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(Video) Sunday Reader Question: What Are Stopovers and Open Jaws?

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TPG reader Amy asks:

“My husband and I have tried to accumulate miles so we can head to Europe next summer.  I am reading about ‘open jaw” flight and am clueless.  Could you possibly explain in an entry how to maximize miles on these flights?  We’re looking at booking on Delta; when I input our information for a multi-stop flight, it is twice the price/miles as a round trip flight. Color me confused.  I’m not seeing how this is a great deal.”

Well, Amy, you’re not alone. stopovers and open jaws confuse a lot of people, but they can be one of the best ways to reap value from your miles. First, have a look at this video I made explaining what they are and how to maximize them, and then let’s talk further about what each of them is below.

As I said in the video, a stopover is a stay of over 24 hours in a destination (or 4+ hours when traveling domestically), and an open jaw itinerary is one on which you fly home from a different than you flew into at the start of your trip (this is a great option for cruise passengers who often leave the ship in a different city from which they embarked, or for folks who want the flexibility to visit a couple of destinations while still just using the amount of miles necessary for a regular roundtrip ticket.

Your Delta flight should not be pricing at double the price, unless you are combining multiple tiers of awards- in which case Delta will greatly increase the amount of miles that you need. I recommend searching for all low-level awards one by one and then piecing together the flight. Your best bet is sticking to partner airlines, since they are always at the saver level. Check out this post for tips on booking a SkyMiles award.

I’m not exactly sure what your routing is, but say for instance with Delta, you could fly from New York to Istanbul to catch a cruise. Then let’s say it ended in Rome but you didn’t want to fly back to Istanbul to get home. By using an open jaw ticket, you could simply fly home directly from Rome. That’s an example of an open jaw. Let’s take an example of a stopover. Eric, the managing editor of TPG, just took advantage of this (that’s why he’s in France). He flew from New York to Istanbul (destination) via Paris on Air France using Delta SkyMiles. He spent a few days in Istanbul (stopover), then caught a flight back to Paris (destination) and spent several weeks there, and will fly directly back to New York from Paris. It’s basically like a roundtrip itinerary where one of your layovers is a few days (or weeks, months, etc!), and is basically like getting an extra destination thrown in for free.

I’ve been able to take some incredible trips by maximizing both open jaws and stopovers on the same itinerary. Last summer, I used Delta SkyMiles to go to both Spain and Mauritius by  flying from JFK- Madrid, Stopover (Air Europa), Barcelona-Paris, Open Jaw (Air France), Paris-Mauritius, Destination (Air Mauritius), Mauritius-Paris (Air Mauritius), Paris-Newark (Air France) all legs in business class for 120,000 SkyMiles and $450 in fees.

The summer before, I took a trip to the Seychelles in business class that went from business class JFK-CDG Stopover (2 nights), CDG- SEZ Destination (5 nights) – CDG (1 night), and then CDG- JFK all on Air France for 120,000 miles (the number of miles required for a roundtrip in business class from North America to Africa) and $245 in taxes. It was a great way to get to both an exciting new destination (the Seychelles) as well as to spend some time in Paris.

You can check out the links in the text above to read my past posts on exactly how I booked those tickets and maximized Delta’s open jaw and stopover rules.

Those examples were both on Delta (hey, it’s me!), but you can also out these posts on maximizing routing on the major US legacy carriers: American (most strict), Delta, United, US Airways where I talk about the specific rules of each of those programs as well.

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