Regular readers know that there are four rules to getting a free stopover on AA awards. The first one is:

1) Stopovers must occur at the North American International Gateway City. The North American International Gateway City is the last city in North America you fly out of on awards to other regions from North America. On awards from other regions to North America, the North American International Gateway City is the North American city in which you first arrive. North America is defined as the 50 US states, Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, Bahamas, and the Caribbean.

The first rule I listed is that the stopover must be at the International Gateway City. There is one rare exception to this rule. Reader Dan C. told me that a while back he had taken a two segment flight with one flight number, and he had been able to get a free stopover in the second of the two North American cities.

Confused? This should make it easy. Qantas flies a flight JFK to LAX to Sydney. The plane touches down, refuels, and takes on new passengers in LAX. But Qantas markets the whole thing–both segments–under one flight number. I wanted to check whether I could get a free stopover in New York on an award on these flights.

New York is not the international gateway city; Los Angeles is. Los Angeles is the last North American city before leaving the region. But I wanted to know if Dan C.’s trick still works. Both segments are under the same flight number, so maybe AA’s computers would allow a free stopover in both cities.

To test it out, I called AA and tried to book an award from Boston to Sydney in business class with a free stopover in New York. It worked!

As you can see, there is an eight month stopover in New York on this award. Also I’ve highlighted that both segments JFK-LAX and LAX-SYD are Qantas flight 108. Unfortunately because I reserved this by phone, the online record doesn’t show the price. But the agent told me the price was 62,500 AA miles and $31.20, which is the normal price for a oneway business class award between the US and Australia.

That miles price means that this is a free stopover. If instead it weren’t a free stopover and had priced as two awards, the miles price would have been 87,500 miles.

How can we exploit this? Any time an international AA or partner flight lands in two North American cities, but operates under one flight number, we can take a free stopover in either North American city. And if we live in either, of course, we can tack on a free oneway from either city. (In the example above, imagine we lived in NYC. Then BOS-JFK is a free oneway preceding the main JFK-SYD award.)

Off the top of my head, the only other such flight I can think of is Cathay Pacific’s New York to Vancouver to Hong Kong flight. On an award on that flight, we could have a free stopover in Vancouver or New York. So both examples I know of benefit New Yorkers, but I’m sure there are several other flights that meet our criterion. If you know of any, put them in the comments please.

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