Maximize Your Miles: Stopovers and Open Jaws on USAirways
[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:
- Understanding Stopovers and Open Jaws <— Read this first.
- Stopovers and Open Jaws on American Airlines
- Stopovers and Open Jaws on United.
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
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.
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.
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.
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: