How to Use British Airways Miles: Post 8, The Art of the Stopover
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
This is the eighth installment of my series on maximizing British Airways miles. Since so many of you got in on the super-lucrative 100,000 mile BA Visa sign-up bonus (see details of the current 100K offer), it would be beneficial to check out: General tips, Post 1 – Booking BA Awards, Post 2 – Booking Partner Awards, Post 3 – Oneworld Alliance, Post 4 – Taxes and Fees, Post 5 – Household Accounts, Post 6 – Companion Ticket, Post 7 – Using ExpertFlyer for Partner Award Availability, Post 8 - The Art of the Stopover, Post 9 - Leveraging Miles and Cash Redemptions, and Post 10 - Using Qantas.com to Find Oneworld Award Availability. Also, be sure to look at my post on the credit card deal itself and the lengthy Q&A in the comments section.
I've gotten a lot of emails asking me to explain the super-flexible stopover rule. Basically, British Airways will allow unlimited stopovers on award tickets, within reason. The good and bad thing is that there is very little in the rulebook about this. Whereas most airlines have defined rules (no stopovers, 1 stopover, 1 stopover and open jaw or 2 stopovers), British Airways simply states in their Executive Club Rules:
"13.8. There are no charges for stopovers included in an Award itinerary. Where stopovers are at connecting points on the most direct route between origin and destination."
Simple rules from here:
1) You need to call to book stopover awards (1 800 452 1201)
2) You should do all of your research before you call. I recommend using Britishairways.com to search for partner award availability. However - if you don't live in a major gateway, you should search leg by leg using the one way search function. For example, don't plug in Minneapolis to Singapore and expect britishairways.com to figure all of the routing options out for you. You need to know the routing (an easy way would be to go to travelocity.com and see what Oneworld partner routing options come up). For example Minneapolis-Chicago-Hong Kong-Singapore. In this case, you'd have to mix American and Cathay Pacific, which would make this a multi Oneworld partner award. Multi = lots of miles = bad. So instead, I'd recommend booking an award Minneapolis to Chicago and then another Chicago-Hong Kong - Singapore on Cathay. You could stopover in Chicago AND Hong Kong (no minimum/maximum), but you'd have to call and know which legs are available. I recommend just searching each individual leg and writing down the ones that are available. Once you have everything written down, call and nicely tell the agent you have your itinerary all planned out and let them know you'll be giving them dates and flight numbers. As long as you don't go haywire with stopovers, you shouldn't have any issues.
Key thing to note - be creative. What this allows is a free domestic trip at the beginning and/or end of any award. So even if you want to fly New York- London- New York, you could actually split up the trip into two one ways. At some earlier point in time, say you want to go to Miami. You could build in half the trip as part of your US-Europe award. Miami-New York (Stop) and then at a later point in time New York- London, which would then be the end of oneway award number 1. And then return London- New York ("stopover" for as long as you want), then New York to, lets say, Los Angeles (final "destination"). Get it? Substitute Los Angeles for whatever city AA flies to. The stopover rule works really well in the US because American has an extensive route map.
3) "Most Direct Route" is the key thing to note. Direct usually means you should be traveling in the same direction (east/west). If you aren't a geography whiz, I recommend using Google Maps to make sure that your itinerary makes sense.
4) While stopovers are unlimited, you still need to adhere to the One Oneworld award chart if you want the cheapest priced awards. Award charts: BA Only. BA + 1 Partner. Single Oneworld Partner. Multiple Oneworld Partners. That limits how many stops you can build in because most carriers only have 1 hub in each continent. Main exceptions: American has several hubs in the US and Lan has several in South America. I recommend re-reading my post on understanding the Oneworld alliance to familiarize yourself with the route network.
If you are serious about stopovers, check out this Flyertalk thread. If you have any questions, feel free to write below, but honestly you will most likely learn the limits of this rule by trial and error. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments to help others.