American Airlines, General, United Airlines

Did you know? Free bonus cities on award tickets: 24 hour “layovers”

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There is often a lot of confusion about terminology related to stops within an itinerary. For instance, a layover generally refers to stopping in a city for under 24 hours en route to your final destination.  A stopover means an undefined period longer than 24 hours. And an open jaw means a round trip where you fly into one city and out from another, making your way between those two cities on your own. Stopovers used to be staple bonuses in round trip award tickets, but the move towards the more flexible one-ways has killed this in most cases (although United has, in a way, reintroduced this recently with their Excursion Perk). You can make your own open jaw these days simply by doing a one way award into one city and out from another.

What I want to talk about is the general policy by airlines to have fare rules that allow you to layover in an international connecting city for up to 24 hours for free.  It can be a great way for the intrepid traveler to squeeze in extra cities on a trip without paying extra (save for hotel and airport travel in the connecting city).  It often works on paid tickets as well, though those fare rules are generally different and more restrictive. The key is the second flight must depart within exactly 24 hours. If you land at 10am, a flight departing 9:59am the next day is OK. If it leaves at 10:00am or 10:01am, it won’t work.

I’ll illustrate through a trip I recently booked on miles.

I needed to book a flight to Dusseldorf, Germany from JFK.

Any alliance can get you there, but award availability can be an issue when you are only willing to fly business or higher to Europe 😉

On my outbound, I found a seat on LOT Polish Airlines using 70,000 United miles. Now I could have had a short connection in Warsaw and gone straight on to Germany, but I have never been to Poland! So I intentionally booked a 23 hour layover in Warsaw (the longest the system would give me). So for ZERO extra miles, I now get a day in Poland.

On the return, I found great availability using my American Airlines miles using a combination of British Airways and American Airlines metal.  The transatlantic leg is on AA, so no crazy fuel surcharges or “YQ” as they call it. And on a new plane with international Wifi.

Even better, I finagled a 23 hour stop in London, one of my favorite cities, for free. Actually, most would think I finagled but all I did was know to look for this kind of connection. It was right there on the AA website.

Total miles spent: 120,000

Taxes/fees: Almost zero

JFK to Warsaw (Business class)

Warsaw to Dusseldorf after 24 hour stop (Business class)

Dusseldorf to London (Business class)

London to JFK after 23 hour stop (Business class)