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

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HFP readers often contact me with issues about getting British Airways telephone agents to book an ‘open jaw’ Avios redemption flight.  I thought it was worth running over the rules on this as it is easy to get confused.

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 with Avios 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.

Back in the days of BA Miles, before 2011, 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 today.  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.

how to earn avios from credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (January 2021)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

There are two official British Airways American Express cards:

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

If you have a small business, we especially recommend Capital On Cap’s Visa card which comes with a generous bonus worth 10,500 Avios:

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for our latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios this month from offers and promotions.)

Comments (241)

  • Gomigo says:

    OT can we ear avios on Fiji Airways. It says Oneworld Connect but no option to choose BAEC. Any insights ??

    • Rob says:

      You will when the partnership goes live, which hasn’t happened yet.

    • Lyn says:

      You can probably earn Qantas points on Fiji now if they are of any use to you. Or a Qantas code share flight on Fiji (with a Qantas ticket) might earn BA avios.

      • guesswho2000 says:

        Almost certainly it will, QF coded flights operated by non-OW airlines are a weird anomaly that earn BAEC Avios and TPs.

    • marcw says:

      I’ ve aged a lot since this was announced. In february it was said “weeks” until Fiji Airways were bookable with Avios. Now it’s almost September…

  • BS says:

    OT: Anyone noticed there appear to be Qatar J flights London – JNB for £1460? Seems to only be available when looking using kayak and waiting for it to fully load. Random dates in Nov for example. Is this a sale? Anyone aware of other destinations

    • Rob says:

      There is a Qatar Airways business class sale from London this week, but the pricing examples I was sent were unexciting enough for me to decide not to feature it.

  • Craig says:

    OT: Does anyone know if there are any limitations with Amex Plat Insurance and pregnancy? There is nothing in the small print.

  • Doug M says:

    @Rob. Your comment on FT about Virgin and attitude to BA claim for slots if LHR does expand. More to that for an article, or just putting that snippet out there? I suppose it’s all just politicking right now with any expansion years away.

  • Definitas says:

    Is there a specific tool/chart used to measure the geographical distances between open jaw arrival/departure points or is it just google? (Other search engines are available 😂)

    • Rob says:

      Great Circle Mapper is best ( You need to use airport codes, eg LHR-SFO then click distance. These are the universally accepted distances based the curvature of the earth.

      • Louie says:

        Universally accepted by everyone except BA that is. For example, NRT to HEL is 4,877 per GCM and 5,229 per BA. It’s better to use the Avios calculator on the BA site.

  • Damien says:

    So would a 241 to Tokyo and back via Singapore be ok?

  • Stroopwaffels says:

    Will open jaw redemptions work with the Lloyds upgrade voucher? Got my last ever one to spend and looking at doing open jaw LHR-NRT-KIX-LHR. I know it will let you book two one way flights, but I’m guessing they have to be in the same ticket?

    • Mikee says:

      Yes, I did an open-jaw to the US earlier this year – LHR-DUB-MIA-IAD-LHR-DUB and used the upgrade voucher on both the long-haul segments.

      • Mikee says:

        Correction, should read:DUB-LHR-MIA-IAD-LHR-DUB

        Saved several hundred pounds on APD starting in DUB and booked the final leg back to DUB 4 months after the inbound leg to LHR.