Maximize Your Miles: Stopovers and Open Jaws on USAirways

Posted By Trav

Maximize! Maximize! Maximize!

[bluebox]The Maximize Your Miles series will teach you how to squeeze the most possible value out of your frequent flyer miles and allow you to take trips of a lifetime for even less!

Other posts in the series include:


USAirways is a great program to stash some frequent flyer miles in because they have a really generous award chart, allow off-peak travel for even more discounts, and are also very lenient with allowing stopovers and open jaws when redeeming frequent flyer miles for award tickets.

Let’s start out with the rules that USAirways has regarding stopovers and open jaws and then discuss how “bendable” these rules (answer: very) and how you can use that to your advantage.

Rule #1:  USAirways only allows roundtrip award tickets.

This isn’t completely true I guess, since they technically do allow one-way award tickets but they’ll charge you the same price as you would pay for a roundtrip ticket, so….what’s the point?

If you using USAirway miles, you are flying roundtrip.

Bendability:  None.  The computer system determines the amount of miles needed, so there is no tricking it.

Rule #2:  One stopover OR one open jaw is allowed per roundtrip ticket.

Bendability:  High!  The actual USAirways representative (not the computer system) determines whether your routing is legal or not, so chances are you can work the system some.

In my most recent booking (which I’ll discuss more in-depth below) I was able to get two stopovers AND an open jaw.

Rule #3:  A stopover must be at a hub of the carrier you are flying.

What does this mean:  Technically speaking, you can only have a stopover at a city that is a hub for the airline that you are on.

This means that if you are flying on Lufthansa you can only stopover in Frankfurt, Munich, or Dusseldorf.

If you are flying on Air China you can only stopover in Beijing, Chengdu, or Shanghai.

If you’re flying on Air New Zealand you can only stopover in Auckland or Christchurch.

So on and so forth.  You can see a list of all Star Alliance airline hubs here.

Bendability:  Stretch Armstrong level.

This rules seems like a huge downer until you realize that almost none of the representatives know this rule, let alone know what all the hubs are for each of Star Alliance’s 27 airlines.

If you happen to call in and catch 1 of the 3 reps who do know these two things, they’ll then have to care enough to enforce it, which is highly unlikely.

If someone does enforce this when you call in to book your ticket, just politely hang up and call back.

There is no way you’ll get two strict, on the ball reps in a row.  Hell hasn’t frozen over yet.

One Real Life Example

I’ll be going here…


and here…all for the price of 1 ticket!

Before I tell you how to bend the rules, let me give you an example of a trip I just booked that illustrates just how bendable these rules are.

The plan was to fly from Tokyo to Mumbai with a stopover in Jakarta, Indonesia on the way to Mumbai.

This would have been allowed under the rules, as it was only one stopover.

However, I decided to press my luck and see how much I could get.

The flight from Tokyo to Jakarta was scheduled to have a layover in Singapore for 2-3 hours.

But instead of wasting a few hours in the airport, I decided I wanted some time to visit friends that I have there.  

I found a flight that left 26 hours after I arrived in Singapore, which shouldn’t be allowed since anything over 24 hours is considered a stopover, and I already had my one allowed stopover in Jakarta.

Didn’t matter, as the rep never batted an eye and allowed me to stay in Singapore for 26 hours.

Next, I was supposed to fly in to Jakarta, but in reality, I wanted to fly in to the island of Bali instead.  

I asked if I could book my flight from Singapore in to Bali but then fly out of Jakarta, two completely different airports on completely different islands.

This would be considered an open-jaw.

Again, I shouldn’t have been allowed to do this, since the rules state “1 stopover OR 1 open jaw” and I already had 2 stopovers!

Again, it didn’t matter, and the rep was happy to allow this!

And so there you have it!  The final itinerary read:

Tokyo-Singapore (stopover)-Bali (stopover)-Jakarta (open jaw)-Mumbai (destination)-Tokyo.

Total cost:  40,000 USAirway miles!

Not bad, not bad at all!

Ok, so how can you do the same thing?  I hope you’re limber, because the tips below are going to have you doing a whole lot of stretching!

Tips to Help You Bend the Rules and Get the Flights You Want

1.  Always call in to book your ticket.

The USAirways award center number is 1-800-428-4322.

If you are flying on partner airlines you’ll have to call in anyway, but if you are flying on all USAir flights, its worth the extra hassle to call in take your chances with a rep than with a computer system.

2.  If a rep doesn’t seem helpful, competent, or is unwilling to help you book the ticket, just politely hang up and call back.

There are plenty of reps out, so don’t waste time and energy hassling with someone.

3.  (Black hat tip)  If you are unable to finagle every little piece you want, get as much of your preferred itinerary as possible and put it on hold.

Then, call back a day later and say you want to make a slight change to the itinerary.

Chances are the rep will see a fairly complicated original itinerary and instead of figuring out whether the change is legal, they’ll take the easy route and simply make the change without giving it much thought.

4.  Be prepared.

The reps will love you if you make their job easy for them.

Instead of calling in and saying “I want to go from New York to Paris to Rome to London to New York sometime in November”, do a lot of the grunt work yourself and then call in with the exact flight numbers you want and spoonfeed them to the rep.

They’ll LOVE this; who wouldn’t, you’re doing their job for them!

Since this is the most important tip, I’ll walk you through exactly what I do each time before calling to book my ticket with USAirways and then during the call.

Step by Step Instructions for Getting Your Desired USAirways Itinerary

1.  Figure out your ideal vacation.

Where would you like to go, where would you like to stop, what days would you like to go, etc.

Sounds elementary, but you’d be surprised how many people call in and try to book without having a real goal in mind!

Figure it out exactly what you want FIRST!

2.  Find the flights you want.

Use AwardTravelr.com or Award Nexus (see my video tutorial for using Award Nexus if you are unfamiliar with it) to find the flights YOU WANT, even if they break the rules.

If you want to try for a stopover AND an open jaw, go for it.

Two stopovers?  Why not.

3.  Write everything down.  

It doesn’t matter whether you make a pretty spreadsheet or use pencil and paper.

Just make sure it is neat and you write down EACH flight number (including layovers), the cities they fly depart from and arrive in, and the times they depart and arrive.

Hint:  I’ll open up a new tab for each flight search I do on AwardTravelr.com, meaning I might have 3-4 tabs of Awardtravelr open at a time.  I’ll keep them open when I call in to the USAirways.  This way, if they won’t my first option, I’ll have a list of other available options that could also work.

Make sure to write down ALL the flight numbers and stops, including layovers. In the screen above, you’ll see two layovers, so I’d write down all 3 flights I would be taking. Also note that I have 3 tabs of Awardtravelr open so I can see all my options while booking in case my first choice isn’t allowed.

4.  Start with some friendly chitchat.

You may be on the phone with the person for a little while, so it certainly doesn’t hurt to be nice to the person who will eventually decide whether you can or can’t bend the rules.

5.  Let them know it may be complicated but that you’ve come prepared.

Before throwing all your flight numbers at them, preface it by saying something like:

“I’ve looked over a lot of options for this itinerary and it is a bit complicated, but I’ve written down all the flight numbers and times I need to try to make it as easy as possible.”

Right away, they’ll be happy that you’ve taken some initiative on your own and they’ll also know that you know what you are talking about.

6.  Spoonfeed them all the information you’ve written down.

If it a pretty complex itinerary, it could take awhile, but stay patient and have some nice lighthearted conversation.

The USAirways system can be glitchy at times, so there might be some downtime.

Again, they’ll love that you already have flight numbers for them and a well-developed plan.

7. Ask for a reference number.

When the booking is close to complete, make sure to get the reference number in case the phone cuts out (spoken from experience).

8.  Ask the representative to repeat the complete itinerary.

Always ask the representative to repeat the complete itinerary to you before you book.

You can’t make changes once you book your tickets with USAirways, so don’t let your dream vacation go down the drain because the rep misheard you.

Better safe than sorry!

Other Things to Remember About Using USAirway Miles

1.  You can put an award reservation on hold for 3 days.  

If you want some time to look over the itinerary and make sure it is what you want, or you need a few days for a transfer to go through, ask to put the tickets on hold.

2.  After you make a booking, USAirways will NOT allow you to change the ticket.  

Make sure it is correct before booking.  This is where putting it on hold can also come in handy, as it gives you time to get all your ducks in a row.

3.  You’ll have to pay a $50 booking fee for international tickets ($25 for domestic) when using USAirways miles.

This isn’t a “telephone booking fee” or a “close-in fee”, its simple a regular ol’ “everyone has to pay this for the privilege of using our miles fee”.

It’s a pain, but its inevitable.  Might as well know it up front.

If anyone is able to get this waived, you’re a better man than me, as I’ve tried numerous times to no avail.

4.  USAirways has an awesome award chart with some real gems in it.

Don’t forget to check their off-peak specials for even more savings!

5.  If you have a Barclays USAirways card you can get a 5,000 mile discount.  

This only applies if ALL your flights are on USAirways.

This discount does not apply to partner awards.

If you can take advantage of it, definitely do so.

How to Book Stopovers and Open Jaws on USAirways 

If you are flying on USAirways flights

You can book directly on usairways.com if EVERY flight you are taking is on USAirways.

The good thing about this is it is convenient and easy.

The bad part of this is that the rules aren’t bendable since you are up against a computer system.

If you are attempting a booking that might be stretching the rules, its better to call in and deal with a representative.

If you are flying on partner airlines

You’ll have to call in and book.  The number is 1-800-428-4322.

USAirways representatives are renowned for allowing ALOT of leeway in the rules, so calling in is actually a good thing.

Still Confused? Have Questions?

If you’ve read through and are thinking:

Stopovers and open jaws are awesome, I want to use them…but I’m still confused as heck about how to actually do it!

Don’t worry, you’re not alone!

In fact, I created Frequent Flyer Bootcamp EXACTLY for you.

I’ll walk you through, step by step, every single thing you need to do to learn about and book stopovers, open-jaws, and free one-ways.

Video tutorials.

Private Facebook group.

Live Q&A’s with me, one on one.

I’ve spent hundred of hours creating the #1 place for people who want to become EXPERTS at booking awards and maximizing their miles and want to do it fast!

4 weeks, and you’ll be an EXPERT, guaranteed!  And you’ll be saving yourself $1,000’s of dollars!

Interested?  Check out the Frequent Flyer Bootcamp page for more information.

I look forward to whipping your butt in class!

The Quickest Way to Earn USAirways Miles

Chomping at the bit to book a 2 stopover, 1 open jaw mega trip on USAirways but don’t have the miles?

Consider getting the Barclays USAirways Mastercard (Best Current Deals page), which will earn you 35,000 USAirways miles after your first purchase and waives the annual fee for the first year.

You can also “churn” this card, meaning you can get the signup bonus more than once.

I opened up one card in November 2011 and a second in April 2012 and have 80,000 miles to show for it!

Questions, comments, braggadocio….all is allowed below!  Anyone else take advantage of the awesome flexibility USAirways allows?

[bluebox]If you haven’t already, check out the rest of the Maximize Your Miles series:


(photos courtesy of jjcb-Singapore, seamcgrath-Bali, Jayesh Bheda-Mumbai, manoske-little kid trespassing)


  1. ben says:

    brilliant. i was talking to my friends of one overlooked miles program US Airway, right on time.

    1. Trav says:

      @Ben- Thanks, I totally agree. USAirways miles might not be the easiest to get since they don’t have monster signup bonuses, but between churning the Barclays USAirways card and the Grand Slam promo you can rack up some decent balances. And those balances go really far, especially when you take advantage of their off-peak awards and super cheap awards chart. If you could book one way tickets, I’d consider them the best program out there.

  2. Jeff says:

    Great post. I really appreciate how detailed you get when describing the ins and outs of miles. It’s especially helpful for a newbie like me. A question (or two) on your churning of the Barclays USAirways card…did you cancel your November 2011 card before applying for the April 2012 card? And, are you planning on applying for the same card a third time (is there a reason this would’t be possible) in another five or so months to get 120,000 total miles? Or am I just getting too greedy with regard to miles accumulation?

    1. Trav says:

      @Jeff- I did not close my card before applying for the next one, and according to all I read and hear, closing your card first doesn’t help get the 2nd card at all, so you might as well leave it open. I am planning on applying for a 3rd card; like you said, no reason not to. I haven’t heard any reports of people getting approved for a 3rd, but I also haven’t heard of anyone trying it, so I’ll be sure to let you know. I MAY close my 1st card before applying for my 3rd. Not sure if it matters at all if I close the 1st, but my 1 year anniversary will be coming up anyway, and I might decide not to pay the annual fee.

      I’ll be sure to let you know. Worst that can happen is I get denied and waste a Transunion pull on my credit.

      1. herman wills says:

        When you applied for your second during the period your first was still open, did you simply make out the second application ( I assume under the same exact USA based name) by using an unsolicited web based application ( barclays or us air?). Was the second summarily approved online – or did you have the occasion to speak with a reconsideration desk – and if so what was the reason you gave for desiring a second ( under the same name) while the first was still open. Have you also tried to open a business application while the personals) were still open. Thanks in advance. I have requested your newsletter. Thanks again.

        1. Trav says:

          @herman wills- Yes, I applied for my second Barclays USAirways card under the same name I applied for the first with and I simply used the standard web-based application (which can be found in this post or on the Best Current Deals page). I was not approved instantly, but the card came in the mail about a week alter. I did not have to speak to the reconsideration desk. I tried to open a business card when I opened my first personal one in Nov. 2011 but was denied without them pulling a credit report because they said I already had enough credit with the personal card from them (even though it is only a pathetic $1,000 credit line).

          If you do have to speak to reconsideration about the second card, I would simply tell them that I wished to separate my spending but that I want to continue to use their product as my everyday card and therefore need a second one.

          1. Stanley Hoffman says:

            I’m glad your experience with Barclays was so poistive. I applied for a Barclays US Airways card, 3 years after I had cancelled my first one and I received a letter that I had already had this card and not only couldn’t I get a signup bonus, I couldn’t even get a second card ever again..

          2. Trav says:

            @Stanley Hoffman- Yeah, that is a bummer. Seems like Barclays is getting tougher in every facet.

  3. Marion says:

    I had my itinerary laid out for an award ticket using US miles but booking on a partner airline (united). Norfolk to San Jose (CR) round trip in January and adding on a one-way Norfolk- Newark in Sept. it came to 70.000 miles plus $ 108 for two tickets on the United site ( ready to book). When I spoke to Us Airways agent, I was told it could not be booked. What now – Call again and talk to a different agent ?
    I told the agent I would like to book a roundtrip with a stopover (Newark) – wrong wording??

    1. Trav says:

      @Marion- Did they give a reason for why it couldn’t be booked? You’d also want to tell the agent that you wanted a stopover in Norfolk, not Newark. The only reason I can think of why it wouldn’t be allowed is because you are having a stopover and an open-jaw (because your original leaving place is Norfolk but your final destination is Newark). Technically, you are only allowed a stopover OR an open-jaw, but usually, they don’t care, so I’d suggest you call back.

      1. Marion says:

        I tried again, once again no luck, agent said Norfolk is not a hub. Return flight San Jose to Norfolk is being routed thru Houston.

        1. Trav says:

          @Marion- Oh, ok. Maybe USAirways is tightening ship a little bit. I wouldn’t like that!

  4. WayWard says:

    If you say:
    >> If you using USAirway miles, you are flying roundtrip.
    What if I use US Airway miles to get tickets with a partner airline like United that does allow one-way award fares. Is that allowed?

    1. Trav says:

      @WayWard- If you are using USAirways miles, you always have to adhere to USAirways rules, whether you are flying with them or with a partner. Therefore, you’ll always have to fly roundtrip when using USAirways miles, even if it is with a partner airline.

  5. Brandon says:

    Hi there,

    Do you think this would be a possible itinerary via calling in to the US airway representatives:

    Rome –> Tokyo (stopover) –> Hong Kong (destination) –> Bangkok (open jaw) –> Rome.

    I have a feeling I’m supposed to leave from the same city as my destination to return to my original city (i.e. Rome to Bangkok, leave Bangkok back to Rome?) Can you please confirm? If so, how can I fix this?

    1. Brandon says:

      Oops, sorry, the i.e. should’ve read Rome to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Rome. Just wondering how I can add in Tokyo and Bangkok into the itinerary :(, any help would be appreciated, thanks!

      1. Trav says:

        @Brandon- The important thing to remember is that technically, you can only have a stopover OR an open jaw. However, I’ve had success, but you need to make sure you are only stopping for over 24 hours twice.

        This means, you’ll need to have a stopover, then go to your destination, open jaw from your destination, and then head back to your original starting point.

        So, yes, your example of Rome-Tokyo (stopover)- Hong Kong (destination, then open jaw to Bangkok)- Bangkok- Rome does have a good chance of working. The only thing that might throw them for a loop is that you are going to North Asia (Japan, Hong Kong) and then trying to open jaw to South Asia (Bangkok).

        Sometimes, you can get them to let you open jaw to a separate region, but it all depends on what agent you get. There is no real hard and fast rule, especially with USAirways. I’d call a few times, and after 3x if they don’t let you do it, I’d give up and just drop the BKK leg.

  6. Diego says:

    Great post!!! Thanks.
    I have a question: do you think EZE-FRA-BKK(dest)-FRA-EZE is a valid route? Some USDM rep said that you can’t change direction. If you’re going to north then you can’t go to south. Is that real?

    1. Trav says:

      @Diego- Pretty sure that should be valid. You can definitely go from North America to Asia via Europe, and I think South America is the same way. Going North and then going South? That shouldn’t make a bit of difference. The only way to go to Asia from South America would be to route through Europe anyway!

      I’d call back up and try again. It should be valid.

  7. David says:

    Just found your blog and I want to say thank you for such a great and amazing travel blog! I subscribing to it and really love it!

    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.

    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 from your blog that you were able to get the phone booking rep to do 2 stopovers and 1 openjaw.

    Thank you for your help and advice,

    1. Trav says:

      @David- Thanks so much for the compliments. Glad you like EPoP, and happy to have you on board!

      As far as I know, it should be able to be done all on USAirways. In order to be 100% sure, check the Star Alliance route map. Then just choose USAirways and see where they fly.

      However, you definitely have too many stopovers to make it work. You’d need to cut down on that. You could do SFO-PHL-Rome (stopover)-another Italian city (destination) and then make your own way to Paris (open-jaw) and fly back.

      But you can’t have all the Italian cities in there. And what I would do is make Paris the stopover and a city in Italy the destination. That is because it is really easy and cheap to get between cities in Italy by train.

      So I’d do SFO-PHL-FCO (destination, open-jaw)-Venice-Paris (stopover)-PHL-SFO. then, just go from Rome to Florence by train, and then Florence to Venice by train, and fly out of Venice. Or, you could take the train from Venice to Milan and fly out of Milan, but I didn’t care much for Milan.

      You can see this post about my trip to Italy as well.

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