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Miles collectors are used to adding free oneways to American awards, but may not have learned about tacking a free oneway onto a United award until yesterday. Because of the newness, there is some confusion that I want to clear up by comparing the two types of free oneways. But if you haven’t read either of those linked posts, please do so now. For this post, I’ll use my normal notation to indicate a stopover (//). Here are the differences between the two:

1. AA free oneways can occur on a oneway award, which means you can get two free oneways per roundtrip AA award. Example: DFW-LAX//LAX-MEL, SYD-LAX//LAX-JFK.

This LAX based flyer takes an openjaw roundtrip to Australia. He tacks on a free oneway from Dallas and a free oneway to New York before and after the trip. On a oneway AA award, one free oneway is possible. On a roundtrip or open jaw roundtrip AA award, two free oneways are possible.

United free oneways can only occur on a roundtrip award. Why? Unlike American awards, no stopovers are permitted on United oneway awards, so no free oneways can occur on United oneway awards because free oneways require a stopover. On a roundtrip or open jaw roundtrip United award, one free oneway is possible.

2. AA free oneways are only possible if you live in an international gateway city. Why? Stopovers are only allowed in international gateway cities on AA awards, and a stopover is the tool we use to get a free oneway. For a complete list of international gateway cities for all AA partners to see if you can get a free oneway on an AA award given your home airport, see this post.

United free oneways are possible regardless of your home airport. The examples I posted yesterday should show that. One example I posted yesterday was the return leg of an openjaw roundtrip that routed LIM-IAH-LAX-SBA//SBA-PHX-EWR. A Santa Barbara based flyer can get a free oneway on United from the west coast to the east coast. Santa Barbara is neither a hub nor an international gateway city. This example shows that you don’t need to live at a Star Alliance hub or have an international airport to claim a free oneway on a United award. Even people based at small regional airports can get free oneways on United awards.

3. In order to tack a free oneway onto an AA award, the overwater carrier must have a published fare from your origin city to your destination city. This is a pesky rule that everyone should understand. Example: I am flying Melbourne, Australia direct to Los Angeles where I live. If I want to tack on a free oneway from Los Angeles to Tampa, Qantas must have a published fare from Melbourne to Tampa. Why? Qantas is my overwater carrier, having transported me from Australia to the US. Luckily Qantas does have a published fare from MEL to TPA, so MEL-LAX//LAX-DFW-TPA is a valid routing with a free oneway from LAX to Tampa.

But Qantas does not have a published fare to every airport in the US. For instance, Qantas doesn’t have a published fare MEL to Charlottesville, VA, so I could not get a free oneway from LAX-CHO along a MEL-LAX//LAX-ORD-CHO routing. How do you know if the overwater carrier has a published fare to the city you’re interested in for your free oneway? There are some sophisticated ways to check, but in practice, I just call AA reservations and see if the oneway tickets as a free oneway or not, which indirectly tells me if the overwater carrier had a published fare.

United has no such rule requiring the overwater carrier to have a published fare from your origin to destination. That means United free oneways can go to many more places than AA free oneways.

4. American defines North America as the USA (including AK and HI), Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean for international awards. That means your free oneway can go to anywhere in this huge region (subject to all other rules, especially the published-fare rule.)

United defines North America as the US 49 (yes AK, no HI) and Canada. So you can’t use your free United oneway to get to Hawaii, Mexico, or the Caribbean. But it may not be too much extra to get to those places. For instance on a roundtrip coach award from the US mainland to Europe, it costs only 2,500 miles extra to tack on a oneway to Hawaii. That’s still an incredible deal.

Even better? On that same US mainland to Europe roundtrip, tacking on a oneway to the Caribbean actually decreases the mileage price by 2,500 miles! That’s an amazing pricing anomaly that I documented with a screen shot in yesterday’s post. This means more destinations for fewer miles.

The upshot is that while United defines the region is a more restrictive fashion, it may only cost a few extra miles to tack on a not-quite-free oneway to Hawaii.

The bottom line is that everyone can benefit from United’s free oneways, and not everyone can benefit from American’s. American’s restrictive rules mean that you have to live in an international gateway city and fly a route for which your overwater carrier publishes a fare. But if you’re lucky enough to live in MIA, DFW, LAX, or a handful of other airports with a big oneworld international presence, the American free oneways can be extremely valuable, especially since you can get two per roundtrip.

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