An introduction to stopovers and open jaws — The Points Guy


There are many ways to make the most of your hard-earned travel rewards. And when it comes to redeeming airline miles, utilizing stopovers and open-jaw award tickets can do just that. With select loyalty programs, this can allow you to visit multiple destinations for the price of one.

However, understanding the complexities of stopovers and open jaws can be overwhelming. So today, we’ll define stopovers and open jaws to give you the context you need to begin searching for these award tickets.

What is a stopover?

Of the two terms, this one is more straightforward. Put simply, a stopover is when you stop in a city for a longer-than-normal time en route to a destination. This extended connection time is what differentiates a stopover from a layover, where you connect in a hub airport (and never leave the airport) before continuing on your journey.

That said, the length of time to qualify as a stopover vs. a layover can vary, depending on the route. For international award tickets, however, the general rule of thumb is that any connection lasting at least 24 hours is a stopover, whereas anything less than 24 hours is considered a connection.

In practicality, this gives you the opportunity to fly into a city, stay for a few days, and then continue to your ultimate destination — like this example from Houston (IAH) to Istanbul (IST) via Frankfurt (FRA). If you just had a connection in Frankfurt, you’d stay in the airport for two or three hours. However, if you spent four days there, it’s a stopover.

In this itinerary, the stopover would be at Frankfurt Airport (FRA) for more than 24 hours. GCMAP.COM

Unfortunately, not all programs allow these on award tickets. Air Canada Aeroplan, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan and Air France-KLM Flying Blue are among the programs that allow for stopovers — though each program has its own terms and conditions for stopovers. In addition, you may need to call to book one (as is the case with Flying Blue), and there are often airline or routing restrictions as well.

Related: Quick Points: See two cities for the price of one with stopovers

What is an open jaw?

No, an open jaw is not a trip to the dentist when it comes to award tickets. Instead, the term comes from how the flight path looks on a map.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you’d like to book an award ticket from San Francisco (SFO) to London-Heathrow (LHR). An open jaw would allow you to return from another airport, say Madrid (MAD).

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A double-open jaw goes further and returns to another airport, like flying back to Los Angeles (LAX) instead of SFO. Sometimes, you’ll also hear this referred to as two dangling legs.


You could book the above routing as two one-way award tickets, but then you’d potentially need to pay two change or cancellation fees if you need to adjust your trip.

Regardless of whether you have one (or two) open jaws, it’s up to you to “fill” that open jaw in order to take the return flight. For some travelers, this means paying for a separate, one-way ticket — potentially on a low-cost carrier that isn’t readily available using miles. Other times, it can involve a different form of transportation, like a train or bus.

Example of a trip with a stopover and open jaw

To show you the extent of what’s possible, let’s go through an example of an award trip with both a stopover and an open jaw.

With United MileagePlus, a round-trip, economy award flight from the U.S. to Europe is typically 60,000 miles at the saver level. However, United’s Excursionist Perk allows you to add a free stopover within Europe. Then, because the program allows an open jaw, you can add multiple cities for the price of one.

In this example, you can fly from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to London-Heathrow (LHR) and stop for three days. Then, you continue from London to Frankfurt. From there you can explore Germany at your leisure before ending up in Munich (MUC) for your flight back to Chicago.

And the price? The same 60,000 miles you’d pay for a simple, round-trip award ticket from Chicago to Munich.


This is just an example of what you can do with these types of award tickets.

Read more: The complete guide to maximizing stopovers and open jaws on award tickets

Bottom line

If you’re familiar with stopovers and open jaws, you might be able to add another destination to your award ticket for few, if any, additional miles. As always, we recommend confirming award rates and space before transferring your credit card points.

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