Mileage tickets can be very powerful – not only are you redeeming miles for a free flight, you can often also include more than one destination for no additional cost. A stopover. Many airlines allow passengers to redeem their miles for an award ticket which features 1 or 2 stopovers in addition to their destination for no additional mileage. Additional taxes will be required.
As explained in this article, a stopover is:
- Stopover: a stop in a city that is not your final destination for more than 24 hours
- example: New York – San Francisco – Honolulu, you spend more than 24 hours in San Francisco and therefore it is considered a stopover (if it was less than 24 hours, it would be a layover)
not to be confused with a layover:
- Layover: a connection (less than 24 hours) between two flights on one ticket
- example: New York – London via Frankfurt, the layover is in Frankfurt as you are just “connecting”
Basically, a regular round-trip ticket consists of something like Seattle to Los Angeles to Seattle, all on one ticket. This one would have no stopovers. However you could add in San Francisco and fly something like Seattle to San Francisco to Los Angeles to Seattle and stopover in San Francisco while making your destination to be Los Angeles.
Which Frequent Flyer Programs Allow Stopovers?
Most frequent flyer programs allow you to stop in one additional city in addition to your destination city – a stopover. Here are the rules:
- Air Canada Aeroplan
- up to 2 stopovers in addition to a destination (3 cities total)
- one open-jaw in addition to a stopover and destination (4 cities in total)
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
- one stopover allowed, even on a one-way ticket
- two stopovers on a round-trip ticket
- British Airways Executive Club
- unlimited stopovers – each flight is priced separately
- Lufthansa Miles & More
- up to 2 stopovers and/or 2 open-jaws on a round-trip ticket
- United Airlines MileagePlus
- one stopover and/or one open-jaw allowed on a round-trip ticket
Those are the major frequent flyer programs that allow stopovers and open-jaws on award tickets. An open-jaw is if you fly from city A to city B and then fly from city C back to city A, but have no flight between city B and C.
American Airlines and Delta Air Lines do NOT allow stopovers. However, you can have long layovers of up to 24 hours on an award ticket.
How To Book A Stopover
I always search one-way and then put together the entire itinerary once I have found all of my desired flights. For example, if my trip was Seattle to New York (stopover) to London (destination) to Miami (stopover) to Seattle, I would search each leg of the trip separately and find award availability.
- Seattle to New York
- New York to London
- London to Miami
- Miami to Seattle
Once I have found my desired flights on all of my legs of the trip, I would proceed to book. You can book most simple itineraries online with airlines, but more complicated ones that involve stopovers and open-jaws will have to be booked over the phone.
You will have to read the rules of your frequent flyer program first to ensure they allow the number of stopovers you would like. Remember that you can add in additional trips during your “big” trip with additional award tickets and cash tickets. For example, while in London, you could add in short flights around Europe using British Airways Avios.
How Long Can Your Stopover Be?
As long as you want! It has to be longer than 24 hours (because if it isn’t, then it is considered a simple layover). Keep in mind that you can only book at most 11 months prior to your last flight in the journey – so you cannot have a one year stopover, it all has to fit into 11 months.
I love to book long stopovers and then add-on additional tickets using cash or other miles. For example, when I had a stopover in Paris (on my way to Cape Town), I added flights from Paris to London to Stockholm to Krakow to Vienna to Zurich to Paris. Some were paid with cash and some with miles.
Can You Change Your Ticket During Your Journey?
It depends on the frequent flyer program. For example, with Aeroplan, you can. Even if I was in the middle of my trip and decided to fly somewhere else or extend my trip, I could. However, it is important to note that the flights you flew will still be taken into account when changing your future flights. That is, the entire itinerary will have to be legal and within the rules – otherwise no changes will be allowed.
Some airlines like American Airlines, allow free date and time changes on award tickets – but the origin and destination has to be the same. If you know you will have to travel between two cities exclusively, there is no harm in ticketing something and changing the date later as better availability opens up.
Flying Round the World with Stopovers
Traditional Round the World award tickets can cost a fortune – however, they don’t have to thanks to Aeroplan. Aeroplan allows up to 2 stopovers in addition to your destination on an award ticket. This means you can fly around the world and stop in up to 3 places for the same cost of a simple round-trip. For example:
- New York – London (stopover)
- London – Sydney (destination)
- Sydney – Tokyo (stopover)
- Tokyo – New York
Obviously you will be making many flight connections with this trip, but it would be allowed to book an award ticket like this. Best of all? It would price for 160k miles in Business Class for the entire trip (that’s how much Aeroplan charges for a round-trip ticket to the South Pacific from North America).
Award ticket stopovers are very powerful. They allow you to visit additional destinations for no additional cost in mileage. You will have to pay the taxes and fees on the additional flights, but no miles will be collected. It is important to note that the rules of the frequent flyer program you are using will always apply – not the rules of the airlines you will be flying.
My favourite way to put together a multi-stop journey is by searching each leg of the trip individually using United.com and then booking it all together once I have located all of my desired flights. Remember you can use United’s website to search for award availability and then call any Star Alliance program to book the flights you found.
The best multi-city tickets involve 3 things: Sand, Snow, and City. You can really have fun with award tickets and stopovers and get very creative.