How to Maximize Stopovers and Open Jaws [Ultimate Guide]

LAX-IAH-JFK

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In the award travel world, stopovers and open-jaws are typically topics that get a ton of attention. They can be difficult to plan and overwhelming to visualize, but can allow you to visit 2 or more places for the price of 1!

With revenue tickets, these routes are normally not allowed — so, in this sense, award tickets are sometimes objectively better than revenue tickets.

But there are several frequent flyer programs that have incredibly generous award routing rules: Japan Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles immediately come to mind.

In this guide, we’ll provide you an overview of award routing rules with specific airlines, and discuss the planning side of stopovers and open-jaws.

Lastly, we will show you some amazing example itineraries you can build with each frequent flyer program that can be worth tens of thousands of dollars in added value, for free!

An Introduction to Stopover and Open-Jaws

Let’s first define what a stopover and open-jaw are exactly.

A stopover is simply the act of stopping and staying in a city for longer than 24 hours. Here’s an example of a stopover:

LAX-IAH-JFK
If you decide to fly from Los Angeles to Houston, stop in Houston for a few days to watch a football game, and then proceed to New York City, you will have a stopover in Houston. Image courtesy of gcmap.com.

An open-jaw is named that because of how the flight trajectory physically looks. Here’s what I mean.

Let’s say you were in New York, and you wanted to fly to Hong Kong — but then return to NY from Tokyo. Basically you’re flying from Point A to Point B, and then going to Point C for your return journey to Point A.

The map would look like this:

Open Jaw
You could use an open-jaw to fly from New York to Hong Kong, but return to New York from Tokyo-Haneda. Your flight path looks like a gaping mouth, which is why it’s called an “open-jaw.” Image courtesy of gcmap.com.

The last term we’ll talk about is a double open-jaw. This might be tremendously beneficial if you’re visiting multiple cities!

Here’s an example of what I mean:

Double Open-Jaw
Flying from San Francisco to Munich, then returning to the U.S. via Frankfurt to Los Angeles is considered a “double open-jaw.” Image courtesy of gcmap.com.

The 13 Best Programs to Maximize Stopovers and Open-Jaws

Before we go in-depth into each rewards program, it’s important to note that airlines can change their award routing rules at any time without notice.

In the past, airlines such as American Airlines, Delta, and United have had very generous award routing rules. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.

Here, we’ve compiled what we think are the 13 best programs you can use to work in stopovers and open-jaws to your vacation.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Qantas First Class
Taking advantage of stopovers and open-jaws is easy with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. You can use them on Qantas first class for a great deal! Image courtesy of qantas.com.

Alaska Airlines wins so many awards in the hearts of frequent flyers.

They have an easy-to-use online award search engine (with the exception of Cathay Pacific and LATAM), and they also have generous “beginner” routing rules!

What do we mean by beginner routing rules? Well, these routing rules are very generous, but also extremely simple to understand and use.

Basically, here are their routing rules:

  • You may only fly 1 partner airline and Alaska Airlines on an award ticket.
  • You can have 1 stopover on a one-way ticket and 2 stopovers on a round-trip ticket.
    • The terms and conditions state that the stopover must occur in a hub city (i.e. Hong Kong when flying Cathay Pacific), but you might have luck calling in and requesting another stopover.
  • There are no close-in booking fees, and the partner booking fee is $12.50 plus a $15 phone booking fee.
  • Changes and cancellations are free until 60 days before departure. After that, you must pay $125.
  • You can transit via a third region.
  • You may be able to backtrack. For example, readers are usually successful booking Cathay Pacific from Vancouver (YVR) – New York City (JFK) – Hong Kong (HKG) (but your mileage may vary).

Now that you have an idea of the routing rules, let’s see how we can put this in practice.

Keep in mind that each airline has their own award chart with Alaska Airlines — so this might be hard to keep track of, but it will be totally worth it!

There are some ways to eke out extra value without paying more miles, particularly from Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Japan Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Fiji Airways, and Emirates.

(There are also a few ways to get extra value by paying more miles on Emirates, but these generally come at a much better price than buying 2 award flights outright.)

Let’s put some numbers to routes now. Here are some great example routes you can take:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Brisbane (BNE) – Perth (PER) one-way for 70,000 Alaska miles in Qantas first class (or 55,000 in business class)
  • Chicago O’Hare (ORD) – Hong Kong (HKG) – Johannesburg (JNB) one-way for 70,000 Alaska miles in Cathay Pacific first class (or 50,000 in business class)
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Dubai (DXB) – Mumbai (BOM) one-way for 150,000 Alaska miles in Emirates A380 First Class Suites (or 82,500 in business class)
  • New York City (JFK) – Tokyo-Haneda (HND) – Bangkok (BKK) one-way for 75,000 Alaska miles in Japan Airlines first class (or 65,000 in business class)
  • Boston (BOS) – Beijing (PVG) – Urumqi (URC) one-way for 50,000 Alaska miles in Hainan Airlines business class
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Nadi (NAN) – Adelaide (ADL) one-way for 55,000 Alaska miles in Fiji Airways business class

These are just a few examples of ways you can build in additional value into your trip!

Take the ORD-HKG-JNB itinerary for instance. You are literally adding 13 hours of first-class flying time and ~$10,000 worth of first-class flights for no additional miles.

Let that sink in for a moment…you will get $10,000 in free plane tickets, just for knowing about Alaska’s award routing rules!

Hot Tip: Want some more inspiration for using Alaska miles? See our guide on the best ways to redeem Alaska miles.

Air Canada Aeroplan

eva-air-business-class
Enjoy direct aisle access and a lie-flat seat in business class on EVA Air with Air Canada Aeroplan’s generous stopover and open-jaw policy en route to your final destination! EVA Air features pajamas and (sometimes) Rimowa amenity kits.

We love Air Canada Aeroplan’s generous routing rules when traveling round-trip with any long-haul itinerary on different continents.

You are allowed 2 stopovers, or 1 stopover and 1 open-jaw when using Aeroplan. This is powerful, because you can essentially go on an around-the-world trip with Aeroplan!

With such a diverse network of partners in the Star Alliance, it’s easy to build awesome vacations.

Air Canada uses a region-based award chart for all flights, including their own metal. Here’s how it looks:

Aeroplan Award Chart
Here’s the award chart using Aeroplan miles from Canada and the continental U.S.

You’ll need to be creative to really extract the absolute best value, but here are some great example routes you can take:

  • New York City (JFK) – Bangkok (BKK) via Taipei – Zurich (ZRH) – New York City (JFK) for 155,000 Aeroplan miles on EVA Air Royal Laurel business class, THAI Air business class, and SWISS Air business class
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – London-Heathrow (LHR) – Taipei (TPE) via Bangkok – Los Angeles (LAX) for 155,000 Aeroplan miles on Air New Zealand business class, THAI Air, and EVA Air Royal Laurel business class
  • Chicago O’Hare (ORD) – Auckland (AKL) – Bangkok (BKK) – Chicago O’Hare (ORD) via Tokyo-Haneda (HND) for 160,000 Aeroplan miles on Air New Zealand business class, THAI Air’s brand new 787-900 business class, and ANA business class
  • Houston (IAH) – Munich (MUC) – Singapore (SIN) – Houston (IAH) via Tokyo for 155,000 Aeroplan miles on Lufthansa business class twice and ANA business class

Overall, Aeroplan isn’t necessarily the best program to leverage if you don’t know about their routing rules. But, if you do know about the routing rules, you can get tons of extra value from it!

Hot Tip: Want to know some better ways to redeem Aeroplan miles? Look at our 8 best ways to use Aeroplan miles!

All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club

ANA business class
Trying out ANA business class using ANA miles and their stopover/open-jaw policy will get you lots of extra value, for free!

Let’s call ANA’s routing rules as they are: generous for simple travelers.

You might be wondering what differentiates Alaska Airlines from ANA since we used the same “generous for simple travelers” above?

Hot Tip: ANA allows 1 stopover and 1 open-jaw, but they only allow round-trip flights. Basically, Alaska has generous routing rules on one-ways, while ANA requires round-trip travel.

ANA also has very generous fares for round-trip business class awards. Combining these routing rules with the best-in-class award prices, ANA becomes a powerful asset that we can use.

To be specific, ANA has their regular routing rules and their round-the-world award routing rules. (The latter is generally going to be out-of-scope of this guide, so we’ll focus on adding value from their regular routing rules.)

Remember that ANA-operated flights are subject to seasonality rules, so keep that in mind when planning trips.

Let’s get into some example redemptions you can make:

  • New York City (JFK) – Tokyo-Haneda (HND) – Jakarta (CGK) – New York City (JFK) via Tokyo-Haneda for 100,000 ANA miles during low season in ANA business class
  • Miami (MIA) – Zurich (ZRH) – Dubai (DXB) – Miami (MIA) via Zurich for 104,000 ANA miles in SWISS Air business class (high fuel surcharges)
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Brussels (BRU) – Accra (FRA) – Washington, D.C. (IAD) for 104,000 ANA miles in Brussels Airlines business class and South African Airways business class
  • San Francisco (SFO) – London-Heathrow (LHR) – Istanbul (IST) – San Francisco (SFO) for 88,000 ANA miles in United Polaris business class and Turkish Airlines business class

Overall, using ANA miles is an excellent way to add some value to your trip.

Hot Tip: Be careful of huge fuel surcharges and avoid them by trying to fly on United (preferably their brand-new Polaris class), Air Canada, LOT Polish, or Turkish Airlines. Otherwise, you’ll be paying upwards of $1,000 in total taxes and fees.

Asiana Airlines Mileage Club

Lufthansa Airbus A380 First Class Bed
Use Asiana Miles to fly on Lufthansa first class. Image courtesy of Greg Stone.

Asiana Airlines employs 2 region-based award charts: one for Asiana flights, and one for partner flights.

Additionally, Asiana Airlines-operated flights are subject to seasonality, so in a sense, their award redemption scheme is very similar to ANA.

Asiana Airlines allows up to 7 stopovers, but they cost extra miles (no additional value added). This is overall a pretty weak offering, but it can still provide some value flying to places like Europe, Korea, and South America.

We won’t go over some stopovers with them since they always cost extra miles, but here’s an idea of how to use an open-jaw for convenience purposes (and also using a well-known sweet spot to Europe):

  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Frankfurt (FRA), Munich (MUC) – Los Angeles (LAX) for 100,000 Asiana miles in Lufthansa first class

Since they’re in the same region, you’ll be charged for 2 U.S.-Europe one-way awards, which price out at 50,000 miles each way.

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

Qatar Airways QSuites
Touted as the best business class in the world, Qatar Airways QSuites are a great way to add extra value into your complex Asia Miles itinerary! Image courtesy of Business Insider.

Cathay Pacific’s loyalty program Asia Miles continues to be one of the most underrated out there. This reputation is based on a series of devaluations that have recently been enacted.

These devaluations have decimated round-trip awards, but complex multi-segment itineraries have been left unscathed.

There are tons of optimization to be had using Asia Miles, but it’s a bit complex. For this reason, we think Asia Miles is for “advanced award travelers.” Let’s get into the routing rules.

Basically, you can fall into 3 sets of award redemption buckets:

  1. Asia Miles Awards Chart (only flying Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon)
  2. Airline Partners Award Chart (only flying 1 partner the entire way)
  3. Oneworld Multi-carrier Award Chart (flying 3+ partners if part of your itinerary includes Cathay Pacific; otherwise, up to 2 partners without Cathay Pacific)

Each of these are distance-based award charts, and they are subject to different open-jaw and stopover rules. We will focus on Oneworld multi-carrier awards, as they are the most complex and can provide the most value.

Here are the rules when using the multi-carrier award chart, as well as what they mean for you:

  1. If your travel includes Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon, you may fly on 3 or more Oneworld airlines. Otherwise, you may fly up to 2 partners. (Basically, you should add Cathay Pacific. If not for their amazing inflight product, it allows you to fly more partners!)
  2. The maximum distance you can fly in 1 itinerary is 50,000 miles. (50,000 miles is an extremely long distance…99.99% of travelers will be under this all the time).
  3. The total mileage is determined by the sum of the distances from each of the segments (airport A to airport B). (For example, if you’re flying from New York to Hong Kong to New Delhi, you must add the total distances between the 2 segments as opposed to taking the distance between New York and Delhi without considering Hong Kong.)
  4. You are allowed a maximum of 5 stopovers, 2 transfers (layovers), and 2 open-jaws per itinerary.
  5. Mixed cabin awards will be charged the highest class mileage price for the entire itinerary. (Don’t book mixed cabins unless you don’t have a choice).
  6. You can’t book premium economy.

This might be confusing, but if you take the time to really understand what you could be booking with this, you can get some outsized value from using Asia Miles’ generous routing rules.

Here’s an extreme example of the value you can get with these routing rules:

  1. New York City (JFK) – Tokyo-Haneda (HND) [Japan Airlines]
  2. Tokyo-Haneda (HND) – Hong Kong (HKG) [Cathay Pacific]
  3. Hong Kong (HKG) – Kuala Lumpur (KUL) [Malaysia Airlines]
  4. Kuala Lumpur (KUL) – Sydney (SYD) [Malaysia Airlines]
  5. Sydney (SYD) – Doha (DOH) [Qatar Airways]
  6. Doha (DOH) – Colombo (CMB) [SriLankan Airlines]
  7. Chennai (MAA) – London-Heathrow (LHR) [British Airways]
  8. Madrid (MAD) – New York City (JFK) [Iberia]

How long is this itinerary? We’re going to be flying 32,975 miles and over 71 hours on 8 different airlines across 9 countries.

How complex is this itinerary? It has 5 stopovers and 2 open-jaws between Doha/Dubai and London/Madrid.

If this doesn’t have you drooling yet, just wait. This itinerary will cost…

Asia Miles
This amazingly complex itinerary will cost 130,000 miles in economy and 210,000 miles in business class! Using the award calculator on Asia Miles will help price out your itinerary. Image courtesy of asiamiles.com.

Just 210,000 Asia Miles in business class?!

So, for 40,000 miles more than a round-trip JFK-HKG ticket in Cathay Pacific business class, you can visit 7 more countries, try 8 different business class products (including Malaysia Airlines’ A330 and A350 business class), and fly more than double the distance?

Yes, please!

I can’t underscore just how amazing using Cathay Pacific Asia Miles for Oneworld multi-carrier award tickets truly is.

The biggest challenge will be finding award availability for all flights. If you can pull off a huge, round-the-world trip using Asia Miles, you’ll have the opportunity to try loads of amazing airlines and visit tons of countries!

Emirates Skywards

Emirates First Class - A380
Fly in style in your private cabin with Emirates first class — and don’t forget to take a shower on their A380. Image courtesy of Upgraded Points.

Emirates has 3 reward tiers for redemptions: Saver, Flex, and Flex Plus.

We’ll be focusing on Saver awards for economy and business class and Flex for first class because they are the cheapest options for their cabin classes.

So here are the stopover allowances:

  • 1 free stopover on round-trip saver tickets (business/economy)
  • 2 free stopovers on round-trip flex tickets (first)

Also, open jaws are allowed if they are in the same zone.

Emirates actually doesn’t publish the zone definitions, so the best way to find out if 2 places are in the same zone is to compare the mileage costs using the Emirates Skywards Miles Calculator. To find out, follow these steps:

  1. Visit the Emirates Skywards Miles Calculator
  2. Type in your route (e.g., Los Angeles – Dubai)
  3. Note the award costs (e.g., Business Saver on LAX – DXB = 165,000 miles round-trip)
  4. Type in another route with one different city (e.g., New York City – Dubai)
  5. Note the award costs (e.g., Business Saver on JFK – DXB = 145,000 miles round-trip)
  6. Compare the award costs (165,000 ≠ 145,000).
  7. If they’re the same, you can be pretty certain that the 2 cities are in the same zone. If not, they are not in the same region.

Hot Tip: The most compelling reason to use Emirates Skywards miles to book Emirates rewards is to utilize the chauffeur service, as this is the only way to get access to the chauffeur service with award tickets.

Of course, you will still need to pay for fuel surcharges, which can be upwards of $1,500 for round-trip tickets.

Here are some great example routes you can take to maximize open-jaws and stopovers:

  • New York City (JFK) – Milan (MXP) – Dubai (DXB) – New York City (JFK) for 217,500 Emirates Skywards miles (First Flex allows for 2 stopovers) in Emirates A380 First Class Suites
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Dubai (DXB) – Malé (MLE) round-trip for 180,000 Emirates Skywards miles (Business Saver allows for 1 stopover) in Emirates A380 business class
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Dubai (DXB) – Madrid (MAD) round-trip for 180,000 Emirates Skywards miles (Business Saver allows for 1 stopover) in Emirates A380 business class
  •  Los Angeles (LAX) – Dubai (DXB) – Seoul-Incheon (ICN) round-trip for 210,000 Emirates Skywards miles (Business Saver allows for 1 stopover) in Emirates A380 business class

Bottom Line: Overall, Emirates has a decent stopover policy for round-trip flights, but because of their hub-and-spoke model of airline networks, it’s very difficult to add open-jaws since Emirates only allows them for “cities in the same zone.”

Etihad Guest

Etihad Residence Bedroom
If you pay around $40,000 to fly on Etihad’s residence featuring a private bedroom in the sky, you can stopover for 2 nights in the 7-star hotel Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, free! No luck for award flights on routing rules, sadly. Image courtesy of CNN.com.

Etihad Guest is notable for offering a premium stopover service that can get you 2 hotel nights in Abu Dhabi for free. However, it does not apply for award tickets.

Otherwise, they don’t allow stopovers and open-jaws.

If you do decide to fly on a paid Etihad flight, remember that you can qualify for free hotel nights: up to 2 free nights in the Emirates Palace Hotel (7-star hotel in Abu Dhabi) if you purchase an Etihad Residence flight.

Japan Airlines Mileage Bank

China Eastern Business Class
China Eastern business class can be made possible on larger award itineraries using Japan Airlines’ generous routing rules! Image courtesy of airlinequality.com.

Japan Airlines is similar to Cathay Pacific Asia Miles: they employ a region-based award chart for JAL flights and 2 distance-based award charts for partners.

We’ll focus on the distance-based award charts for partners since there’s more opportunity to optimize using the partner award chart.

The 2 award charts are for travel on:

  1. Oneworld partners
  2. Non-alliance partners (including Air France, Korean Air, Emirates, etc)

Here are the routing rules for partner airlines:

  1. One-way itineraries are allowed.
  2. Itineraries cannot backtrack to the point of origin in order to continue onwards to a final destination.
  3. Itineraries cannot backtrack to the country of origin in order to continue onwards to a final destination.
  4. Departure and arrival cities may be different, but must be in the same country.
  5. You’re allowed a total of 6 segments, excluding an open-jaw.
  6. You are allowed 1 open-jaw and 3 stopovers.
  7. The distance of the open jaw is counted in the total itinerary distance.
  8. You cannot mix non-alliance partners and Oneworld partners.

Here is a great example redemption you can make with Japan Airlines while maximizing stopovers and open-jaws:

  1. Los Angeles (LAX) – Paris (CDG) [Air France]
  2. Paris (CDG) – Dubai (DXB) [Emirates]
  3. Dubai (DXB) – Sydney (SYD) [Emirates]
  4. Sydney (SYD) – Hangzhou (HGH) [China Eastern]
  5. Shanghai (PVG) – New York City (JFK) [China Eastern]

The total trip distance is 28,639 miles (according to JAL’s Total Mileage Calculator), which would cost 110,000 miles in economy, 160,000 miles in business class, and 250,000 miles in first class!

A minor caveat to consider is that Air France doesn’t allow first class award bookings, so you’ll have to plan another itinerary that allows you to fly first class the whole way. We think 160,000 miles in business class is the best redemption for this particular itinerary.

Here’s another redemption you can take in first class:

  1. New York City (JFK) – Milan (MXP) [Emirates]
  2. Milan (MXP) – Dubai (DXB) [Emirates]
  3. Dubai (DXB) – Auckland (AKL) [Emirates]
  4. Sydney (SYD) – Seoul-Incheon (ICN) [Korean Air]
  5. Seoul (ICN) – New York City (JFK) [Korean Air]

This itinerary’s total trip distance is 27,785 miles, which will cost 250,000 Japan Airlines miles in first class!

The above itinerary contains 5 segments, 3 stopovers, and 1 open-jaw. You will be able to visit 5 countries (Italy, UAE, New Zealand, Australia, and South Korea), all in Emirates or Korean Air A380 first class.

This is a great way to optimize non-Oneworld partner awards!

Hot Tip: Using Oneworld partners is an easier way to book complex itineraries, but it is quite a bit more expensive in terms of mileage costs.

Korean Air SKYPASS

Korean Air Business Class Bed
With direct aisle access and a lie-flat bed, you can rest peacefully when flying business class on Korean Air. Image courtesy of Korean Air.

With Korean Air, there are 3 sets of routing rules:

  1. Korean Air metal
    • Both one-ways and round-trips are allowed
    • 1 stopover is allowed for one-ways
    • 2 stopovers plus 1 open-jaw are allowed for round-trips
    • Subject to peak pricing
  2. Partners (SkyTeam + non-alliance partners)
    • Must book round-trip awards
    • 2 stopovers plus 1 open-jaw are allowed for round-trips
    • SkyTeam awards are governed by a single award chart
    • Non-alliance partner awards are governed by multiple award charts
  3. Round-the-world awards with SkyTeam
    • Must travel in 1 direction (always east or west)
    • Must cross the Pacific and Atlantic oceans once
    • 3 areas are defined for RTW awards:
      1. North & South America
      2. Europe, Africa, and the Middle East
      3. Asia and Oceania
    • You are allowed up to 6 stopovers, with up to 2 stopovers in each area
    • Economy costs 140,000 miles and business costs 220,000 miles (first not available)
    •  Infants are charged the same price as adult tickets

Each of these routing rules has room for maximization, so we’ll be looking at squeezing out extra value for both Korean Air-operated flights and partners! After that, we’ll look at sample round-the-world trips!

Here are a couple great example redemptions you can make on Korean Air flights:

  • Atlanta (ATL) – Seoul-Incheon (ICN) – Hong Kong (HKG) one-way for 62,500 Korean Air miles off-peak on Korean Air business class
  • New York City (JFK) – Seoul-Incheon (ICN) – Bangkok (BKK) – Busan (PUS), Seoul-Incheon (ICN) – New York City for 150,000 Korean Air miles off-peak on Korean Air business class

Moving onto SkyTeam partner awards, here is an example redemption you can make:

  1. Detroit (DTW) – Amsterdam (AMS) [Delta One A350 Suites]
  2. Paris (CDG) – Moscow (SVO) [Aeroflot A321 business class]
  3. Moscow (SVO) – Paris (CDG) [Aeroflot 737 business class]
  4. Paris (CDG) – Detroit (DTW) [Air France 787 business class]

This particular redemption would only cost 80,000 miles round-trip! We are leveraging a well-known sweet spot by using Korean Air miles for travel to Europe in business class.

Non-alliance partners are subject to the same policies for open-jaws and stopovers; the only difference is the cost of awards.

There are 6 non-alliance airlines you can fly on:

  1. Alaska
  2. Emirates
  3. Etihad
  4. GOL
  5. Hawaiian Airlines
  6. Jet Airways

Lastly, we’ll show you how you can maximize open-jaws and stopovers with round-the-world awards!

You will be eligible for round-the-world awards at a flat fee, subject to some rules that you must follow to construct your award itinerary. Here’s an example itinerary you can book:

  1. Washington D.C. (IAD) – Seoul-Incheon (ICN) [Korean Air]
  2. Seoul-Incheon (ICN) – Bali-Denpasar (DPS) [Garuda Indonesia]
  3. Bali-Denpasar (DPS) – Jeddah (JED) [Saudia]
  4. Jeddah (JED) – Paris (CDG) [Saudia]
  5. Paris (CDG) – Buenos Aires (EZE) [Air France]
  6. Buenos Aires (EZE) – New York City (JFK) [Aerolineas Argentinas]

All of this would cost just 140,000 miles in economy and 220,000 miles in business.

Overall, there are 4 main ways to use Korean Air’s generous routing rules, each with opportunities to gain lots of added value.

  1. Korean Air-operated flights only
  2. SkyTeam partners
  3. non-SkyTeam partners
  4. Round-the-world awards

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

New Singapore Suites
You can fly the brand-new Singapore Suites and visit multiple countries for much cheaper using the $100 stopover allowance! Image courtesy of upgradedpoints.com.

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer is generally very strict with award routing rules. These are the following:

  1. Round-trip saver awards are allowed 1 stopover and 1 open-jaw
  2. One-way advantage (more expensive!) awards are allowed one stopover
  3. You can add up to 3 stopovers on one-way saver awards for $100 each! 
    • This means 3 total stopovers on round-trip saver awards will cost $200 total (1 is included)!

If you want to take advantage of rule 3, you need to call KrisFlyer.

Let’s talk about rule 3 and how powerful it can be for a sample award. The sample award we’re going to be looking at is JFK-FRA-SIN-SYD in first class suites.

If you book segment by segment to have stopovers in Frankfurt and Singapore, you’ll have to pay 271,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles.

Hot Tip: With the secret stopover trick, you can pay the direct-flight price between East Coast U.S. and Australia, and simply pay $200 for 2 stopovers!

The resulting itinerary will be the same, but you will pay 152,000 KrisFlyer miles as opposed to 271,000 KrisFlyer miles (44% savings)!

Here are some other itineraries where you can take advantage of the routing rules provided by Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer:

  1. Los Angeles (LAX) – Tokyo-Narita (NRT) 
  2. Tokyo-Narita (NRT) – Singapore (SIN) 
  3. Singapore (SIN) – Los Angeles (LAX) 

This itinerary will cost 176,000 KrisFlyer miles + $198, and you’ll have the chance to visit 2 countries for the price of 1!

  1. San Francisco (SFO) – Hong Kong (HKG)
  2. Hong Kong (HKG) – Singapore (SIN) 
  3. Singapore (SIN) – Auckland (AKL)

The above itinerary would cost 110,000 miles in business class or 154,000 miles in first class + $200 and taxes and fees for the 2 stopovers. If you paid for each individual segment, it would cost 167,500 miles in business class or 209,500 miles in first class!

Here’s an example if you applied the same routing rules to Star Alliance partners:

  1. New York City (JFK) – Taipei (TPE) [EVA Air]
  2. Taipei (TPE) – Bangkok (BKK) [THAI Air]
  3. Bangkok (BKK) – Singapore (SIN) [Singapore Airlines]
  4. Singapore (SIN) – Auckland (AKL) [Air New Zealand]

This itinerary would only cost 117,000 KrisFlyer miles + $300 for 3 stopovers and taxes and fees! 

Bottom Line: In all, there’s loads of room for optimization here, especially when you take into account the little-known but amazing $100 stopover allowance.

United Airlines

Air New Zealand Business Class
If you can find availability on the Los Angeles – London route, you can use United’s Excursionist Perk to head to Europe in Air New Zealand business class and return in Lufthansa from Germany! Image courtesy of airnewzealand.com.

United Airlines has something peculiar called the Excursionist Perk.

According to United, here are the rules to use it:

  1. The Excursionist Perk cannot be in the MileagePlus defined region where your travel originates.
    • For example, if your journey begins in North America, you will only receive the Excursionist Perk if travel is within a region outside of North America.
  2. Travel must end in the same MileagePlus defined region where travel originates.
  3. The origin and destination of the Excursionist Perk are within a single MileagePlus defined region.
  4. The cabin of service and award type of the free one-way award is the same or lower than the one-way award preceding it.
  5. If 2 or more one-way awards qualify for this benefit, only the first occurrence will be free.

Here’s an example that qualifies:

  1. Los Angeles (LAX) – London-Heathrow (LHR) – Frankfurt (FRA) – Los Angeles (LAX)

There’s not much else to talk about, besides the fact that you basically get a free intra-region award flight. Because United has so many regions, it’s not super useful to extract extra value.

In the example above, the only “added” value you’re getting is the London-Frankfurt flight, which isn’t great because intra-Europe business class is horrible anyway.

Nevertheless, using the Excursionist Perk will get you a tiny bit of extra value, though it’s really only useful for convenience purposes.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Virgin Atlantic prices awards by segment, so there’s not much extra optimization to add here.

Final Thoughts

Whew – what a guide! Between reading crazy legal documents, obscure terms and conditions, and confusing award charts, we’ve definitely made it to the end of this guide to maximizing open-jaws and stopovers.

Of course, there are tons more airline programs out there, but we covered most of our bases here. There are also some outdated resources on the internet, so we made sure to show you award maximization opportunities based on up-to-date rules!


Featured Image: courtesy of gcmap.com

FAQ

What is an open-jaw?

An open-jaw is a flight where the destination and return city are not the same. An example flight could be:

New York City (JFK) – Detroit (DTW)

Detroit (DTW) – Washington D.C. (IAD)

What is a stopover flight?

A stopover is a stay in a city that lasts 24 hours or more.

An example would be:

Flying San Francisco (SFO) – Tel Aviv (TLV)

Stay in Tel Aviv for a week

Tel Aviv (TLV) – New Delhi (DEL)

What is a transfer/layover flight?

A layover is a stay in a city for less than 24 hours.

Which airlines stopover in Singapore?

Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines are the main airlines that stopover in Singapore.

Which airlines stopover in Bangkok?

THAI Air, EVA Air, Korean Air, and Singapore Air are the main airlines that stopover in Bangkok.

Which airlines stopover in Hong Kong?

Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines, and Korean Air are the main airlines that stopover in Hong Kong.

Which airlines stopover in Dubai?

Cathay Pacific, SWISS Air, and Emirates are the main airlines that stopover in Dubai.

Which airlines have the best award routing rules?

We’ll split it up into airlines that have the best award routing rules for simple itineraries and complex itineraries.

The airlines with the best award routing rules for simple itineraries are Alaska Airlines, Air Canada Aeroplan, and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer.

The airlines with the best award routing rules for complex itineraries are Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Japan Airlines Mileage Bank, and Asiana Airlines Mileage Club.

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4 comments

  1. Wigand Weirich · November 9, 2018 · Reply

    The airlines with the best award routing rules for simple itineraries are Alaska Airlines Aeroplan, and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer.

    What is Alaska Airlines Aeroplan?

    Air Canada Aeroplan or Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan or something else?

    • Stephen Au · November 13, 2018 · Reply

      Hey Wigand,

      Thanks for the feedback! We updated it accordingly. There was supposed to be a comma between Alaska Airlines and Aeroplan! 🙂

  2. I wanted to print out this useful info but when I do, the flyer or whatever that is at the bottom also prints. Therefore what happens is part of the info from the article is blocked by this flyer. Can you help?

    • Christine Krzyszton · November 12, 2018 · Reply

      Hi Kenny! I would try to cut and paste the content into a WORD document. You can then print it out for your own personal copy to read later. You can also access and read our articles on any mobile device.

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