Back in January I wrote a post explaining that if you were booking an award where you arrived home from an international flight without any additional connections once you landed in the U.S., that you could book yourself a free one-way award ticket for later.
In general I didn’t think this required a ton of explanation for most frequent flyer programs, some have very generous routing rules like United where you can have a ‘stopover’ (visit one city for awhile enroute to your final destination) and an ‘open jaw’ (fly into one city, then out of another) on an international award.
So if you have a simple roundtrip to Paris, why end your trip when you make it back home? Call that your stopover, and grab a free flight to somewhere else at the end of your award.
But with American it required some explanation. Since most folks think of American’s rules as all one-way awards with no stopovers. If you have a stopover, then you have to pay for an additional one-way award.
So if you wanted to stop in Tokyo on the way to Hong Kong, you pay extra for the flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong.
American does allow stopovers, though, at your North American gateway city. What that means is you can stop in the city you land at before leaving North America (so I might fly to San Francisco or Vancouver, have a stopover for several days, and then continue on to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific). And you can stop in the city you arrive at when returning to North America. Perhaps I’m coming back from Europe and land in Chicago, I can stay there a few days before heading home.
But what if Chicago is home? (Or any other US city with international service on American or one of their partners?)
Then you can land in Chicago, go home, and have booked your award to include another flight somewhere for later. Chicago is your stopover at the North American gateway city.
Yesterday A.J. emailed me a question that I thought was instructive to help explain how this works in practice — and how it works in conjunction with other rules that American has for their awards.
Is it possible to do the following routing:
Hong Kong – New York JFK (stop) – Vancouver? I’d very much like to fly the Cathay Pacific New York JFK – Vancouver flight in first class.
Or does the “free one-way” have to be in the USA?
Simple question, complex answer.
The free stopover (which yields the free one-way ticket at the end, in this case to Vancouver) does not have to be in or to the U.S. The stopover merely has to be in North America, in the first city of arrival after coming back from abroad. In this case New York.
Hong Kong – Vancouver (stop for a few days) – New York JFK would be permitted, for no extra miles, since Vancouver is the North American gateway city.
Hong Kong – New York JFK – Vancouver, though, is not permitted because it’s more flying than is allowed between the origin (Hong Kong) and destination (Vancouver).
On a partner award, American limits you to flying no more than 25% over the published ‘maximum permitted mileage’ for a given set of cities.
The ‘MPM’ for Hong Kong – Vancouver is 7659 miles. American will allow you to travel 25% more than that, or 9573.
(You’ll see that there is a separate maximum permitted mileage for traveling between Hong Kong and Vancouver over the Pacific (PA) versus crossing the Atlantic (AT). Cathay Pacific flying is via the Pacific, and American doesn’t permit travel between North America and Asia via the Atlantic as part of a single one-way partner award in any case — similar in this regard to Delta, but unlike United and US Airways which do allow Atlantic crossings to and from Asia.)
But Hong Kong – New York JFK – Vancouver is 10,520. That’s more flying than you can squeeze in.
Now, each set of cities has a different published allowable mileage. I’ve booked Hong Kong – New York JFK (stop) with a free one-way for later on to Los Angeles (in American’s Flagship 3-cabin first class).
That’s 10,547 miles — so more miles flown than in the Vancouver example above.
But the allowable mileage for Hong Kong – Los Angeles — 25% over ‘MPM’ — is 10,872. So it was permissible.
And in that case, I really only wanted a flight from Hong Kong to New York JFK. But I figured, why let perfectly good flying that’s allowed to be included in the award go to waste? So I booked another flight segment for some weeks later New York – Los Angeles. I figured I would use it, and I could even change the date of that flight without penalty, so why not add it in?
If you have an Expertflyer subscription (they also offer free 5-day trials), you can look up the Maximum Permitted Mileage for any two cities. The KVS Tool software program supports looking up MPM as well.