One of best ways to enjoy more than one holiday destination at a low cost is by using stopovers and open jaws. There’s a large number of major airlines that offer free or cheap stops in hub cities or any other city you choose. The plan works even better when you use miles and points to pay for your flight.
Using stopovers and open jaws on award tickets is a great way of enjoying travel to two holiday destinations for the price of one and in the process maximising returns your hard-earned points.
Unlike layovers which last anywhere between 30 minutes and 23 hours, and can be pretty tiresome, stopovers are 24 hour or multi-night stays in destinations en route to other parts of the world. They provide relief from long-haul air travel and at the same time give you the opportunity to explore a new destination at no extra cost.
An Open jaw is a gap in your trip that is not connected by your ticket. It usually happens when your departure flight is from an airport that is different from your destination, or when you return via a different airport from the one you originally departed from.
Using Aeroplan miles to pay for free stopovers
Under Aeroplan, Air Canada’s loyalty program, you can only benefit from a free stopover by booking a round-trip award ticket. They also limit the number of stopovers and open jaws you can have in your itinerary as follows:
- One stopover OR one open jaw for domestic flights in Canada or from Canada to Continental US.
- Two stopovers OR one stopover and one open jaw for flights from Canada and Continental US to Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean (exclusively on Air Canada).
- One stopover and one open jaw for a flight plying the same route as 2 above, with at least one flight on a Star Alliance carrier besides Air Canada.
- Two stopovers OR one stopover and one open jaw for flights between two continents.
- One open jaw for travel within the same continent, excluding North America.
Aeroplan lets you use their online multi-city tool to schedule one stopover when planning and booking your travel itinerary. You can get instructions on how to do this here.
Use Star Alliance Partners to avoid fuel surcharges
To make the best use Aeroplan miles when booking your flight you may want to use one of the Star Alliance partners to avoid paying hefty fuel surcharges. United Airlines, Air China, Swiss, and Singapore are some of the carriers that do not charge exorbitant fuel surcharges on international routes.
Below is a look at some Star Alliance Member airlines and their policies on stopovers and open jaws.
One major advantage of flying United Airlines is that it allows one-way awards, giving travelers more flexibility when planning their itinerary.
They also allow two open jaws on round-trip tickets, although each end of the open jaw has to be in the same region. For example, you can fly from Toronto to Beijing and then return from Shanghai to Montreal.
You can also enjoy one stopover up to six months long on United through international round-trip awards, but the stopover and destination must be in the same region.
United also only allows you only up to 3 connections for a one-way award ticket, and four each way for a round trip when flying from North America to Japan and other countries in the Asia zone, as well as Australia.
Singapore Airlines is quite flexible when it comes to building stopovers and open jaws on award tickets. Travellers flying exclusively with Singapore can include one stopover on roundtrip saver awards. You are also allowed to make one stopover on your one-way awards ticket, or two stopovers on a round trip ticket.
When using partner airlines Singapore allows you to include one open jaw in your itinerary.
It may also be of interest to note that Singapore Airlines automatically allows you a free stopover in its hub city en route to your destination. Alternatively, you can enjoy a stopover package that includes accommodations and transfers for as low as $34 per person, per night.
British Airways allows you to build in as many stopovers as you like but charges you on a flight by flight basis. So if you’re flying to Paris from Vancouver and planning a stopover in London, your ticket would cost more than a direct flight between the two cities. It only makes monetary sense to make a stopover if it is in London, and your final destination is another city within the UK; stopovers in the airline’s hub city are free on BA.
Alaska is quite generous when it comes to booking stopovers on award tickets. It allows you one stopover for each one-way ticket, and two stopovers if you book a round-trip ticket. However, they do restrict you to one partner airline for each award ticket. This means that if you used American Airlines to connect between Los Angeles and Mexico City (from Edmonton), for example, you can’t use a different partner airline connecting between these two cities on your way back.
Although Delta had removed stopovers and open jaws in 2015, it’s now allowing one-way award tickets and you can take advantage by building in one or two open jaws on a single itinerary.
The next time you book a flight with points/miles, make sure you take advantage or free stopovers and/or open jaws and enjoy multiple destinations for the price of one.
I always find it useful to belong to several award programs helps you enjoy even more flexibility when redeeming your miles and points for travel.