What are the rules for booking an ‘open jaw’ redemption using Avios?

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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 online booking system does NOT let you book open jaw reward flights using Avios points.

British Airways 350

Usually, this is not a problem.  British Airways 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). 

There is one other quirk.  Once an open jaw is booked, you cannot amend it if it means a change to the Avios required, ie if you move into a different Avios pricing zone.  You cannot, for example, change an open jaw ‘London-Paris-[surface]-Hamburg-London’ to ‘London-Paris-[surface]-Istanbul-London’ as Hamburg and Istanbul are in different Avios pricing zones.  The whole ticket must be cancelled with the risk that you cannot rebook the leg you want to keep.  It is very rare that you would find yourself in this position however.

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. “you cannot amend it if it means a change to the Avios required”

    Does that mean you can’t upgrade one (or both) leg of the flight with avios should the availability opens up after the initial booking. e.g. From Club to First.

    • You can definitely upgrade cabin on the flights you are booked on. Not sure about changes in flights on same routing (e.g. switching to a later flight if F seats come available on that) – would be interested if anyone has tried that.

      • Duncan Stevenson-Price says:

        You can 100% do that.

        I booked EDI-LHR-IAH then returned DFW-LHR-EDI. Both originally booked in CW, but I wanted the return in First. I later noticed availability on First the following day, so I upgraded my return flight to First and moved the whole return journey later by 24 or 48 hours.

    • I managed to change the return flight of an open jaw booking last week to be from a different zone with no issues. (Was LGW-MCO JFK Z LHR now LGW-MCO-LGW). Maybe bacause it then stopped being open jaw?

    • You can do that, I think.

  2. Anyone know if open jaw returns work with Avios.com redemptions using a Lloyds upgrade voucher? I’d like to fly two pax LON-SFO, returning LAX-LON, booking in Premium and using the voucher to upgrade is both to Club on the return. Any thoughts on how likely I’ll be able to do this, please?

    • Yes that’s permitted: I have booked LON-SIN//CTU-LON. The problem you have is being able to secure availability, if you are hoping to book this at T-355. You can only do it by calling avios.com first thing in the morning after your LAX leg has opened up: that flight might have been taken overnight and your SFO has been available to someone else for days/weeks.
      No problem if you are booking “normally”.

    • Dead easy – in fact both my voucher redemptions to date have been open jaw! Due to domestic connections I had to call them anyway, I didn’t even say it was an open jaw – just give them the details flight by flight (as I always do when booking a redemption over the phone!) and booked in a few minutes.

  3. Doing an open-jaw later this year, out SIN & rtn KUL.

    Have done double open-jaw in the past,

    Useful when on a fly drive & connecting with UK domestic flights from Scotland.

  4. OT, I am Marriott gold. If I book a room for a friend will he get all the gold perks for the booking..ie lounge access. It’s the JW in Bogota if that makes a difference

  5. Lady London says:

    Are there other reasons why people might want to book an open jaw?

    • Genghis says:

      – Good for exploring a country / region without backtracking. We use this often. Recently into PVG, our of HKG; into SIN out of KUL and in Feb into CPT our of JNB.
      – There might be avios availability issues but choosing a different airport opens up more dates.

    • We’re flying to Washington DC and back from the Caribbean next year. This lets us have a 2 centre holiday without the misery of going through US immigration on the way home!

    • It’s the equivalent of a multi city booking when paying cash (used to do this with Emirates) and a good option to take a few locations in. Later this year i am doing LHR to NRT, then flying with Air Asia X to KUL where i will then do KUL to LHR.

      It was originally booked as a LHR to NRT return but when KUL availability opened up i called BA to change my 2-4-1 booking. Was advised that they had to cancel the whole ticket and rebook, and that my redemption booking may not go back into the system. While on phone the points, voucher and availability all went straight back into the system to allow me to rebook.

      • Hi CV3V, Am I right in thinking you’re a regular visitor to Japan? Would you rather see/do KUL than everything Japan has to offer? Also is your NRT flight (J or F?) on the old 777 (as opposed to current 787 service which is due to stop imminently) ?

        • First trip to Japan, based on recommendations from friends and colleagues who all had a great time. Its only a short visit to Tokyo, if i were to go for longer then i would also be going to Kyoto and Hokkaido, and going for 2 weeks. Some of the regular posters on HFP can contribute their ideas. If looking for decent value hotels then look at JR (Japan Rail) Hotels, all in good central locations. Western hotels cost a small fortune, good place to use points.

          BA used to fly a 787 to Narita and a 777 to Haneda, but its all 777s now. My flight to NRT is in F. MY flight from KUL is on 787 in CW, which is fine, the 787 CW is really good, especially the small CW cabin at the front.

          KUL city is good for 3 or 4 nights, I actually have family who live there, KUL is a really good hub/base for SE Asia. KUL hotels are great value, great food and erratic service! From KLIA you have Air Asia, domestic flights to Penang, Langkawi etc. are very cheap. Avios domestic redemptions on Malaysian are also very cheap.

    • Lady London..

      One Way Fly drives

      Business Class availability to/from Australia

      Multi stop trips, I’ve also done Economy out to Male, then First returning from Doha (visiting relative after Maldives hols)

  6. David Quinn says:

    Looking forward to our open jaw trip next year on a 2 for 1 voucher. GLA>LHR>EWR Club World then returning SFO>LHR>GLA Club World. Booked LGA>MSY on Delta, and MSY>SFO on United as cash flights, plus a couple of weeks car rental too.

  7. Do we know what system BA use to calculate the distance between two cities? Is the GC Mapper tool in line with BA’s view of the world?

  8. It’s probably worth mentioning that BA will sometimes try to charge you an admin fee if you call up to make a booking. If you tell the agent that you tried to book the open jaw trip online but it is not possible, they will usually waive the fee.

  9. I booked an open jaw with BA earlier this year from Gatwick to Seville. We wanted to see Cordoba too and travelled by train internally. As the return flight from Seville to Gatwick missed the last Glasgow connection we decided to train it onwards to Malaga and return from there to Glasgow via London City. No brainier really. A day/ night in Malaga or a night at Gatwick. I have to say it confused the BA staff, took ages for them to book referring backwards and forwards among staff and they got the charges all wrong giving completely nonsensical excuses.
    Just an aside on this, Trainline Europe didn’t charge any admin fees. Other companies did, some being ridiculously high.

  10. So if am understanding this right I can go LHR to Santiago then return from São Paulo, or could arrive to São Paulo and come back from Santiago without any issue? This is my next redemption so wasn’t even aware this could of been an issue. Will save me the initial panic if someone didn’t know the rules.

  11. Booked LHR-NBO in F and DXB-LHR in J using BA 2-4-1 without any issues. Allows us to a safari in Africa, relax in Zanzibar and finally a city break in Dubai. The agent was excellent and knew what we wanted doing and no admin fee.

  12. SonicTPA says:

    I did this at 6am this morning to add a 355 days in advance LAS-LHR 241 Reward flight to my outbound LHR-SFO made a couple of weeks ago. Getting the seats was ok, but it took a long time on hold for them to calculate the extra avios and taxes. I still haven’t had anything in writing to confirm the extra taxes/fees so I’m not sure whether they’ve added the £35 fee.

    A big thanks to Rob and the site – I’ve now got the flights I wanted for my first redemption, though a year later due to no availability for the September just gone.

  13. Paul Filby says:

    About 4 years ago 4 of us went to Miami in first and returned club from DC ( as no seats available from Miami ). All booked by telephone. Think I used 2 companion vouchers.

  14. Matt jones says:

    we managed LHR to SYD in 1st and return from LAX to LHR in business using the 2-4-1 voucher by ringing BA with no issues at all. Also if you want to fly in either BA 1st or business try the silver or gold numbers, whats the worse they’ll do is put you back in the queue…..only happened once so be cheeky.

  15. Would someone here be kind enough to paste a link to the BA call centres to book avios redemptions using 2-4-1 vouchers at midnight? I’m hoping to bag flights to Buenos Aires and back from Rio for our honeymoon on 9th Nov 18. I tried using a link in a previous article and searching flyer talk but I can’t get it to load the forum properly so I wondered if there had been a change…

  16. Hi, does anyone know if there is a limit on when the return leg needs to be flown by? Can it be 365+ days after outbound leg? Thanks

  17. Gideon M says:

    Just to add to this, there is usually a fee for booking BA reward flights over the phone. However, agents wave this for open jaw tickets as the facility is not available on the website. So if they forget, make sure you remind them and save yourself a few ££ 🙂

    • Although I knew that., when I booked an open-jaw a few weeks ago, the agent tried to charge the fee, so I challenged it. They said that the rule had recently changed, and now all phone bookings attracted the fee. It had taken so long to organise that I reluctantly paid. Of course I subsequently re-checked and confirmed that they were wrong, so I called and asked for a refund. The response (even after checking with a supervisor) was that they could not refund over the phone, I would have to write in to customer relations! Arghh – I keep asking myself why I persevere with BA…

      • Fortunately added my return leg this morning without being charged a fee. This was, however, adding a return leg to an online-booked outbound, did you book your entire trip over the phone?

        • Yes, the whole trip in one call – it was not T-355, so no need to add the return later. Just psyching myself up to contact them 🙁

        • FWIW I understand the policy is that they will waive the fee if your booking should be possible online, but by some failing isn’t. Open jaws are not a website function for redemptions, so it isn’t normally waived, but you might get lucky.
          Adding a return to a 241 (initially out of date range) is a special case whether it’s an open jaw or not.

  18. Jason W says:

    I just called the USA call centre 30 minutes before 1am BST, before they released avios tickets for 355 days from today. Not only did the agent reserve the seats for me in first class (they would just release two, and she pre-booked them for me), but she also allowed the open-jaw ticket spanning the USA and Canada. She confirmed that I could then call in 30 minutes once the avios tickets were released, and I can then make the payment (avios + taxes) but that the tickets were absolutely saved for me. Amazing!

  19. Does anyone have a link to a list of interesting open jaws you can do with a 2-4-1 voucher? Just for inspiration!

    • I think probably most of my longhaul 241s have been open jaws.
      SFO and anywhere south: LAX/LAS/SAN/PHX
      BKK and HKG (with a CX redemption HKT-HKG)
      CPT and JNB
      GIG and EZE (via Iguazu Falls)
      DEL and BOM
      YVR and YYC
      YYZ and NYC
      A couple of Caribbean Islands, including a 241 connection if BA fly between them (eg UVF/GND)

  20. Same here, we do most of our 2-4-1 long haul redemptions open jaw. We invariably book the outbound leg online, and then add (with no phone charges) the return leg as soon as it becomes available. Last year, out to PHX, back from SAN, just done a JNB/CPT trip and just booked a YYC/YVR trip for next year. You have to take a chance that you might not get availability back from your first choice return airport (hence SAN rather than LAX) but it usually works.

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