Don’t Forget to Add a Segment to the End of American AAdvantage Award Bookings

American Airlines and partner awards don’t allow ‘free’ stopovers (visiting an extra city along the way) except at the North American gateway city.

Many airlines will let you stop over, say, in Tokyo on the way to Hong Kong or Bangkok. American Airlines will charge extra miles for this. (Unless you are using one of their distance-based oneworld awards which require flying two oneworld airlines other than American, which permit no changes to routing after issuance, and which do not allow flying on non-oneworld airlines.)

The exception is that you can stopover in whatever North American city you leave the country from, or first return to.

If you live in New York, you can fly New York – Tokyo – Singapore on Japan Airlines, come back Singapore – Hong Kong – New York. And you might think you’re done! Except that you’re giving up an opportunity. Why not call New York your stopover on the return rather than the end of your trip?

You can tack on a flight, say, to Los Angeles at the end, for any time in the future. And American allows free date changes to awards. The only constraint is that your onward flight has to be completed within a year of the date of issue of your award.

I just booked an award ticket that begins in DC, travels first class to Asia, and returns to New York. There’s no award space back to DC. So rather than calling New York the end of my award trip, I grabbed a three-cabin first class flight out to the West Coast.

I may not use it. But I have a freebie flight (except for potentially some additional airport taxes of a few bucks) in American’s Flagship first class that I can use any time between the last flight of my award itinerary through one year from the date of issue of my ticket.

Almost forgot to do this! I set up the award on hold, called back to ticket, and while I was getting connected to an agent I remembered. There wasn’t even availability in first class on the first date I picked, I told them it was fine to stick me in business class (coach would have been fine too) since I know I’m going to change later. I just wanted the segment in there so that I could make the change without penalty at some point.

American allows a whopping 25% flying beyond the “Maximum Permitted Mileage” for a route, so flying to the East Coast from Asia and back to the West Coast is fully permitted within their award routing rules most of the time.

Flying back from Europe to Los Angeles, why not stopover in Los Angeles instead of terminating your award there? Then tack on a first class flight to Hawaii for alter, and change the date when you know when you’ll use it!

This tip is most useful for folks who live in American Airlines hub cities or cities where their partners offer international service, since you can finish your award “at home” and add on additional flights for later. But in circumstances like I faced on my recent award ticket, where you can only make it back on the award to a hub city and have to buy the short final segment separately, you might as well take advantage of it too!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Hi Gary. I’m about to book HKG-JFK on cathay using AA miles. Can I add JFK-YVR as well? Is canada included?

  2. Hi Gary! Love the blog and great advice! Can this approach be used on other airlines? Also, can it be done on their website without paying separate mies for the extra segment? Thanks!

  3. @Gerald Air Canada is not an AA partner. For JFK-YVR the non-stop option is Cathay. However, HKG-JFK-YVR exceeds the maximum miles that AA will permit for HKG-YVR. HKG-ORD-YVR would actually be permitted however.

  4. This absolutely can be done on the website. Just use the multi-city option on the award booking. if you’re doing it right, the flight/date selection page shows a message like “This international award allows a stopover at Chicago – CHI for no additional miles. Mileage required for both flights is displayed on the Award Legend for the international flight.”

    If you need to subsequently change the date of the added segment, that will require a phone call, but since it’s a change and not a new booking, it should be free.

    It’s also worth noting that we’ve been discussing adding a segment, but what we are really adding is an additional one-way domestic trip. There’s no rule that says the trip must be a single segment (nonstop). If you want to fly LHR-ORD and then ORD-LBB, that’s fine, even though there are no ORD-LBB nonstops, you can route that as ORD-DFW-LBB, or even ORD-OKC-DFW-LBB, as long as the stops are just connections and not stopovers.

  5. Do you have to go to Asia or Europe for this to work? I got DFW-CDG-DFW-OGG to work fine, but can’t get DFW-CZM-DFW-HNL to work?

  6. Amazing. We will soon be booking for a trip from NY to Thailand in January, 2013. Wanted a stopover in HKG on the way home but AA doesn’t allow it, so we’ll do JFK-HKG-BKK on the outbound and HKG-JFK on the inbound. Probably will use CO miles for the cheap BKK to HKG leg.

    However, we own a couple of timeshares and one is in Palm Springs and we would probably go in the early Spring, 2013. So now instead of booking First Class on CX from HKG to JFK, we’ll add the JFK to LAX leg a few months later and only have to pay for a one-way reward back home. First Class would then be 50,000 for the two of us rather than 100,000 – all because you shared this tip with us. As always, many thanks and Happy New Year.

  7. You can’t book more than four segments on AA multi city award online.

    Or I can’t.

    Does this work Gary: LAX-LHR Oct 4 LAX-CDG Oct 6 CDG-LHR Oct 9 LHR-LAX-OCT 9 – LAX-JFK NOV 12

    and then just change the NOV 12 booking to when you want to go — as Exec Plat, is there a change fee?

  8. Hi Gary,

    I want to take advantage of this, but want to ensure I am doing this correctly. Currently my Fiance and I are going on CX JFK>HKG>DPS and then flying back DPS>HKG>JFK all in first class. So it is my understanding that all i have to do is call AA and tell them I want to add a segment to the backend of my trip. I know some people have said the last segment needs to be Domestic, but it sounds like some posters have added final segments that are outside of the US. Would I be able to add CUN to the backend of my trip? Is HNL allowed or will that exceed the mileage? I assume SFO or LAX would be permitted? Was just hoping you might be able to confirm some of these things. Thanks so much for sharing this amazing trick.

  9. @Adam HNL will exceed mileage. You’ll pay a change fee if your award is already ticketed. LAX works no problem,so does SFO, I just did it myself

  10. Hi Gary – Any idea if I make this work for a return flight from Cancun or does it actually have to be a North American gateway rather than an American gateway. Would love your help on this one.

  11. Hi Gary, Is open jaw allowed at the stopover on the gateway city. For eg. Coming back from Europe, can I do LHR-LAX-stop-SFO-HNL? My home base is SFO and no direct LHR-SFO flight on AA. Thanks.

  12. Awesome! Would this work for adding a free oneway/stopover?

    9/9: PPT-LAX (Air Tahiti Nui)
    12/1: LAX-HNL

    I could be flexible on the 12/1 date. If HNL exceeds the mileage, can I add something else to the end to take advantage of this trick? Thanks!

  13. Hi, I live in LA and was hoping to do a trip to both Hawaii and Europe next year, although as separate trips, while taking advantage of a “stopover”. I’ve managed to find availability on HNL-LAX-BCN-LAX-HNL on AA in coach for only 40k miles, but was wondering if I can now change the dates of the first and last legs so that I end up with a LAX-BCN-LAX flight and then a LAX-HNL-LAX. Will AA let me change the dates and the orders of the flight after booking them? Thanks for the help!

  14. What is the best way to add a segment that is over a year away from original booking date? Itinerary has to be reissued with some fees, but is it possible to do it in a way so no to loose original award seats and reset a one year itinerary validity?
    In January I booked OGG-DFW-ATL for Thanksgiving week and in a few months, when summer 2014 schedule opens up, I would like to add on ATL-LHR on BA. I would cost certainly cost more miles, but is it all possible without risking to lose OGG-DFW segment?
    Thank you!

  15. Thanks, I realize that it has to be used within a year. Is it possible to reissue (redeposit miles, pay fees and then issue a new ticket) somewhere in Aug/Sept 2013 but at the same time preserve the hold on the original segments? I am guessing the answer is no 🙁

  16. Thank you in advance for your help. This is my first frequent AA award. I’m looking to book
    ORD-AUD via Amman
    Can I be allowed to stop more than 24 hrs in Abu Dhabi before I continue to my final destination?

  17. @Eva – first of all, this is not a legal one-way award since American will not allow Middle East transit enroute to Africa. So they will price this as two awards, US-Middle East and Middle East-Africa. But because of that, yes, you can stop for more than 24 hours. (Normally, if this were one award, you would not be permitted to stop > 24 hours as a stopover is permissable only at a North American international gateway city).

  18. Thank you for your prompt reply:
    In my effort to avoid BA fuel surcharge, I was looking ways to get to Kenya for my African Safari using my AA award . So RJ offers a flights out from JFK or ORD via Amman to AUH( If I understood the AA general rules correctly this route is via the atlantic) If this route is permitted I wanted to explore a little bit Abu dhabi in my way to Kenya.
    Anyway, can you help to explore another route to Nairobi avoiding LHR and BA, I really having a hard time coming up with something sensible. My 331 days window is coming up soon and I’m getting frantic otherwise it will cost close to 700 each way for fees. On my return to Lax ( my home) from Tanzania I don’t have any choice than to pay the high BA fee . I have been saving my precious 150K miles for years for my dream to Africa. I have spent hours researching ….Please help .. Thanks

  19. Hey Gary – just tried booking BOS-JFK-HKG-JFK (stopover)-YVR and was told I couldn’t go from JFK to YVR without prompting more miles. Is this correct?

    I might go BOS-JFK-HKG and then book NRT-BOS and try to go from BOS to SEA or YVR, if they let me.


  20. Sit on the left side of the plane. Some configs have an extra airbag on the right for lap children, but not on the left. They only put lap children on the right side. I know it’s not all configs, but I have just internalized this rule.

  21. Excuse me, I am new at this but it sounds like I have a lot to learn. I have KLM, Korean Air and JAL accnts and have flown countless other affiliates but do not know how to use or put together mileage. I want to book a multiple stop flight Seoul to Berlin. Can this work for me if I live in Korea and use Korean Air or a Skyteam partner for travel to European cities this summer?

  22. Gary,
    Any chance American Airlines will reconsider putting this feature back with the new changes in the program?
    I have a couple of bookings that I did that I put on hold as well before the announcement. American did tell me that they will honor the old rules based on the ticket issued from this booking. The only thing is that the ticket is still not in the correct date as I have booked it way ahead of time. If I issue the ticket on the hold deadline date I will be theoretically be on the right range of date to rebook the flight to.
    Do you think I should go for it? The ticket has a domestic stopover in the leg which I generally use at a later time(usually up to a year from ticket issuance date or up to a year from the first segment usage. The routing is a jfk-sfo-hkg-mnl route with american on the jfk-sfo route and cathay on the sfo-hkg-mnl route. Issue date of ticket will be april 14, 2014. The first use date will be on August 23, 2014 from JFK to SFO. The sfo-hkg-mnl leg will be booked sometime on May 18, 2015 but since the calendar is up to April 4, 2015 only at this time I will have to rebook the ticket at a later time to the correct date once I use up the jfk to sfo flight segment.
    I have actually done this before with a 100 percent success rate but sometimes American airline can go one way where they say you must complete journey within one year of the issuance date of the ticket vs the other way which is one year from the date of first travel.
    Should I go for this? What are your thoughts?
    Let me know.
    Best regards.

  23. @Michael I can’t imagime them undoing the change.

    But if you issue the ticket you should be able to make free date changes if that’s all you’re changing

  24. Gary
    Do you think I will run into any serious issues regarding ticket expiry. Specifically on using up the ticket one year from date of expiry on a mileage ticket vs using up the ticket one year from date of first segment date use.
    I’m doing a one way segment JFK sfo Hkg Mnl.
    Date of ticket issue will be April 14,2014. First journey JFK to sfo August 23,2014. Sfo to Mnl using Cathay pacific April 4, 2015 but I plan to rebook it to may 22, 2015.
    Let me know.
    Best regards.

  25. @Michael que – you have to complete your journey within one year of date of issue. You’re not going to be able to use it to travel in May 2015.

  26. Thanks gary. Sometimes I do get lucky and get the use beyond that but with the rule changes I am pretty sure American Airlines will be pretty strict in implementing this one year from date of issue rule.

  27. Gary,
    I’m planning trip to Australia using AA miles,
    From. I live in a small town, and there’s a regional airport which is TXK and want to visit Malta and Japan. How will I go about this, to make the first leg etc. I am very new to this so maybe you could help me,and this will be for next year. Thank you.

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