Understanding the rules when booking an ‘open jaw’ redemption using Avios

I occasionally gets emails from readers who have had issues getting British Airways telephone agents to book an ‘open jaw’ flight using a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher.  I thought it was worth running over the rules on this as others will find this useful.

An ‘open jaw’ is a flight where you start your return flight from a different destination to your outbound.  This does not mean a different airport in the same city (eg New York JFK and New York Newark) but a different city entirely.  One common use would be, for example, flying to San Francisco and flying back from Las Vegas, with a one-way car rental.

The British Airways booking system does NOT let you book open jaw reward flights using Avios points.

British Airways 350

Usually, this is not a problem.  BA is happy to let you book one-way tickets, so you would simply book your trip as two single journeys.

There are two reasons why you might not want to do this, though:

Fuel surcharge – BA charges higher fuel surcharges for flights originating in some countries outside the UK, in particular the US.  You may find that the tax charge for 2 x one-way flights is higher than booking a return.

Using a BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher – in order to use a 2-4-1 voucher for a return journey, both flights need to be on the same ticket

To book an Avios reward in either of these scenarios, you need to ring British Airways.

Usually this is not a problem. However, you may have problems convincing the agent to do it if your return flight departs from a different country.

For clarity, here are the rules relating to open jaw bookings.  Unfortunately, they are not written down anywhere public as far as I can tell.

Before the November 2011 changes which brought in Avios – in case you get an agent who still quotes this as the current rule – an open jaw needed to be based in the same BA Miles pricing zone.  All of North America was lumped together, for example, so flying into San Francisco and out of Vancouver was OK.  However, flying into San Francisco and back from Tokyo was NOT OK.  Tokyo was in a different zone.

Since 2011, the open jaw rules have been relaxed.  This is how it works.  The geographic distance between your original landing airport and your new departure airport must be SHORTER than either of the two flights.

Using a European example, you could NOT book London to Madrid and fly back Helsinki to London.  This is because Madrid to Helsinki is further than either of the flights.

Using my earlier example, you CAN fly out London-San Francisco (5367 miles) and back Tokyo-London (5974 miles), because both of those flights are longer than the distance between San Francisco and Tokyo (5124 miles). 

So now you know.  If you get a BA agent who does not understand this, ask for a supervisor or simply call again.

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  1. RE the T-355 rule, the website always shows the furthest available date as T – 353/354 days, ie today (10/2/16) I can only book 29/1/16. Is this the same for everyone. Also would there be flights available for 30&31/1/16 if I were to ring the BAEC desk?

  2. nobbynobchops says:

    I’ve done this a number of times – admittedly always in USA. Never an issue, just make sure you don’t pay the telephone booking fee!

  3. Daniel Gourlay says:

    Has anyone ever got out of or been refunded the fees? Seems a bit unfair you can only do this by incurring call centre charges. £50 per person!