How to Get Almost Free Oneways on AA Awards If You Don’t Live at an International Gateway City


Update: The trick in this post doesn’t work anymore since American Airlines has eliminated all free stopovers on awards as of April 2014.

Yesterday’s post greatly expanded the number of places you can get a stopover on American Airlines award by combining an AA award with a cheap Avios award. I’m sure many of your minds jumped to the big question: if you can get a cheap stopover almost anywhere, can you get a cheap oneway too? Yes!

We got great value out of the almost free stopovers outlined yesterday. But we can get even better value out of an almost free oneway obtained by following almost the same steps–just replace the desired stopover city from yesterday with your home airport.

The steps are:

  1. Book an international AA award with its North American international gateway city at an airport near your home airport, and a free oneway from that airport to your desired free-oneway destination.
  2. Book a direct AA flight roundtrip from the international gateway city to your home airport with Avios.
  3. Fly the two itineraries. Origin to your home airport, home airport to the destination of the free oneway.


Example of an almost free oneway: Alyse lives in Pittsburgh, PA and has a stash of AA miles. She wants to take her honeymoon to Spain. She’s heard about AA’s free oneways and wants to tack a free oneway to Hawaii onto her award. But Pittsburgh is not an international gateway city. Once Alyse learns about this AA and Avios combination trick, an almost free oneway is within her grasp. Here’s how:

Alyse sees that JFK is a nearby international gateway city with direct AA flights to Barcelona. And she notes that AA has a direct flight between Pittsburgh and JFK. Alyse would book two awards, with sample dates:

AA award, 50,000 miles, free oneway to Hawaii after the main trip:

September 15, 2012: AA business Barcelona-JFK

March 15, 2013: Hawaiian Airlines first JFK-Honolulu

BA award, 9,000 Avios:

September 15: AA coach JFK-PIT

March 15, 2013: AA coach PIT-JFK

Those are the awards Alyse would book, but this is what she would actually fly:

September 15: Barcelona to Pittsburgh

March 15, 2013: Pittsburgh to Maui

If Alyse didn’t know this trick, she would have booked Barcelona to Pittsburgh in business class for 50,000 AA miles and been bummed that she missed out on the free oneway fun. But with this trick Alyse can book Barcelona to Pittsburgh in business class and Pittsburgh to Honolulu in first class for 50,000 AA miles and 9,000 Avios. So Alyse would be adding a first class journey from Pittsburgh to Honolulu for only 9,000 Avios! That’s an incredible deal.

To get the most out of this deal, you must live close to an international gateway airport, so that a roundtrip is only 9,000 Avios. And you should book a premium cabin award with your AA miles. Why? 9,000 Avios for a oneway to Hawaii in coach is good, but 9,000 Avios to Hawaii in first class is better.

Your almost-free oneway can go anywhere in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, or the USA, subject to the four rules that govern any AA stopover.

If you want another example of a 9,000 Avios oneway, reread yesterday’s post, but assume that the award booker lives in Tampa instead of Los Angeles. That would mean that LA to Tampa is a 9,000 Avios oneway tacked on before the main award.

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    • No, not even close. AA sees this award as BCN to HNL, not BCN to JFK. The MPM for BCN to HNL is not going to be exceeded by the relatively direct BCN-JFK-HNL.

        • exactly. I would find the space in advance then I would call with the flight numbers, and tell the agent the exact flights.

          • that’s really great. I am looking to do similar coming from North Asia with a stopover in New York/Boston and on to Miami a few months later from where I would look to fly down to South America on a separate award. Thanks. Your website has the most substance of all of them.

  1. I am confused. How do you get the JFK to HNL portion to be in First if you are only booking a business class ticket from Barcelona. Also 9000 avios to do the RT from PIT to JFK is on AA saver space and is only economy. Are you saying that you could get those hops in first also? When you do these awards do you pay for the other half of the flights? Ie outbound to barcelona, and inbound from HNL, or is there a tick to pulling another one of these to make up those flights. The best I can figure is using miles to do the other half, if you try a free one way you could only get your return flight from HNL, and you would have another one way to some other international destination.

    • If you fly an international business class award on any of the legacy carriers, AA included, your domestic legs can be in first class on planes that offer only two classes of service. HNL-JFK on Hawaiian only has two classes, coach and first, so you can get first on an international business class award.

      The outbound to BCN and the return from HNL can be purchased with miles or cash. If you use miles on the outbound to BCN, you can get another almost free oneway to Pittsburgh before that trip. Do you see how?

      • no i don’t see how :). If I were booking outbound to BCN then I could only get the stopover in the gateway city i leave from, so I gues I could get a PIT-JFK free but not sure how I would get a free one way to PIT

        • If you are booking JFK-BCN, you can have a free oneway to JFK before the trip. So let’s say you book LAX-JFK-BCN. If you live in PIT, you just add a 9,000 Avios award of JFK-PIT-JFK and now you’ve got LAX-PIT as a 9,000 Avios oneway before the main PIT-BCN.

          • ahh, now i see. This stopover stuff takes a whole new way of thinking. I guess I have just been thinking linear in the flight world for so long it takes me some extra effort to visualized the possibilities

  2. I’m confused – even though your example describes someone who wants to fly roundtrip to Barcelona, your sample itinerary is only a one-way from Barcelona to Pittsburgh, plus the added trip to Hawaii? So she would still need to book separate awards to get from Pittsburgh to Barcelona, as well as Honolulu back to Pittsburgh? At the end of all that, what would be the projected savings mileswise, versus simply booking two roundtrips from Pittsburgh, one to Barcelona and one to Hawaii?

    • PIT-BCN r/t is 100k in biz
      PIT-HNL r/t is 75k in biz
      for 175k AA miles

      Under this method for 100k AA miles and 9k Avios, she can get PIT-BCN r/t and PIT-HNL. HNL-PIT oneway in biz would be 37.5k or coach is 17.5k, so the savings are substantial.
      Also on the outbound, she can add an almost free oneway to PIT before the outbound, since free oneways can be added to AA awards in both directions.

  3. This is so wild! I feel like I’m cracking the code here for frequent flier miles. I am reading every word on your blog and it’s slowly sinking in. I am, however, traveling with a family, so don’t forget tips for those of us who are trying to streeeeeechhhh our miles to include 2 or 4 people.

  4. I’m a bit confused, I thought layovers are max 24 hours? How are you stopping for days on end for both this one way example and on the round trip example? Is it because you have to book Business/First? Also, whats the max number of days out you can have between the 2 legs(BCN-JFK and JFK-HNL).

    I live in DFW, but I got to NYC often, but would love to have a stop there and then head over to europe then back. Alternatively, go to NYC, then head down to GIG/GRU as I go once a year.

    This would greatly stretch the worth of my AA/Avios miles.

  5. The stopover has nothing to do with the class of service. You are simply allowed stopovers at the North American international gateway city. The stopover can be as long as you like. The only thing is that all travel on the award must be completed within one year.

    Layovers outside the USA must be under 24 hours or they are an illegal stopover causing your award to be broken into two awards.

  6. Quick question. I was trying to do the following just to see if it prices out ok:
    YYZ-DFW Oct 7
    DFW-LIS Nov 21
    CDG-DFW Dec 2
    DFW-HNL Jan 20
    each leg if booked separately shows up as Economy Milesaver Off-Peak, but if I did this all at once or in 2 one way booking, the availability changes. Any ideas?

    • The availability changes? Flights that showed milesaver availability stopped showing as that? That is inexplicable. Glitch? That shouldn’t happen.

  7. I was trying to book a one-way on Etihad from India to BOS using AA miles. Using this I thought I would add on a free one way to HNL in March but every time an agent tries to do this over the phone the award prices as two awards. Does Etihad have to have a published fare to HI for this to work? Thanks.

      • Thanks for the response Scott. It seems like this this will usually only be possible using BA awards and paying the surcharges unless you can find AA metal for the international legs (making it less attractive)?

        Also, both the phone reps I spoke with said there was total mileage restriction on the 67.5k SAAver awards and that that the theoretical award from BLR (India) to HNL (US) would exceed that. I haven’t read anything to that effect anywhere, but was wondering if you knew anything about that or whether they were just playing it fast and loose.

        Thanks again.

  8. If your incoming flight using AA points gets delayed and your connecting flight is using Avios then you will get completely screwed. I recently had a Revenue AA tickets from LGA to ORD, which was connecting to a ORD-MKE flight using Avios but on AA metal. My LGA-ORD flight was getting delayed and I would have missed the ORD-MKE flight. AA refused to help me saying it is a BA ticket and repeatedly refused to do anything. BA refused to do anything because the ORD-MKE flight was on time and they were not responsible for LGA-ORD.

    Ultimately my flight got there in time for me to run and catch the connection. Otherwise it would have been a nightmare at ORD if I had missed the connection.

  9. Do these rules still apply?
    I tried pricing out a similar itinerary on AA and I was given separate redemption amounts for each leg on a trip from FCO-JFK-HNL using similar dates as above.
    Also when looking at the BA portion using avios, I was quoted 18,000 for SYR-JFK roundtrip


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