Maximizing Stopovers, Transfers and Open Jaw Ticketing on US Airways Awards

by on June 16, 2011 · 86 comments

in Beginners Series, star alliance, US Airways

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(This post is focused on maximizing US Airways awards. Future posts will focus on American, Delta, United/Continental, Air Canada and British Airways. If you have any other suggestions, feel free to comment below or email me).

US Airways is a Star Alliance member, which means you can redeem your miles on all 26 other Star Alliance carriers, plus Bahamasair, Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Jet Airways and Qatar (economy only). US Airways does not do one-way awards (they cost the same amount as a roundtrip), but there are still a lot of ways to get maximum value out of your Dividend Miles.

Things to know before you get started:

  1. Don’t bother with Star Alliance and partner awards must be booked by calling  800-428-4322.
  2. Because partner awards can not be booked online, you don’t have to pay the $30 phone booking fee, but you will get hit with other fees and taxes. US is in the middle of the road with how much they charge for awards. They also have an annoying “processing” fee ($25 for domestic tickets, $35 for tickets to Mexico/the Caribbean and $50 for tickets to Hawaii, Europe, the Middle East and South America).
  3. Award levels are subject to change until the award ticket is issued.
  4. Waitlisting for award travel is not permitted.
  5. You can put awards on hold while you wait for miles to post, though some agents may be cranky about this, but they will do it when push comes to shove.
  6. A non-refundable quick ticketing fee of $75 applies to all award reservations purchased within 21 days of travel.
  7. Per “Award travel is permitted when the distance in one direction does not exceed the maximum mileage allowed between the origin and destination. Certain itineraries are subject to mileage restrictions. Travel from North America to Europe is not allowed via Asia. Travel between Europe and Japan/North Asia/South Asia/Australia/New Zealand is not permitted via North America.” This rule has been broken many times by savvy Flyertalkers.
  8. The “maximum mileage allowed” referenced above is rarely enforced by phone agents.
  9. You can have one stopover or an open jaw (flying into one city and home from another).
  10. You cannot combine Star Alliance and non-Star alliance partners on an award. For example you cannot fly Virgin Atlantic to London and then Continental home.
  11. Stopovers can only be in Star Alliance hubs and you must be flying that carriers hub. For example, you can only stop in Frankfurt if you are flying into Frankfurt on Lufthansa
  12. For your convenience here is a list of Star Alliance hubs per as of 6/16/11.
    US Airways: Charlotte, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Washington D.C
    a) Adria: Ljubljana, Pristina
    b) Aegean: Athens, Thessaloniki
    c) Air Canada: Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary
    d) Air China: Beijing, Chengdu,Shanghai
    e) Air New Zealand: Auckland, Los Angeles, Hong Kong
    f) ANA: Tokyo (Haneda, Narita)
    g) Asiana: Incheon, Seoul
    h) Austrian: Vienna
    i) Blue1: Helsinki
    j) bmi: London Heathrow
    k) Brussels: Brussels
    l) Continental: New York/Newark, Houston, Cleveland and Guam
    m) Croatia: Zagreb
    n) Egypt Air: Cairo
    o) LOT: Warsaw
    p) Lufthansa: Frankfurt, Munich
    q) SAS: Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm
    r) Singapore: Singapore Changi
    s) South African: Johannesburg
    t) Spanair: Barcelona, Madrid
    u) Swiss: Zurich, Geneva, Basel
    v) TAM: Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia
    w) TAP: Lisbon, Porto
    x) Thai: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Hat Yai
    y) Turkish: Istanbul, Ankara
    z) United: Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington D.C.
  13. Once you build an itinerary, the phone agent should be able to ticket it. If your itinerary is very complex with multiple partners, theres a chance they will send it off to a “rate desk” which will validate it and ticket. This can take up to an hour, but usually less. Your goal is to avoid the rate desk when possible.
  14. To find out which Star Alliance partners fly to which airports, click on the interactive mapand then select an airline from the drop down box to see their route map. To see a list of which airlines fly to a particular airport, just click on the airport name on the map. For example, it will show you that Sydney is served by 8 Star Alliance carriers (Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, Asiana, Singapore, South African, Thai and United).

    List of airlines flying to Sydney

    Air Canada Route Map

  15. To check Star Alliance award availability, use the ANA Tool, (SaverPass availability) or
  16. Even if you find availability on other sites, you will only be able to book what the phone agent says is available. It can be completely frustrating, but sometimes US’ systems are not 100% synched to Star Alliance’s systems, especially when it comes to Lufthansa and Swiss First Class awards.
  17. If you feel like you have an inexperienced agent who doesn’t know the rules, politely let them know that you have to go and thank them for their help. Hang up and call again and hope to get a smarter agent. I have been using this technique for years. If you yell at an agent or sound like you are trying to scam them, they will notate your record/account and you don’t want that to happen. Kill them with kindness, even if your blood pressure is boiling!
  18. Agents used to allow “round the world” routing. For example US to Asia via Europe and then home across the Pacific. Generally agents won’t allow this anymore, but you may get one to ticket such an award, especially if you act like you aren’t trying to game the system. Frankly, they only know if it’s an around the world if their geography is up to par.
  19. For international awards, You can spend less than 24 hours in a city and it will count as a transfer. 24+ hours it will count as your single stopover, so plan your flight times wisely. Agents may try to incorrectly tell you that the max is 18 hours, but that is for domestic awards.
  20. There is a 10 segment max on award tickets. Each flight is one segment.

This Flyertalk thread has loads of information on Star Alliance using Dividend Miles, so I suggest starting with the most recent and working your way back to see the types of award people have booked. In a nutshell, US Airways agents can be very lenient, so you can really juice a lot out of the awards you create – it just takes some research and persistence.
US Airways has a pretty generous award chart, so once you master the art of booking a Star Alliance US award, you’ll realize why so many of us get excited when we see the US Airways 100% buy miles promotions (PS the current one ends June 30, 2011).

As always, feel free to comment below with questions.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • scott

    Jackpot. Thanks once again for the great effort to pull together such disparate information. I’m sitting on 320k US Air miles and need to plan my honeymoon — this will be an invaluable resource.

    Point of correction though; I don’t think redemption is currently allowed on Qatar or Royal Jordanian (per the small T&C – Note B – at the bottom of the US Air redemption chart) – I’ve heard of some coach fares being allowed on Qatar though nothing in Business or First.

  • The Points Guy

    Scott- thanks. I pulled the partners from, but you are right- the Qatar relationship is shoddy at best (economy awards only- maybe) and Royal Jordanian seems to be defunct (old America West partner). Thanks for the heads up.

  • Maury

    Can you combine your star alliance miles? Meaning if you are a Continental and US Airways can you combine them to get one award? Thank you

  • Henry

    I’m a newbie so this might be a silly question. But can I use my US Airways miles to redeem tickets for my father even though I won’t be traveling with him?

  • The Points Guy

    @Maury – you cannot combine miles from different programs. You can however book 1 Star Alliance award using Continental miles and 1 using US Airways since the awards generally come from the same inventory.

    @Henry- you sure can. The beauty of most frequent flyer programs is that you can book awards for whoever you want.

  • Chris D.

    Thanks, TPG! I don’t really use US Airways, but it was a very informative “dip into the pool” of working these things to my advantage. I look forward to the upcoming Delta, United, etc, posts! I sure enjoy reading your website!

  • The Points Guy

    @Chris- Delta is up already
    Thanks for reading- there’s a lot more to come!

  • HikerT

    TPG, thanks for summarizing this. Your blog is the best! Unlike the other blog I used to frequent I can always count on new and useful information here in addition to the latest and greatest offerst, as opposed to a recycling of referral links disguised as new content by someone who waxes poetic about the ethics of comps.

  • Afkabp

    Thanks for this post. It answered a lot of questions that I had about Star Alliance.

    The only airline that flies out of my local airport is United and redeeming miles is a lot cheaper than paying for a full price ticket, especially when I just flying into ATL for a long weekend to visit my grandson.

  • Glenn

    thanks. I may have to hire you to maximize my awards from now on. :-)

    who knew Hat Yai was counted as a TG hub?

  • chubbuni13

    Thanks for the informative post, Brian. I’ve found your site to be consistently the most informative and best laid out frequent flyer blog around and I follow quite a few! It’s too bad you’re not taking any new clients right now… I really hope you took my advice and checked out “Drunkards Alley” in Shinjuku, although if you did, I’m sure we’ll hear about it in the next installment of your trip report.

    I was wondering if you could help me out with a quick question. I have about 150k AA miles and 110k US Airways miles and I’m trying to get to Singapore and Hong Kong from LAX in October. How would you suggest doing this in business class with the least possible miles?

    I was initially thinking 110k AA miles using Cathay Pacific with a “free” stopover at their HK hub for a couple of days and then on to SIN. However, with this new 100k USAir deal that I took advantage of, I was wondering if there were any better ways to get there on Star Alliance partners? Never flew Singapore Air but have heard great things about them. Also have about 15,000 CX Asia miles that I can top off using AMEX or SPG, but again, I would appreciate your advice. Thanks!

  • Shami

    Thanks for starting this informative discussion. I can’t wait till you talk about United/continental and British Airways. However what about American. If I am correct, I think you did not mention that

  • Shami

    My bad. American is also in the pipeline. Bring it on.

  • Matt

    Brian, this is hugely useful content – I was going to ask this exact question (well, possibly for a different carrier – I forget) a couple of days ago either at FT or MP, but didn’t get around to it.

    It would be useful to have an easily available index of some of these series of posts – whether the AMEX, BA, or award rules. Similar to what’s there for the program score cards. I would imagine they could drive traffic to your blog for quite a while.

  • Steve

    TPG@Maury – you cannot combine miles from different programs. You can however book 1 Star Alliance award using Continental miles and 1 using US Airways since the awards generally come from the same inventory.

    TPG, so you’re saying that we can use US Airways awards for partner 1-way travel? I was under the impression that US Airways couldn’t do 1-way travel, even on partner airlines, unless one payed the full amount of points for a round-trip? Please tell me I’m wrong, thanks TPG! I’d love to be able to use 20K US points and 20K Continental points towards a Europe trip!

  • The Points Guy

    @Chubbuni13- Im going to be reopening my award business soon, so just hold tight. For a while there I was over capacity, so I had to shut it down while I got everything under control. More details TBD, but if you need something in the meantime, email me

    @Matt- I’m going to be revamping the program scoree card page and making into a one-stop resource so you can go there for all “strategy” type posts and search by program. Thanks for the feedback

    @Steve- US Airways does not do one way awards for half the price of a roundtrip unfortunately.

  • Slightly OT

    This is slightly OT, i apologize, but
    on another page I saw you had written regarding Delta Skymiles redemptions that you can have either:

    one open jaw and a stopover


    2 stopovers

    I have read in other places that you can only have an open jaw and stopover.

    Which is right?

    Sorry to hijack, just thought you are watching this page closely as it’s the newest.

  • The Points Guy

    @slightly OT- Delta does not allow two stopovers. Its max of one plus an open jaw

  • Navej

    Thanks for the post.

    If I book a business class award and one one leg of the award only has economy available, is there a chance to be moved to business class if business class is not full?

  • Me

    Haha. I just got off the phone with US a few minutes ago to get a lot of these questions answered to see if I might start using them actively. Too bad I didn’t read your post first.

    I also checked to confirm availability for a few flights I found on ANA and and it sounded like things were mostly in sync, and the person I spoke too was friendly. She said I could hold any reservation for 72 hours, which is important for me if, say, I want to book myself using US miles, and then go over and use UA miles to book my wife on the same flight. That way you can lock in availability and redeem from different pots.

    Thanks TPG your posts are always great.

  • gavinmac

    I don’t like their route map. You should be able to click on a city and visually see the routes from that city. Not click on city, see list of airlines serving that city, click on airline, see routes.

  • Sailor

    Very useful post. I never heard of it until I saw this post. Good for the traveling industray

  • beltway

    @TPG, you write: Agents may try to incorrectly tell you that the max is 18 hours, but that is for domestic awards.

    Actually, the domestic limit is four hours, with anything more counting as a stopover. Quoth the DM guide:

    For travel within the continental U.S., Canada and Alaska, a stopover is defined as a stay of more than 4 hours between connections (if there is a connecting flight available within 4 hours).
  • richard is my friend! The award tool on includes an availability calendar and appears to validate the trip also. The above list of hubs is wonderful information. Have miles, will travel.

  • Michael

    Great great information, as usual.

    I thought I posted this but it didn’t register.

    Trying to get to Capetown from LAX next summer. Think I can do it in business for 100K US AIR MILES? If so, how would you go about it?

    thanks in advance.

  • dandan

    another tip — 1-800-622-1015 is their international reservations desk. It makes my phone call much faster to just call that directly for international partner awards.

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  • David LHughes

    Thanks to TPG i just joined US air (and 12 days later) bought 50,000+50,000bonus miles with US air also got new Amex SPG card (awaiting 20,000sign up bonus) as an Elite AP/ AC member have used ANA to search First class awards and have successfully booked 3 trips x 2 pas (YTZ-YUL-ZRH-MAN-FRA-CDG-BKK-HKT-BKK-HKG-FRA-MUC-YUL-YTZ)latest. BUT will need TPGs help with best F US air booking to HKG / N asia with s/o in europe

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  • Josh

    Hi TPG, just wanted to say thank you for the blog – I’m a newbie at using miles, but took advantage of the 100% bonus on US Airways miles, and have a bunch of BA miles (am based in England). Looking to do a lot more travelling over the next couple of years, and am looking forward to reading more of your blog – it’s a real eye-opener, and opens up a lot of exciting possibilities! Thank you for the great work, Josh

  • Funkskunk

    Just booked roundtrip business class tix from China to US using US Airways miles via Star Alliance! The miles and taxes total $1600, which is LESS than economy tickets for the summer! Thanks TPG, you are doing great work, and I’m learning a lot from you!

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  • Elchanan van Herpen

    Hi Brian hope your doing well,
    I ones found on your website that you can get a first class ticket from the US to Asia via Europe for 120.000 (on one world). I was hoping to see it first class terminal in Frankfurt the to Bali (DPS)
    and can I mix US airways Lufthansa Singapore airlines ETC .Or is it best to stick with one airlines ?
    I proud Delta Gold Member

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  • Chadda Manish


    I was looking at the us airways partner airlines reward chart, which shows that first to north asia is 120,000, and then the same thing on the star alliance reward chart i found on aeroplan, which shows it as 175,000. Has something changed? I’m confused….

  • Anonymous

    Aeroplan increased their awards on July 15. Most awards are cheaper via US airways

  • Anonymous

    You can mix multiple star alliance carriers on us airways awards

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  • Adamu98

    regarding the us air promotion ending sept 15 for double buy miles-is this likely to happen again fairly soon?

  • Anonymous

    you never know, but they usually run it several times a year

  • Adamu98

    thanks for the swift reply-one thing im not sure on can you do stopovers in a 3rd area?

    e.g. flying japan to mexico can you do a stopover in us ??

  • Anonymous

    That would probably work, especially since there aren’t many Japan – Mexico nonstop options

  • Adamu98

    i see-so theres no rule against this for us?
    i thought united had a rule gainst it

  • Adamu98

    this blog is a hive of info -great work btw,which id found it before.
    for the us air buying miles promo-i see the max is 100,000miles-but can someone else buy you more miles to your acct?

  • Anonymous

    Nope- max 100k purchased to your account. You can, however, make other accounts and buy up to 100k for them, but its a max of 100k per physical account.

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  • G_ambroz

    Hi , it s 100 K per day. I used this rule – greg

  • Kevin F


    I have a dividend miles reward redemption(using the miles to fly on CO) issue that could use an experts assistance if you have a minute! To sum it up, I’m booking a dividend miles award flight and I see availability of a CO flight on the CO website and on ANA, but when I call US Air and give them the flight numbers, they see them, but say there is no award availability for them. Is this a computer problem or is there anything I can say to help “lead” them in the right direction to book these flights?

    I appreciate any help you can send my way to clear this up and I wish you all the continued success in your blogging and travels!

  • Anonymous

    As long as its Continental Saverpass awards and it shows on ANA then it should be bookable with US Airways miles. You probably just had some clueless reps- I’d keep calling until a smart one can book it!

  • jonathan jasberg

    I’m trying to book *A through US air points going HND-PEK-GMP or HKG-HND. I’d like the have GMP / HKG as a stopover on the way back, but they’re telling me that stopovers aren’t allowed in the same zone? Is this correct?

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  • Adamu98

    any tips on when to phone to avoid the killer wait time-
    have been waiting a number of times for over 30mins with no pick up

    what time is best to phone?

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  • Bellaparks
  • Eric

    Hi, TPG,
    US airway’s website is useless. United website is pretty good and has many Saverpass results.
    It looks that the Star Alliance Website Flight Planning page ( has only StarAlliance reward flights? If so, are these 2 sites good enough? Do I need to use ANA? Thanks.

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  • Dietmar


    Do you think it is possible to book a US Airways Award
    from Thailand to Mexico with a stopover in the U.S.?
    It would be BKK – CUN , CUN – CLT , CLT – BKK.
    It seems a little bit odd to me as their award level from
    South Asia to Mexico is only 60,000 mls/Economy R/T,
    yet from South Asia to the U.S. 80,000 mls/Economy R/T.
    If yes, is it correct that stopovers can only be made at
    the hub airports, for example CLT for US Airways or IAH for United?

    Thank you in advance.

  • Dietmar


    Do you think it is possible to book a US Airways Award
    from Thailand to Mexico with a stopover in the U.S.
    and for how many miles/Economy R/T ?
    It would be BKK – CUN , CUN – CLT , CLT – BKK.
    It seems a little bit odd to me as their award level from
    South Asia to Mexico is only 60,000 mls/Economy R/T,
    yet from South Asia to the U.S. 80,000 mls/Economy R/T.
    If yes, is it correct that stopovers can only be made at
    the hub airports, for example CLT for US Airways or IAH for United ?
    Btw. the booking site
    does not rule out MCO stopover instead of CLT.

    Thank you in advance.

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  • Adamu98

    can you have as many stopovers in the us as you want under 24hrs if you have a return award tkt to us from overseas region?
    (as long as you dont overdo the segments)

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  • Pshunt

    My Air Canada Aeroplan miles are expiring. Can I transfer them to my USAir Dividend Miles?

  • thepointsguy

    No but you can purchase an item through the Aeroplan E store and the expiration will reset

  • Stephan

    yes you can via

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  • Robert

    Is LHR still a Star Alliance hub?

    I was interested in redeeming an award tkt from SFO to HKG with a stopover in London.

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  • Cmgalan

    Although an annual accrual or withdrawal of aeroplan points will extend point balances by a year, each point earned still only has a 7 year lifespan and cannot be extended. The Aeroplan website allows you to request your 7 year expiring points and those are the points that must be used or transferred prior to Dec. 31 of this year. 2013 is the first year that the 7 year rule will apply so there will be many people looking for redemptions and/or transfers this year.

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  • Chris

    Can I book a Dividend Miles award ticket BOS-LAS and then fly LAX-BOS, using the open jaw theory?

  • Chanel @ La Viajera Morena

    Thanks for this post. Was trying to figure out that US Airways site (headache).. hopefully with the new merger the site will change for the better.

  • David

    I am planning for trip in Europe next year, and I want to plan ahead as soon as possible since the US Airways offer of buy miles and get 100% back will be over in 3 days and before its merger with AA, since this is my first time to go to Europe and do award booking, I am a bit clueless here and need your help. I see that you have been travelling to Europe quite often so I would really appreciate it if you could please shine some light here.

    I know that Off-peak round trip with US Airways miles is 35,000 (30,000 if have the us airways master card, and I do have it).
    The 5000 miles discount using your US Air Mastercard is valid if only you book ALL flights using US Airways metal, isn’t it? Since US Air has pretty good off-peak award chart, I think I would go by US Airways.

    I am trying to cover these cities: SFO (home) – PHL – FCO – FLR – LIN (Milan) – VCE – CDG.

    Is it possible if I use this itinerary, all are using US Airways metal:

    From SFO(home) – Philadelphia (connecting) – Rome (stopover) – Florence (stopover) – Milan (stopover) – Venice (destination) – Paris (open jaw) – Philadelphia (connecting) – SFO (back home).

    Is this itinerary even possible? I want to cover those cities in Europe, going from south to north.

    Does US Airways charge fuel and surcharge fees (usually $300-400/person) if I add a stopover in London Heathrow airport?

    Please let me know if you do have better idea on itinerary in maximizing stopovers and open jaw using US Airways to cover those cities, as far as I know US Airways allows 1 stopover or 1 openjaw but I read many people able to get the phone booking rep to do 2 stopovers and 1 openjaw.

    Thank you for your help and advice.

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