barcelona.  And finally you would book a 1-way award ticket from Barcelona back to Dallas.

This option is my personal favorite, especially since flights in Asia and Europe can be very cheap!

As an Example, Norwegian Air Offers 1-way Flights For as Low as $76 from London to Barcelona (Or 53 British Pounds)!

For Example, Norwegian Air Offers 1-way Flights for as Low as 53 British Pounds (~$75) From London to Barcelona

Bottom Line

Knowing the rules of 1-way awards, open jaws, and stopovers can help you book the best award trip next time you travel. 

By learning what you can and can’t do, as well as taking advantage of other airlines, travel can still be affordable and allow you to visit many more cities in a short amount of time.

Next in the series will be:  booking domestic and international awards.

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173 responses to “Book American Airlines Award Flights Like a Pro: Part 4 – One-way, Openjaws, Stopovers, & North American Gateway Cities

  1. Hey, Darius! I had a quick question. My family is heading to Athens in Nov., for a cruise. I’m trying to get the most out of our miles! One thought I had was for our return flight, purchase a ticket that looked like this ATH to AUS (homebase) first week of Dec. and then AUS to HNL in January 2014. When I do a multi-city award search, I get no availability (but I do get that awesome statement that we can use AUS as a free stopover!). When I search separately (ATH to AUS) and then (AUS to HNL), there is availability. Should I just call AA and have them put it together for me?

    Also, still trying to figure out our outbound. Any cool suggestions? Business class, stopovers, which partner airlines to fly? Need to get three tickets and have about 100k on AA and 55k on US Air and 12.5k on Alaskan. Would love your help!!!

    • Anjum – You can only do the free stopover in the international gateway city with American Airlines i.e. the 1st place you leave or enter North America. You could call and ask, though. 30K AA miles for a 1-way in coach seems to be the best way to get 3 folks to Europe, since you need 150K AA miles for 3 business class 1-way awards to Europe.

  2. Hi Darius – I am new to this and trying to tae advantage of my AA miles to book award travel JFK-HK-HND-JFK. I looked on the BA site for award availability and then called an AA agent to try to book and she said that the availability that they had for seats on BA does not necessarily apply to AA mileage users. Is that true? Also, the BA site is kinda flaky. When I tried to do a search for flights earlier it worked and not it seems like those same routes are not even coming up as searchable…For my route, I am hoping to fly JFK – HK direct on Cathay and then HK – HND on Cathay as well. with my HND – JFK flight on AA. Would that be better using the explorer awards or something else? Thanks!

    • @Sylvia – Don’t tell her that you found them on the BA site! They should have the same availability. Explorer awards are good for stopovers, but if you plan on just flying to HND, you can use a regular award.

  3. When you add a free one away calling AA, do you need to pay anything? What if a part of your award is not available right now? should I wait or book the main segment right away and then add free one ways later? Or if I book them now and want to change the flights later what are the fees? or cancel it?

    • @Elena – If you add the free one-way later, you will pay the change fee. But if you book it now (even with a date which doesn’t work), but change just the date of the segment there shouldn’t be a change fee.

  4. Hey, Darius!

    So I’m getting ready to book my family on a cruise out of Athens. For the return, I’ve figured out that I can go from ATH to DFW (with a 6 month stopover – we live in Austin 🙂 and then to HNL six months later all for 20k.

    I’m wanting to maximize our outbound, too. The AUS – ATH flight routes us through ORD and LHR for 20k. We would only be permitted a stopover in ORD, right? Is there any fun way to maximize the outbound? I’d love to route Montreal into the outbound flight with a free stopover, but I’m not sure that’s permitted?

    Also, does AA provide any amenities with a layover is longer than a certain time frame?

    Thanks, D!

  5. Daraius–what are the stopover/open jaw rules in other areas? For example, if I was trying to book a trip entirely in South America Zone 1. Would a stopover or open jaw be permissible? Thanks.

    • @Anjum – You are allowed 1 stopover in the North American gateway city, so you should be able to have a stopover in Montreal instead of Chicago. AA won’t provide amenities during your layover.

      @Gaurav – You are ONLY allowed a stopover in the North American gateway city, so can’t have it in South America. But you certainly can book open jaws, especially since AA allows you to book 1-way awards.

  6. Love your blogs !!
    I want to go to the Caribbean in Feb and Ireland in May leaving from NYC.
    I’m still not sure how to book this and using AA mile . Please help : )

  7. Hi Darius,

    I have placed on hold 2 1st class seats on Cathay using AA miles.
    SIN-HKG (layover or connecting)-LAX and would like to add my free stopover. The agent I spoke with said I can only have my stopover on 48 contiguous US states, and not Mexico, Canada or Hawaii. Is this true or this agent just don’t know? BTW, is Carribean Islands included in the free stopover?

    I’ve checked AA website and found a direct flight from LAX to Guanajuato, Mexico (BJX or BJC)…can I go here for my free stopover? Do I just keep calling to get a different agent that knows the rule? The wait when I called was over 2 hrs, but I had an option to leave my phone number and they called me back. So it presents a problem for calling several times until I get to a more knowledgeable Rep. Any suggestions? One last question if my flight is ticketed Dec. 15, 2013, for Oct. 2014 flight, does this mean I have to complete or take my free stopover by Dec. 15, 2014. Thanks a lot. I do enjoy reading your blog.

    • @Lena – You should be able to add on Hawaii. BUT Cathay Pacific has to publish a fare for travel on that route. If they don’t, you won’t be able to use your free one-way. If your flight was booked on December 15, 2013, you have 1 year to fly ALL segments. Thanks for reading!

  8. Hi Darius,

    I’m confused why did you say I have to find publish fare to Hawaii by Cathay? My miles is with AA, and used Cathay (thru Star Alliance)to fly back to US. I did find flights to Hawaii from LAX with AA, why will that not work? Furthermore, can you tell me how to find out if Cathay has any flights from LAX to North America? When I try to find flights from LAX, they are mostly to Asia, and Victoria, Canada. Does this mean I should forget about my free stopover?

  9. Daraius,

    I am trying to book a business class reward flight for WAS>LON>WAS>HNL with the WAS>HNL being the free AA oneway. When I look on the AA site I am only seeing BA flights for the LON>WAS leg with a ~$700 fee. If i just try booking WAS>LON>WAS then I get AA flights with only the ~$300 fee. Is there something else I should be doing?

  10. Hi

    I live in Alaska and would like to travel to south america, business class. Specifically I’d like to go to Santiago Chili, the Galapagos, and maybe Cusco for Machu Pichu. I have both Alaska and American miles. I was thinkin of using the oneworld partner desk and trying to fly LAN from LAX to either Lima, or Santiago. Do you have any suggestions for getting the most bang for the milage buck? Would it be a one way Anchorage LAX to Santiago. Then a return trip from Lima to LAX to ANC ( to capitalize on the most direct routing (duration) and the 767/787 with lie flat seats. Then find a set of one ways internally within s. america 1) Santiago to via Lima to Cusco AND 2) cusco to Lima 3) Lima to Guayacil to San Cristobal. or at this point would it be a better/same value to book an explorer award in and coming from Alaska that probably a level 7 or 8.

    • @Jamie – That is very strange. You should be able to book the cheaper flights by calling American Airlines and feeding the agent the flight information.

      @ cathy – I personally don’t worry much about the type of plane or seat, as long as I can find seats around when I want to travel. I’d price out the ticket using the Explorer award and also using American Airlines or British Airways points (if you have some) for the internal South America segments. And then compare options to see which is better and saves you miles.

  11. I want to go to Asia, preferably DPS, but would be open to Thailand, Sri Lanka, or other options. Can I do ATL – HNL (stopover 2 wks) – DPS (or other destination)?

    I spoke with one reservations agent today to try to find out about doing this, but she tried a little and found her system to break up the award into two separate ones. She couldn’t tell why it was breaking up (she thought the route might have been too many MPMs). She was able to get me to Fukuoka, Japan with HNL as the gateway stopover, so you could add that destination to your list if you want. I’d rather get closer to Bali!

    Any thoughts?

  12. Hi Daraius,
    I recently booked an off-peak award flight from BOS-Fukuoka and Osaka-BOS via the aa website, the details are:
    BOS- NY on AA
    NY – HNL on hawaiian (stopover)
    HNL-FUK on Hawaiian

    KIX-HNL on Hawaiian
    HNL-NY on Hawaiian
    NY-BOS on AA

    I was wondering, (if there’s availability), could I change most of the flights to JAL over the phone? (with the same cities but different dates), will it cost me booking fee and change fee?

  13. Hi Darius,

    Not sure if you have tried Oneworld award from India to US on Qatar. I was trying to book COK-DOH-IAH-PHX-HNL with stopover in IAH. AA is pricing this award as two instead of one even though there exist a published fare by QR for this route. Any idea what is happening? Is there any other routes you could suggest from COK-HNL with stop over in either IAH or DFW.

  14. Hi Darius,

    I was hoping you could help give me some ideas. My wife and I are planning a trip to Cancun and were planning to use AAdvantage miles. However, after reading your post I was wondering if it was possible to make Cancun a stopover on our way to somewhere else so we can maximize our miles. I’m based out of LAX and was hoping to stay in Cancun for a week. The final destination is not so important, Europe? South America? Is it even possible to put together an itinerary from LAX with a stopover in Cancun? I’ve read that perhaps I could make a trip to Dusseldorf via Air Berlin? If possible, I’d prefer to avoid British Airways due to high taxes. Thanks!

  15. Darius,

    I think I understand this but was hoping you could clarify my planned route. My father and I want to fly ORD-LHR in April and I wanted to add a route at the beginning and free stopover at the end. Is it possible to make the route OGG-ORD-LHR-ORD(STOP), ORD-OGG (free one-way later), and then change the date of the beginning leg OGG-ORD to work with the free one-way at a later date?

  16. Hey Darius,

    So I am flying PIT-ORD-MEX on March 9th and then MEX-LIM-GYE-UIO on May 27/28th.

    Should not this trip be priced as PIT to UIO with a stopover in MEX? I keep going through the AA agents, but they are pricing as North America to Mexico and Mexico to South America rather than North America to South America. So 17.5k and 10k miles (total 27.5k miles) rather than just 17.5k miles.

    They agree that MEX is an North American gateway city and I even quoted this from their website:
    Q: Do one-way awards include any stopovers?
    A: Awards between North America and Europe, India, Asia and Central / South America allow a stopover at the North American gateway. However, other one-way awards do not allow stopovers.

    But they still say that it is not possible and try to send me to customer service on their website.

    Should not MEX count as stopover?

    Could MPM be an issue?


  17. Great blog post! 2 questions-

    1) Can i combine this with the discounted mileage fares to AA Exec MC holders? i.e. i would call, pay the fee, get the 7,500 mile discount to book my ticket.

    2) Can you do more than 1 stopover? i.e. Seattle > DTW > NYC > London, and the same exact reverse trip? My goal is to go to all of those US cities on 1 award ticket at different dates, (but not in that order) most likely NYC > London (round trip), and then Seattle > DTW (round trip), and then DTW > NYC (round trip),

    Thanks again!

  18. I want to fly from Japan to London via a US stopover this July. Any ideas on the best AA miles redemption? If I can’t do that, I was thinking of flying to California from Japan. I was wondering what redemptions you recommended for that too. Thanks!

  19. Hi Darius, I am looking to validate this and request your help!
    kul-hkg-ord(stopover)-iah .
    Cathay has a published fare for this but the 2 AA agents i spoke were unable to book the ord-iah without incurring a 2nd award fee.
    Help and thoughts much appreciated!

  20. may I combine the open jaw and one stopover on my trip back to North Asian?

    Saying I am planing a trip from SFO-PVG, China, for my return flight I’d like to book PVG-SFO-JFK with a stopover in SF for 6 months.

    This should be considered as one open jaw and one stop over trip. Is it allowable if I book with AA miles?

  21. How do I book stopover in mex on my way from pdx to scl? when I search at from pdx to scl, mex is never a connection. Is it possible to get a stopover there and how? Thanks

  22. Hi! Going on a cruise and trying to get business class ticket using saver miles from seattle to Barcelona for oct. 20 or 21 and from Venice to Seattle nov 7 to nov 9. Online aa economy is available but no business class. What is the best way to do it. I am also trying to decide if I should buy miles to top off my miles for the 100,000 or 125,000 business/ first ticket. Will this tickets be available later?


  23. Astonishing clear explanations!
    Thank you.

  24. Hi – we flew roundtrip from JFK to London/Heathrow/Johannesberg in June 2015 and returned on July 14th using AA miles on BA flights. A friend told me that we could have also gotten a free domestic flight as well, for example, to San Francisco from NYC, our departure city for the international flight. Is that right and did I have to book that at the time I originally booked the flights to South Africa? In other words, could I have booked JFK/Heathrow/Johannesberg and return but added on SFO (or another US destination) to the return flight after a “stopover” in NYC so long as the “stopover” was not more than a certain number of days? I assume that I would have to pay or get a separate mileage award tix for the return flight from SFO, right?

  25. It’s always a great pleasure to read your blog, Darius! I am planning for a trip to Asia and come back and stop by at Honolulu. I am wondering do I have to depart at specific US airport, like a getaway airport, to benefit from the “stop over“ policy, or I can fly from any airport in US, and have that stop over? Thanks a lot for the help.

  26. You should update the stop over rules. American Airlines no longer allows any stop overs.

  27. Does American still (After March 22, 2016) allow the N. American Gateway City option?

  28. Hi – I’d like to use my AA miles to fly business class (ideally) to India to catch a cruise and return from Istanbul. My home city is San Diego (often hard to get frequent flyer trips into and out of). Can you suggest a routing or partner carrier -or- offer any tips as to how best to book this, avoiding the BA fees in the process???

    Thanks so much!