What is an Open Jaw? How Can an Itinerary Have Two Open Jaws?

When I say that United awards can have one stopover and two open jaws, it elicits a lot of confusion. Some people don’t know what an open jaw is while others can handle one conceptually, but not two open jaws. Hopefully I can clear it up.

A roundtrip United award is made up of two oneway segments.

An open jaw happens when the origin of one of those two oneways does not match up with the destination of the other.

For example, consider a roundtrip United award with the two oneway segments LAX -> JFK and JFK -> LAX. This award has zero open jaws because the origin of the first matches the destination of the second (LAX) and the destination of the first matches the origin of the second (JFK).

But consider LAX ->JFK and BOS -> LAX. This award has one open jaw. The origin of the first oneway matches the destination of the second (LAX), so there is no open jaw there. But the destination of the first oneway (JFK) does not match the origin of the second oneway (BOS), so there is one open jaw on this award.

Now consider LAX -> JFK and BOS -> SFO. This award has two open jaws. The origin of the first oneway (LAX) doesn’t match the destination of the second (SFO). Nor does the destination of the first oneway (JFK) match the origin of the second (BOS).

All that’s simple enough. I think people get confused when dealing with United awards that include free oneways. Consider the following United award with a free oneway from Dulles to San Francisco added to a trip to Europe.

IAD -> LHR

FRA -> IAD

IAD -> SFO

These three oneway flights separated by one month each would make up a valid United award, costing 60k miles in economy. The reason is that United awards allow one stopover and two open jaws on roundtrip awards.

As always, a United roundtrip award is made up of two oneways. United would consider the first oneway above to be Dulles (IAD) to London (LHR). The second oneway is Frankfurt (FRA) to San Francisco (SFO) with a stopover in Dulles.

This award has one stopover (Dulles on the return) and two open jaws. The first open jaw is the first oneway’s origin (IAD) not matching the second oneway’s destination (SFO). The second open jaw is the first oneway’s destination (LHR) not matching the second oneway’s origin (FRA).

Open jaws only happen at origin/destination points. They do not happen en route. Sometimes people tell me they want to do a routing like:

IAD -> LHR

FRA -> ATH

WAW -> IAD

They think there are two open jaws, the first between London and Frankfurt and the second between Athens and Warsaw. In fact this cannot be done on one award.

The reason is that one of these putative open jaws is en route. For instance if we consider Athens the destination of the first oneway, there would be an illegal attempt at an en route open jaw with no flight between London and Frankfurt.

Or if we claimed that London was the destination of the first oneway, then what happened between Athens and Warsaw? There would need to be a flight there for the routing to be legal.

I hope this clears up what an open jaw is, what a double open jaw is, and what’s legal on United awards.

26 Responses to What is an Open Jaw? How Can an Itinerary Have Two Open Jaws?

  1. I would caution that there are limits to this flexibility in United’s rules.

    I tried to book NYC to SIN via RGN, then DEL to BUF back, and multiple agents “couldn’t get it to price” as a round-trip. Finally ended up buying them as three one-ways, and took the 17.5K mile hit because a) I can get more miles easily and b) I had already spent hours on the phone, had the companion ticket booked, and was worried about the space going away. Yes, someone with more patience and perseverence might have succeeded at getting it to a round-trip, but I was exhausted. Still a very good redemption.

    United really should publish all their “hidden” award rules, but probably won’t given their (legitimate) fear that the over-entitled would just find more loopholes to exploit.

  2. Using UA award, I was able to book this route but found a little confused after reading your blog
    IST – ASR (stay 2 nights in ASR)
    ASR – DXB (stay 2 nights in DXB)
    DXB – IST

    Can you explain how many open jaw(s) I have here?
    Which route is considered the 2 one way segments and which one is the free one way? Or do I still have a shot for the free OW?

    As always, thank you for sharing your knowledge and information.

    • @Tiara – that’s not an open-jaw. That’s a regular round-trip from IST to DXB with a stopover in ASR.

      • Correct

        • @harvson3 and milevalue – Thanks for the clarification
          That means my stopover is ASR where the RT flight from IST to ASR is about $150.00

          If I cancel the award reservation and change my routing to
          IST – ASR – IST (buy RT ticket)

          Award ticket
          IST – DXB
          DOH – IST
          Stop over in IST for 1 week then
          IST – FRA (free OW)

          Would this work?

  3. Not sure if I have this right–

    JFK – BCN
    BCN – CDG
    TXL – JFK

    so my 1st oneway is JFK to CDG with a stopover at BCN for a week. TXL to JFK would be my open jaw but I could add a free one way using JFK as a stopover– Is that right?? And would I be able to use another open jaw anywhere.

    Thanks for the help again

    • A leg is not an open jaw, so TXL to JFK is not an open jaw. No leg can ever be an open jaw. An open jaw is when the origin of one of the two oneways does not match up with the destination of the other.

      You have one open jaw because the destination of your first oneway (CDG) does not match up with the origin of your second (TXL). You could make a second open jaw by flying out of an airport other than JFK or landing at an airport other than JFK, but you can’t have any more stopovers. Since I presume you live at JFK, there is probably no value (or negative value) in adding another open jaw.

  4. I just found your blog by accident and amazed by the vast knowledge I have learned from you. Thank you so much !

    I have quite a bit of UA miles that I am planning to use to travel to Far East in the near future and I’d like to stop over in Europe. So far, this is what I have planned:
    ORD – CDG (then stay in CDG for one week)
    LHR – CGK (then stay in CGK for one month)
    CGK – ORD

    From what I learned from your website, I have one open jaw and one stop over. I have tried playing around with UA website for another open jaw ORD – LAX vice versa but did not work. Do you know what good options I have for my itinerary ? By the way, I don’t have to go to LHR. And do you know if there is a website that can inform me regarding the miles restriction for open jaw ?

    Thank you again for the help.

    • You are trying to do an enroute open jaw here, which you can’t do. You could do this:
      ORD-CDG (stop)
      CDG-CGK (destination)
      CGK-ORD

      If you want to add open jaws you can, but this already uses all your stopovers (1) and destinations (1), so you can’t stop anywhere else.

  5. Great post! My family of 4 plan to visit Europe in June 2013 (London, Paris and Rome) and visit china in April 2013 (Beijing and xi’an). We have united 240k miles and will cumulate AA 200k miles in a few months. We also have 180k BA Avios. Our home airport is SFO. Each trip will need 60 to 70k mile per person (economy). Is there any way to use open jaw or free stop to use less mile for these two trips?
    Thanks!

    • You should use my award booking service. First, I would try to book now! Second, I would fly with United miles from San Fran to London, Paris to Rome, and Rome to San Fran. Then I would use Avios to fly London to Paris. You could get it all done in two awards for a 240k United, 18k Avios, and about $400 in taxes.

  6. Great info on adding a free one way. I tried it but I ran into a few problems.
    In sept I want to fly from ORD to LHR. I will Eurostar it to CDG and then BRU. I want to depart BRU to ORD.
    Then next June I want ORD to ANC.(my free one way?) I think this is valid…2 open jaws with a stopover in ORD on the return?
    When I try to set it up on the web site, it only gives me an option for a direct flight on the BRU to ORD segment at the stannard award when I know there is saver availability on a connecting flight. What am I doing wrong? Looking for saver level business for the whole route.
    Thanks

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  8. Hi Scott, this is an excellent and detailed post…thanks for explaining things so clearly!

    I am having trouble with United’s booking system. I have a feeling it’s due to complex routing, but figured you might be able to shed more light. Here’s my intended itinerary:

    HKG-TPE-ICN-SFO-PDX destination and open-jaw (TPE, ICN, SFO all as connections)

    SFO-ICN(stopover)-BKK(second open-jaw)

    UA site has no problem with the HKG-PDX portion, but once I try to add in the return legs, it errors out. What do you think might be causing this?

  9. I am trying to do following

    SFO-BOM(Stopover)-ZRH (Dest)
    BERLIN- SFO (open jaw)

    United representative is not ble to get me this one saying to many stop over. Suggesting SFO-BOM and BER-SFO as round trip and buy additional leg BOM-ZRH, which cost me 30k more miles per person.

    Any suggestions and help appreciated..

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  13. Not sure if you’re still reading this, but I a question for you:
    NYC-BOM-NYC (with a connection somewhere in Europe) is a traditional round trip award, no open jaws or stopovers.

    NYC-BOM-NYC-LAX is a roundtrip award with outbound NYC-BOM and “return” BOM-LAX with a stopover in NYC.

    Could I use my stopover and open jaw at the same time? In other words, would the following itinerary be acceptable when booking with United:
    NYC-BOM (destination)
    BOM-NYC (origin)
    DEN-ORD (free oneway, using a stopover in NYC and an open jaw between NYC and DEN)

    I’m not sure if that can be considered an open jaw, though.

    As always, thanks for your time and willingness to answer questions.

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