How Americans Can Exploit US Airways’ Cheap Awards from South America

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Yesterday I talked about some great sweet spots on the US Airways chart for awards originating in South America. Maybe you thought that post was irrelevant for Americans.

But Americans can still get half the value of these sweet-spot awards by using open jaw itineraries.

US Airways sweet-spot awards can have tremendous value for Americans if they’re employed as part of something I’ll call a triangle award.

A triangle award is using three or more oneway itineraries to create a journey that includes two or more destinations. A picture of the itinerary I’ll be discussing in this post should explain why I call it a triangle award.

LAX-ZRH-EZE-LAX

The first leg of this triangle is Los Angeles to Zurich. The second is Zurich to Buenos Aires. And the third is Buenos Aires to Los Angeles.

The reason other airports like Lima, Frankfurt, and London are on the map is that they are layover cities.

The Sweet-Spot US Airways Award

The sweet-spot US Airways award from yesterday’s post that this post will focus on is South America to Europe roundtrip for 100k miles in business class.

That was a 40k mile discount over the equivalent roundtrip award with United miles!

Unfortunately most of don’t live in Europe or South America, so we can’t take full advantage of that incredible price. But we can take half advantage of that huge US Airways discount by flying an open jaw award that includes a Europe to South America segment.

As I’ve explained, US Airways awards are allowed one open jaw OR one stopover. If we use the open jaw by departing the US to Europe, but “returning” to South America, we will get half the benefit of the super cheap Europe to South America awards on US Airways.

The Half Sweet-Spot Award

Specifically an award like LAX to Zurich, Zurich to Buenos Aires will cost 100k US Airways miles, but 120k United miles. We aren’t getting a 40k mile discount, but a 20k mile discount is still like saving almost $400.

The rules

US Airways awards allow one stopover OR one open jaw. Using this technique uses your open jaw, so you can’t have any stopovers en route or an open jaw in Europe.

That means no stopping over in London, though 23-hour layovers are fine, and no flying into Zurich but out of Frankfurt.

Most US Airways agents kind of vaguely somewhat know about this rule, and it’s easy to tell if it’s been violated, so getting around it would be tough.

The other rule is that the distance between the two open jaw cities on a US Airways award must be shorter than both the distances of the flown legs.

In the LAX-ZRH-EZE example, the distance between LAX and EZE (Buenos Aires) must be shorter than the distance between LAX and ZRH (Zurich) and the distance between ZRH and EZE.

(I can’t find the text of this rule anywhere, so I don’t know whether it’s the distance as the crow files between the cities or the actual distance flown given the layover airports. If anyone can find the text of the rule, point us to it in the comments.)

In fact, my planned award runs afoul of this rule. LAX to EZE–the open jaw segment–is not the shortest segment. LAX to ZRH is slightly shorter.

But this rule is rarely enforced if the distances are close. I assume the reason is because US Airways agents don’t know how to or don’t want to check distances.

Whatever the reason, I was able to place the following award on hold with US Airways:

This is a screen shot from United, which wanted to charge 120k miles and $98.

I can’t get a screen shot of the US Airways award with its price, but the exact same flight on hold at US Airways cost 100k miles and $148. (The extra $50 is the US Airways award processing fee.)

The 20k miles savings per person is substantial. It’s almost enough to cover the third leg of the triangle.

Buenos Aires to Los Angeles–the third leg

Buenos Aires to Los Angeles has to be booked as a one way, so we’ll want to use United miles, American miles, or British Airways Avios.

On this hypothetical dream vacation, I want to add another stop in Lima. United doesn’t allow a stopover on oneway awards. American allows a stopover, but only in North America.

That leaves Avios. Avios are ideal for short, direct hops like EZE-LIM on LAN Airlines, which would cost only 10k Avios and $60 in government taxes–none of the nasty surcharges that dog many Avios awards

5k Avios and $125 is actually the best deal, but Avios Cash & Points is beyond the scope of this post. So is the fact that this five-hour flight is operated by a plane with fully flat business class seats that would cost 20k Avios and $65.

Then from Lima, it would finally be time to end the triangle journey. Here the best option to LAX would be to use American miles to fly the direct LAN flight. Not only is the flight only 17.5k AA miles in economy, but since I’d be landing at my home airport, I could tack on a free oneway to Hawaii at a later date.

I’d have to call AA to book a LAN flight, so I can’t show a screen shot.

Astute readers will notice this is an application of my free stopovers on AA awards outside the US trick. Except this stopover isn’t just free, it saves us miles!

Instead of paying 30k AA miles to fly EZE-LIM-LAX without a stopover in Lima, breaking it into an Avios award and an AA award makes the total 17,500 AA miles + 10k Avios, which are worth less combined than 30k AA miles.

Recap

As Americans, we miss out on half the fun of US Airways’ incredible awards from South America that I talked about yesterday. But we can still take advantage of the incredible business class price from Europe to South America by flying an open jaw from the US to Europe to South America.

To finish off the triangle award, simply book a oneway return from South America to the US. If you want a free stopover in South America, try my Avios + AA award trick. And no MileValue award booking is complete without a free oneway to Hawaii tacked on!

So who’s going to book the first triangle award to take advantage of US Airways’ sweet spots on its award chart?


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23 COMMENTS

  1. Open jaw doesnt have to end in the same region the trip originated from?
    Does that mean I can have an open jaw ending in Asia instead?
    Does this rule apply only to US Airways?

      • Both halves of this 3 region, US-EU-SA award, are priced comparable to a RT in either of the 2-regions. What would happen if this were deviated? For example, on LAN, they gave me the hedged price (14kRT, 7kRT became 11k open jaw). I suspect US will give the higher of the two. Have any experience here? Keep up the good work!

        • Don’t know the answer, but your suspicions may be true. US Airways doesn’t give the hedged price for instance if you go oneway economy to Europe, oneway in business. Unless all the flights are on US Airways, they’ll charge 100k (instead of 80k).

  2. Can you (or do you already have) list other airlines stopover and open jaw rules?
    I saw your UA and US rules. Curious about DL AA KL OZ SINGAPORE, etc. thx!

  3. South Pacific to Europe is 100k/150k/180k on United and 100/120/150 on US Airways. You think the pizza slice can be stretched around the world?

      • I was thinking USAir for US-Europe-Australia portion, especially during the winter where US-Europe is extra cheap and Australia is in high season.

        Isn’t it about the same with USAir or United for the Australia-US leg?

        • US Airways is significantly cheaper than United on USA-Australia r/t, United is 80/135/160. US Airways is 80/110/140.

  4. It would be my program of choice if there were one-way awards and if they’d get rid of that awful “award booking fee”, which should be calculated in as, in effect, an extra several thousand miles per ticket, depending on itinerary and how you value your US Airways miles. I still prefer UA and AA programs, but appreciate your work in helping think through where US has some good possibilities.

    • I agree that the award processing fee is like an additional 2,600 miles or so added to the cost of a ticket. If they allowed oneways, they would be a clear star. But I think that’s the lesson of miles. There is no clear star program. Every one has drawbacks and advantages, so we need to use all of them the best way.

  5. Hi MileValue,

    I think I understand the theory behind your demo of LAX to Zurich, Zurich to Buenos Aires and then back to LAX, but wonder what kind of traveler can take advantage of this trip?
    Say if you go to Europe from LAX for business trip or vacation, and when you’re done, tired and ready to go home, you have to go to South America and then more flights via LIMA just to save 20,000 miles compared to United?
    Or am I Looking at this the wrong way?

    • This is only a benefit for those who want to see all these places. If you are tired and want to get home, this would be a horrible award, and you’d be better off just using United miles.

  6. Can you do Europe to North America with a stopover in South America?
    Is the following legal? FRA – BOG (stopover) BOG – DEN (destination) // DEN – FRA.

    And also would like to know if its possible doing first stopover in DEN and then destination BOG. Obviously they would be priced differently. Because one is Europe – North America, the other Europe – South America.

    Thanks!!!

    • Actually those wouldn’t be priced differently. The Europe to North America and Europe to South America cost the same on US. Anything is possible with US agents, but I expect that the stopover in the US en route to Colombia would be allowed but not vice versa because it’s so out of the way.

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