When I say that United awards can have one stopover and two open jaws, it elicits a lot of confusion. Some people don’t know what an open jaw is while others can handle one conceptually, but not two open jaws. Hopefully I can clear it up.

A roundtrip United award is made up of two oneway segments.

An open jaw happens when the origin of one of those two oneways does not match up with the destination of the other.

For example, consider a roundtrip United award with the two oneway segments LAX -> JFK and JFK -> LAX. This award has zero open jaws because the origin of the first matches the destination of the second (LAX) and the destination of the first matches the origin of the second (JFK).

But consider LAX ->JFK and BOS -> LAX. This award has one open jaw. The origin of the first oneway matches the destination of the second (LAX), so there is no open jaw there. But the destination of the first oneway (JFK) does not match the origin of the second oneway (BOS), so there is one open jaw on this award.

Now consider LAX -> JFK and BOS -> SFO. This award has two open jaws. The origin of the first oneway (LAX) doesn’t match the destination of the second (SFO). Nor does the destination of the first oneway (JFK) match the origin of the second (BOS).

All that’s simple enough. I think people get confused when dealing with United awards that include free oneways. Consider the following United award with a free oneway from Dulles to San Francisco added to a trip to Europe.

IAD -> LHR

FRA -> IAD

IAD -> SFO

These three oneway flights separated by one month each would make up a valid United award, costing 60k miles in economy. The reason is that United awards allow one stopover and two open jaws on roundtrip awards.

As always, a United roundtrip award is made up of two oneways. United would consider the first oneway above to be Dulles (IAD) to London (LHR). The second oneway is Frankfurt (FRA) to San Francisco (SFO) with a stopover in Dulles.

This award has one stopover (Dulles on the return) and two open jaws. The first open jaw is the first oneway’s origin (IAD) not matching the second oneway’s destination (SFO). The second open jaw is the first oneway’s destination (LHR) not matching the second oneway’s origin (FRA).

Open jaws only happen at origin/destination points. They do not happen en route. Sometimes people tell me they want to do a routing like:

IAD -> LHR

FRA -> ATH

WAW -> IAD

They think there are two open jaws, the first between London and Frankfurt and the second between Athens and Warsaw. In fact this cannot be done on one award.

The reason is that one of these putative open jaws is en route. For instance if we consider Athens the destination of the first oneway, there would be an illegal attempt at an en route open jaw with no flight between London and Frankfurt.

Or if we claimed that London was the destination of the first oneway, then what happened between Athens and Warsaw? There would need to be a flight there for the routing to be legal.

I hope this clears up what an open jaw is, what a double open jaw is, and what’s legal on United awards.

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