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.
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.
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