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. You can book open jaw cash flights using the ‘multi-city’ tool.
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 usually 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 what are generally understood to be the rules relating to open jaw bookings. Unfortunately, they are not written down anywhere public and some agents may not agree with them.
The British Airways open jaw rule
Here is key rule when booking an open jaw Avios redemption flight:
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. It seems that 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.
When not to use an open jaw
If your open jaw flight involves returning from Hong Kong, I strongly recommend that you don’t bother. Book 2 x one-way tickets instead.
Taxes and charges on tickets which originate in Hong Kong are peanuts (£33.09 in Club World), as you can see here:
You will make a big saving if you book UK-somewhere and Hong Kong-UK on two separate tickets.
It is possible to use a 2-4-1 voucher and still benefit from the low taxes out of Hong Kong. You need to book the outbound flights as a one-way using your 2-4-1 voucher as usual. You book your return flight, separately, using full Avios (so you need to have enough Avios in your account). You can then ring BA, link the two flights and get half of the Avios for the return flight refunded. Because each flight remains on a separate ticket, your taxes are not recalculated.
So now you know. If you get a BA agent who does not want to process your open jaw booking based on the guidelines above, ask for a supervisor or simply call again.
As I said originally. the rules above are how it is believed to work – and how for most people it does work – but there is no cast iron proof. If you are told something different, let us know.