Introduction to Free One Ways


A free oneway is a oneway itinerary to or from your home airport added on to another award for no additional miles. For example, adding New York to Honolulu onto an American Airlines award from London to New York costs zero additional miles, so New York to Honolulu would be a free oneway.

While the rules differ by airline–some form of a free oneway is possible on United, American, and Delta awards–the “trick” that unlocks a free oneway is constant: a stopover at your home airport.

Most airlines allow one or more free stopovers on award tickets. If we take that free stopover at out home airport instead of en route, we can unlock a free oneway.

For instance, in the example I already gave of London to New York with a free oneway to Honolulu, we are taking the one free stopover per direction on American Airlines awards at our home airport of New York. This stopover can last for months. Then months later, we can take a free oneway to Hawaii–effectively cutting our airfare in half for a second vacation.

Stopping over at your home airport is the key. No airline agent will know what a free oneway is. You’ll never read about free oneways on lists of airline award rules. An airline agent–and an airline award-pricing computer program–will see your free oneway as a stopover and an open jaw because that’s all it technically is. But we’ll combine that stopover and open jaw into half of our next vacation!

This diagram shows a typical free oneway from Newark to Los Angeles after a main award from Newark to Frankfurt roundtrip. This award has one stopover, at Newark on the return. This award has one open jaw. Its origin–Newark–doesn’t match its destination–LAX.

Despite each airline having its own free oneway rules, there are certain rules that are universal:

1. All award travel must be completed within one year of booking the ticket. This limits the gap between your main award and the free oneway. For instance, if you book an award on January 1, 2013, all segments of that award–including any segment that’s part of a free oneway–must take off by December 31, 2013.

2. Your free oneway can be before the main award to your home airport or after your main award from your home airport. To use the Newark-to-Frankfurt main award as an example, you can either add a free oneway to Newark before the main award or a free oneway from Newark after the main award.

Hopefully, this is intuitive. You can’t have an award like:

Newark to Los Angeles

Newark to Frankfurt

Frankfurt to Newark

That Newark to Los Angeles is not attached to the main award at all. To correct this, you would need to change the direction, so that the award was LAX-EWR//EWR-FRA//FRA-EWR or change the timing, so the award was EWR-FRA//FRA-EWR//EWR-LAX.

3. The cabin for your free oneway will be the same as the cabin for the rest of its direction. If your free oneway is prior to your main award’s outbound, your free oneway will be in the cabin of your main award’s outbound. If your free oneway is after your main award’s return, your free oneway will be in the cabin of your main award’s return.

And for the purposes of this rule, international business class and two-cabin domestic first class are the “same cabin.” For instance, I am flying Qantas business class from Melbourne to Los Angeles, using American miles. I tacked a free oneway from Los Angeles to Tampa onto the award for a month later in American Airlines domestic first class because domestic first is allowed on international business awards.

These are the three major constant rules. Other rules like how many free oneways you can get, where the free oneway can go, and whether the free oneway is free or costs a small amount of miles vary by airline.

Finally I want to answer the number one question I get about free oneways. How do you get back after a free oneway?

Any way you want. You can book a return from a free oneway as a oneway award. I am returning from my free oneway to Tampa on a oneway Southwest award. Avios awards are very cheap if your route has a direct American Airline flight. Or United and American allow domestic oneway awards for 12,500 miles.

Alternatively you can buy a oneway cash ticket to return. Most US airlines charge half price for oneway cash tickets compared to roundtrips, so this is a fine option.


This was a bare bones introduction to free oneways on award tickets. Future installments will look at the specifics for free oneways on each legacy carrier.

I’ll also look at some more advanced, cool routings that free oneways open up.

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  1. You are certainly the expert on this in the blog community and have had some eye-opening contributions in the past. I’ll be looking forward to seeing the updated series. One of my best uses of your techniques in a slightly different way has been to add a free stay in Hawaii to an upcoming pair of redemptions. I have a UA ticket to Asia which already uses up the stopover privilege within Asia, but simply end the return trip in Hawaii instead of coming home. (This actually calculated out at 57.5 miles instead of the 65k that a full round trip award would have been.)

    Then for my next award trip, on AA miles to Europe, I simply started the booking with a free one-way from HNL to ORD, connecting with 9,000 Avios round trip to my home airport for the span between award trips, then onward from ORD to Europe later. I ended up spending the 9,000 extra Avios to arrange for the stay in Hawaii, but saved 7,500 UA miles in the process, which to me is essentially a wash – or effectively a truly free extra stopover in Hawaii. I would never have had the idea without reading this blog.

  2. My main concern is how do you convince the agent? They simply don’t seem to understand this concept and they will argue with you for ever

  3. Glad you’re doing a series of posts on this topic–the diagram in particular is very helpful! As is the overview of the rules that apply across all airlines.

  4. This is the kind of stuff I value your blog for! And that will get my CC referral.

    Leave the VR/ BB hype to the others (except FM who genuinely deserves credit!). But your insights, just as this one, are unique!!!

  5. Does it have to involve International travel or can you have a stop-over (free one way) on a domestic trip such as ATL –> PHX –> ATL –> BOS with a month long stop-over before boston? Also, if you do the free one-way first (such as LAX –> EWR –> PAR –> EWR), and you decide you don’t want to use that free one-way from LAX –> EWR (i.e. booked on a whim to take advantage of the free one-way), is the rest of your trip automatically canceled or can you just terminate that portion of the trip?

    • Good questions. I will cover which airlines allow free oneways on domestic awards in the series. Delta allows free oneways on lower-48 awards. United allows them on awards to Hawaii.

      Don’t make your whim free oneways before the main award. Not showing up for the first segment of an award will cancel the whole thing. Cancelling the first segment will cost you the change fee, $150 on most airlines.

      • I’ve wondered too about a “whim free oneway” slated after the main award but not flown. Technically this is a change too if you don’t fly it, and have you heard of them coming after anyone for a fee for that?

        At first glance, it may seem that all you’ve done is not taken a free trip when your final destination flown would have been at the same mileage level if that was all you booked. But actually you’ve held a seat out of inventory that they might have awarded or sold to another customer, so it could be a problem to the airline, as well as a disservice to the other customer who could not get the seat you booked but didn’t use. The question is whether in booking a “free one way” after the main flight, is it for practical and ethical reasons important to be pretty certain you’ll fly it, or is it OK to book it speculatively and await developments?

  6. Hi, I need to book a one way awards ticket on Delta from Rome to NY and was wondering how I can make a free oneway out of my ticket. I was hoping to make a stop in London, Tel Aviv or Miami. Are any of these viable?

    • You’re not looking for a free oneway then. You are looking for a stopover. You may be able to stop in one of those places–definitely London. The other two would be tough because routing through them will probably cause you to exceed the MPM. Wait for the Delta post for more details on what MPM is or google MPM on the top right of this page.

    • No, it’s a revenue based program. And even the “standard” awards can’t have stopovers, which are a requirement.

  7. Scott

    Can you do a free one way .. eg Boston to AMS, AMS to Boston, Boston to Atlanta (free one way) since Boston is not a Delta HUB technically ?

  8. Thank you for replying. Following up on this – using the same example

    Boston to AMS, AMS to Boston, Boston to Atlanta

    If my Bos-AMS-Bos was on Low Award Coach

    and the free one way Bos to Atl is on High Award.. I imagine the whole trip will be classed as High Award

  9. What if I already fly open jaw and not a round trip, can I still use this? I’ll use my last trip from San Francisco to Spain as an example:
    Can I add a free SFO->Hawaii for example?

    • Depends on what type of miles you’re using. Read the free oneways post about each individual type of mile.

  10. This all looks great but I don’t understand how you control the duration of a layover. All my layovers are a few hours…

  11. I’m sorry the terminology doesn’t really make sense to me. At least, I can’t figure it out.

    I can’t figure out how you have a “stopover” AFTER or BEFORE your primary trip.

    if it’s a stopover, it has to happen DURING/IN THE MIDDLE of your trip. It has to be ON THE WAY to somewhere else.Otherwise you are not stopping over. You are adding onto.

    I understand that you are simply *calling* it a stopover even though it’s not. All these nice people seem to understand and like your diagram but it is incomprehensible to me. Obviously it shows you going to LAX after your main trip. But it doesn’t show HOW. How did you get the airline to schedule that flight for you?And to call it a “stopover” and to let you take it months later? Where in the flight search box do you enter all of that information?

    You seem to be saying that Newark is BOTH your final destination at the end of the trip, AND your designated stopover city. How do you designate it as a stopover? Who do you tell to to so designate this? Again, where in the flight search boxes does one put all of this information so that it’s interpreted correctly and timed right and called the right thing (i.e. a stopover even though its after the main flight?)

    I really need to see the very specific step by step instructions. Sorry I am slower than others to get this, but I suspect there are many readers who also didn’t understand and didn’t speak up

  12. i have used your booking service on multiple occasions with great success. I am now looking at booking a flight from SFO (or SMF) to MEL next November. Is a free one way possible and if so can you give me a few destinations where it is possible?


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