Master Thread: Free Oneways on Delta Awards

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This article presumes a knowledge of how to book free stopovers on Delta.com, which I covered in How to Book Free Stopovers Online: Delta.

We need two things to book a free oneway: a stopover and an open jaw. Luckily on all of its awards, Delta offers both a stopover and an open jaw. That means free oneways are possible on Delta awards though they are more restrictive than with United or American.

Delta even allows one open jaw and one stopover on awards within the continental US, which no other legacy carrier allows. That means free oneways can even be added to awards wholly within the continental US.

Domestic Free Oneway Rules

So far Delta’s free oneways are looking great, but there’s one major problem. Delta’s terms and conditions related to award travel say: “Routing restrictions apply for Award Travel. Valid routings vary based on the operating carriers of the Award Ticket. Any exceptions or variations to these routings may require additional mileage for the award.”

What this means in practice is that to take advantage of a free oneway on Delta, you must live at a city with connecting Delta traffic. Why? Say you live in San Francisco, a city without Delta connecting traffic, and you want to fly to Atlanta roundtrip then have a free oneway to Los Angeles. The award would be:

San Francisco to Atlanta

Atlanta to San Francisco

San Francisco to Los Angeles

Technichally the return is ATL-SFO-LAX, which is not a valid routing on Delta, the operating carrier of this award. Valid routings include the direct ATL-LAX and one- and two-stop itineraries through its hubs.

How can you find fare rules that show the valid routings? I don’t know a free way; I use expertflyer, a paid subscription service. If anyone knows a free way, please put it in the comments.

For those of us who can take advantage of free oneways on Delta awards, I’ll give some examples.

This award is a roundtrip from Los Angeles to Atlanta. After that roundtrip I’ve added on a free oneway to Las Vegas for a later date. ATL-LAX-LAS is a valid routing from Atlanta to Las Vegas. It has to be for this award to price at 25,000 miles.

Here’s an example of a failed attempt to add a free oneway to a domestic award:

This award is pricing at 50,000 miles or the price of two roundtrip domestic awards. The reason is that the return of Los Angeles to New Orleans to Atlanta is an invalid routing from LAX to ATL. I won’t list all the valid routings between LAX and ATL, but they only include travel through Delta hubs, and New Orleans is not a Delta hub.

Why did it price as 50,000 miles? Delta charges the roundtrip price for one way awards. Since the routing is invalid for a single award, Delta considers this two awards–roundtrip MSY-LAX (25,000 miles) and oneway MSY-ATL (25,000 miles)–which cost 50,000 total miles.

International Free Oneway Rules

The rules for adding a free oneway to an international Delta award are different. You don’t have to worry about “legal routings” except that your routing must not exceed the maximum permitted mileage for a routing.

The maximum permitted mileage (MPM) is a number of miles that your actual routing between your origin and destination can be. You can find it on expertflyer.com. See How to Use Expert Flyer.

Here’s an example of a free oneway added to the award of an-Inca loving Atlanta dweller:

After the main Atlanta to Lima roundtrip award, the free oneway is added four months later from Atlanta to Los Angeles. The award prices at 45,000, which is the normal cost for an award from the US to Peru on Delta.

Here’s an example of the same award except that the free oneway is to the Caribbean:

The same roundtrip from ATL-LIM with a oneway to San Juan, Puerto Rico at the end is still 45,000 miles. Why? Open jaws price at 1/2 of each way’s roundtrip price, and both the Caribbean to Peru and the US to Peru are 45,000 miles roundtrip.

There’s nothing special about putting the free oneway at the end. It can go at the beginning instead. Here’s an example on a trip to Japan:

The roundtrip award here is New York to Tokyo. But before that trip, a free oneway from Nantucket to New York is added, a normally expensive route. This example illustrates that free oneways can be added before the trip to your home airport or after the trip from your home airport.

Let me give one more examples of a failed attempt at a free oneway before I summarize the rules:

Los Angeles to London roundtrip should only be 60,000 miles, but this award with a later oneway from LAX to Minneapolis priced at 85,000 miles. What gives?

From Delta’s perspective, the return is London to Minneapolis. LHR-ATL-LAX-MSP is 7,692 miles of flying.

The MPM of London to Minneapolis is far less at 4,813 miles.

Therefore this is not a valid routing between London and Minneapolis according to Delta’s fare rules. That means Delta sees this as two awards, 60,000 roundtrip to Europe and 25,000 for the domestic oneway, that cost 85,000 miles total. This example shows that living in a city with Delta connecting traffic, Los Angeles, is not enough. Your free oneway must also follow a valid routing.

Recap

Free oneways are available on roundtrip Delta awards in any class to any region either before or after the main award trip. But the free oneways have to be part of a valid routing, which in practice means that you need to live at a Delta hub and fly a route without backtracking to be able to tack a free oneway onto your next Delta award.

Footnote

This post says Delta allows one free stopover and one free open jaw, which it does in practice. However the official award tickets T&C on Delta.com (linked above), which contradicts everyone’s experience booking Delta awards online and over the phone. The T&C read in part: “Open-jaw travel is permitted and counts as a stopover…One stopover is allowed per Award.” Combined that clearly means you get an open jaw OR a stopover. You need both to construct free oneways. Luckily the official policy of Delta’s computer and representatives is that you get both.

27 Responses to Master Thread: Free Oneways on Delta Awards

  1. I’m finding this recap series really useful . Do all of the lesson above apply to tickets booked on SkyTeam partner airlines? Your examples use flights on Delta metal.

  2. This is very interesting. Thanks for your blog – I’m a newcomer to it & it has been very helpful. It is difficult to make all the moving pieces work in adding a free one-way as I’m sure you’re aware. I was trying to tack on a free one-way to SEA or PDX from SDF or CVG in the spring sometime after a rd/trip to MSP from CVG or SDF in Jan. Seems pretty difficult only because low level awards want to use non-connecting hubs from CVG or SDF to SEA or SDF. I’ve flown rd/trips to SEA/PDX from SDF/CVG on award tickets & connected in MSP or ATL…but its rarely cost me a low-level award. Why do you think? Sorry if this is all convoluted. Thanks.

  3. Hey Scott-

    How timely, I was actually just trying to book a free one-way on Delta a couple of days to go. I wanted to do SEA – East coast before a round trip from BOS-AMS. I got it to work online for SEA-BOS, BOS-AMS-BOS, but couldn’t get it to work for SEA-EWR, BOS-AMS-BOS (I was thinking of maybe flying to Newark to visit my parents). The first leg is on AS – can you think of any routing rules I might have violated?

  4. TomTTravel aka ThunderStorm

    Hi,

    Where above do you give example of an “Open Jaw”, I have seen you mention “Open Jaws” often and in other posts but I don’t see an Open Jaw in many of your examples. An Open Jaw as far as I know, is flying into one Airport A and traveling by other means to, and then flying out of Airport B.

    Thanks

  5. It would be really interesting to combine a pair of award tickets with a pair of free one-ways to effectively get an entire free round trip. In other words, add one free one way to the end of an award trip, and add another free one way to the beginning of the second award trip, building the free round trip in the middle of the two award trips. I wonder if this would work.

    • I think it’s possible, but it’s hard to get the timing right. I tacked on a free oneway to a Paris round-trip flight. I made the reservation in June, so there was plenty of availability on all routes. I’m starting to plan my next vacation now, and it’s be great to tack on a free oneway to the start of my next award ticket, but I’m not seeing any availability for the dates I want now. If you’re super flexible, or if you plan a bunch of vacations close to each other, then it would be more manageable. But if, like me, you’re beholden to an office schedule, it might be a bit tougher.

    • TomTTravel aka ThunderStorm

      I do this all the time. Also I tack free one-ways on both ends. The outbound and the return.

  6. Cayce Biggerstaff

    Just discovered this blog, never knew about these possible one ways before! thank you so much!! Im an avid churner– I had a quick question, I just booked a First Class reward ticket on Alaska using Delta miles from SEA-PVR — since this is international (but on alaska-not delta), is it even possible to use the extra one way– and if so, am I limited to only Delta flights from SEA– I think the only places they fly from Seattle are Honolulu (the dream add on), Atlanta, and SLC? And, one last question, do I have to find saver availability, even though I booked first class, or do I search a different parameter? Sorry for all the questions! brand new at trying to pull this off– thx again

    • Free oneways are possible on all DL awards–domestic and international. Your free oneway can go anywhere, not just direct flights from SEA. You do need to find saver availability. And you can’t add it now unless you pay a change fee, so you may want to wait for your next award.

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  10. here’s what i want to know: no MPMs are available for DL routes to Mexico. If I type in ‘ATL-MEX’ or ‘ATL-SJD’ at Expert Flyer to find MPM, it shows zero. If I want to construct an itinerary by adding a segment in Mexico on AM, or by using a stopover either in Mexico or domestically on the return, I can’t do anything without MPM. What gives with DL and Mexico? Is this not considered ‘international’? How do you do this?

  11. This is awesome! I tried book a Delata award ticket from LAX-LHR, LHR-LAX, and then LAX to HNL months later, but instead of the award being 60k roundtrip (coach), it came out to 125k. Am I doing something wrong? Thanks!

    • Are you certain every segment had low level availability. I very rarely see LAX-HNL with low level availability.

      • Hey MileValue,

        I am new to this as well. I thought I had 51000 redeemable miles, and found that they were only towards the million miles club. I actually only have 26000 miles. I was planning on booking 2 round trips from MCO to SFO for my anniversary and now can only book 1…=dissappointed wife! Anyways, is there a way using your free oneways tool to make this happen with 26000 skymiles for delta?

        Thanks Jason

        • 26k Delta miles will not get you two roundtrips. You can open up a credit card and get the miles you need.

  12. Is this a valid routing for Delta? All low level award.
    CVG-LAX (stop)
    LAX-PPT (Dest)
    PPT-LAX (Open Jaw)
    SNA-CVG

    Thanks.

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