Tag Archives: stopover

Airline Reward Redemption Rules

Gosh, I love that my sister is getting into this travel game.  It’s great to have someone else to talk over the pros/cons of different deals.  She’s also relatively new to the game so she points out to me when I’m making assumptions about what people know and she asks great questions that make me realize that I should create a post on a certain topic.  This is one of those times. 

We had a conversation this weekend about how to maximize the use of airline miles, prompted by The Points Guy’s video post on stopover and open jaws.  I would be willing to bet that most people redeem their airline miles for travel that they can book on-line with that specific airline.  And I’d also be willing to bet that they redeem them for a round-trip ticket that simply goes between 2 points.  As a result, many people are missing out on the true potential of their miles.

Each airline has different rules about how you can redeem their points, but there are some concepts across all of them that you need to understand:

  1. Who are their partner airlines?  Most airlines have partner airlines.  These are airlines that you can earn and/or redeem miles on.  The big groups are the One World Alliance, the Star Alliance and the SkyTeam.  The One World Alliance officially consists of: airberlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Mexicana, Qantas, Royal Jordanian, and S7 Airlines.  There are other affliates, members elect and other airlines that you can redeem/earn miles on outside of the alliance.  For example, you can redeem British Airways miles on Aer Lingus (but you can’t redeem American Airlines miles on Aer Lingus).  The Star Alliance officially consists of: Adria Airways, Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Blue1, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EGYPTAIR, Ethopian Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Luftansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, SWISS, TAM Airlines, TAP Portugal, THAI, Turkish Airlines, United, and US Airways.  SkyTeam consists of: Aeroflot, AeroMexico, AirEuropa, Air France, Alitalia, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Czech Airlines, Delta, Kenya Airways, KLM, Korean Air, Saudia, Tarom, and Vietnam Airlines.  As you can tell from the lists, the One World Alliance and Star Alliance are usually preferred by frequent travelers because of the airlines in the alliances.
  2. What are the rules on redeeming miles on partner airlines?  This is a big one.  Each airline has different rules around how you can redeem miles in general and also how you can redeem them on partner airlines.  There are also rules around what direction you need to fly to certain destinations (e.g. on some airlines, you have to fly over the Pacific Ocean when traveling to Asia).  My go-to resource for these types of questions is FlyerTalk.  Most airlines have their own forum in the Miles&Points forum.  Go to the forum you’re interested in.  Within the forum, most of the airlines have a “sticky” post about the FAQs for that airline.  For example, the American Airlines thread is called: “FAQ: American Airlines and AAdvantage – Please check here first!”.  There is also another “sticky” post called: “Award Desk: Information about AA, Partner, and oneworld Awards”.  These are fabulous resources to learn about how you can use your miles.
  3. What are the rules on stopovers and open jaws?  I mentioned the Points Guy’s video post earlier about stopovers and open jaws. Essentially, stopovers are when you are traveling from destination A to C via another city B.  A stopover is when you stay in city B for a period of time before traveling on to C.  So you trip would look like, flight from A to B, stay for a few days, then continue on from B to C.  An open jaw is when you’re traveling from A to D, but you travel via airline from A to B, then you take another mode of transportation from B to C and then continue on via air from C to D.  So in this example, maybe you fly from Boston to Paris, take a train from Paris to Madrid, and then fly from Madrid to Rome.  In these examples, you’re booking all the airline segments at the same time (so they aren’t considered 2 one way tickets, they are one half of a trip, with an open jaw).  Again, check FlyerTalk to learn to use these to maximize your points.  Each airline has different rules.

I’ve talked about how to use some of these tricks to book a free one-way to Hawaii when traveling from South America on American Airlines and the magic of the stopover.  Get creative and you can really stretch the value of your miles!

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Best Use of British Airways Miles

UPDATE: Given the change to Avios, I have created a New Best Use of British Airways Miles page.  From a high-level, the best use is now short-haul trips.

Many of you may have a lot of American Airlines and British Airways miles given the big bonuses they had in the last year.  Their redemption options are very similar but there are differences that I talked about in the British Airways post.  So what are some of the best uses of British Airways miles over American Airlines? (Note: All redemption costs below assume you’re traveling from the U.S. unless otherwise noted.)

  • Hawaii during peak season (April – August) - British Airways charges 17,500 miles each way.  American Airlines ups their redemption cost to 22,500 miles each way for peak season.
  • Bermuda - BA only charges 25,000 round-trip to Bermuda.  American charges 35,000.
  • International Stopovers – If you travel to international locations either just on British Airways, British Airways and 1 partner, or just 1 partner, you can use the standard redemption chart (i.e. not the oneworld award chart) while still doing unlimited stopovers.  I talked about this in a previous post.  While traveling to Europe on BA may cost you a lot in fueling charges, going to other locations (such as South America) may not.
  • Domestic Stopovers - BA allows unlimited stopovers.  I talked about how you can use this to your advantage on international flights.  But you can also use this to your advantage on domestic flights.  Let’s say you wanted to make a tour of the U.S.  You could travel Boston to Chicago (stopover) to LA one way.  And then on the return, you could go LA to Denver (stopover) to Boston.  You can add in many stopovers within reason and you should keep the flow of your flights in one direction (don’t zigzag across the country).  You will need to call to book a trip with stopovers (800) 452-1201.

This is not meant to be an extensive list of how you can use your British Airways miles.  It is meant to give you some of the differences between British Airways and American Airline redemption.  You can still use some of the techniques I talked about in the American Airline redemption series with your British Airways miles.

Any American Airlines MileSAAver flight can be booked using British Airways miles.  If you have more than one connection or are incorporating stopovers into your trip, you will need to call British Airways to book the flights.  I have found that it’s best to do your research before calling.  You should know the flight numbers you want before you call.  I booked our first trip to Hawaii using BA miles.  When I called them to book the flights, the customer service representative told me that there were none available.  I asked her if I could give her the flight numbers one by one.  She said yes.  After I told her all of the flight numbers and dates, she was surprised that the trip was available.  You can do your research using the search engines I talked about yesterday.

Feel free to comment on the post or email me at travelsavvyfamily@gmail.com with any questions.

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The Magic of the Stopover

Let’s say you are planning a frequent flyer award ticket to Europe.  What would you say if I told you that for the same amount of miles, you could get the first leg of a trip to Hawaii?  You’d say impossible, right?  Well, depending on where you live, you can do just that using the magic of the stopover.

A stopover is defined as a layover that is more than 4 hours for domestic trips or 24 hours for international trips.  American Airlines allows for one stopover at your North American gateway airport for trips between the US and Europe.  Gateway airports for American are Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, JFK and Los Angeles.  If you live near one of these cities (or can travel to them cheaply), you are in luck.  The cost of an award ticket between ANYWHERE in the US and Europe costs the same number of frequent flyer miles (20,000 miles one-way in the fall/winter, and 30,000 miles in the spring/summer).

Let’s say that you were planning a frequent flyer trip to Europe.  You would schedule your outgoing flights as a one-way ticket (between your home and Europe).  You would then schedule your return flights as a one-way.  But instead of scheduling it between Europe and your home airport, you would schedule flights that go from Europe to a gateway city and then on to Hawaii.  Your trip to Hawaii does not need to take place immediately after your trip to Europe.  It just needs to happen within 1 year of the issue date of the trip.  You can schedule the tickets and then change the date of the Hawaiian trip when you decide you want to do.  And if the routing is the same, you will not have to pay a fee to change the tickets.

I have to admit when I first heard about this, I thought it was one of the coolest things I had learned since starting this frequent flyer award travel journey.

I wish I had known about this option before I booked our last Hawaiian vacation because you could do the same strategy for a Hawaiian vacation.  I would have booked a one-way to Hawaii (departing from an American Airlines hub).  And then I would have booked a one-way from Hawaii to a US gateway city and on to Europe.  That would have given me the outgoing trip to Europe for only 2,500 more miles per ticket!

Feel free to comment on the post or email me at travelsavvyfamily@gmail.com with any questions.

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