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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.  You can book open jaw cash flights using the ‘multi-city’ tool.

Open jaw avios redemptions

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.

British Airways 350

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.

Conclusion

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.


British Airways BA Amex American Express

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (September 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. Both have increased sign-up bonuses until 2nd November 2021:

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

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British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

40,000 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

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American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

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Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card:

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You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies. This card has a limited time offer of 60,000 Avios when you sign up:

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

(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 (38)

  • Erico1875 says:

    For last Easter (which obviously got cancelled) I had Uk to Bengaluru and returning Kuwait to UK on a 2 for 1 which are in different Avios price zones

    • JAXBA says:

      You can book LHR-BLR/-KWI-LHR with no issue. What you usually cannot do after booking the open jaw that way, is change it to be LHR-BLR-LHR or LHR-KWI-LHR. You could change BLR for another Indian city (or another city in the same zone) – but not KWI, and you could change KWI for another Middle Eastern city, etc – but not an Indian one.

  • JAXBA says:

    The open jaw redemption rules in this article are as I understand them to be too.

    • JP says:

      Do they follow IATA rules and restrictions? e.g. the destination and return must be in the same IATA region.

      KWI is in TC2 and BLR is in TC3.

      Do they only follow the rule that the open-jaw segments must be shorter than the flown segments ?

    • Jeremy Kon says:

      thought that you can only book an open jaw if the return leg is shorter than the outbound. In which case your San Francisco Tokyo example doesn’t work. That’s certainly what I’ve been told by BA.

      • sayling says:

        You appear to have been incorrectly advised – the distance between the outbound destination airport and the return departure airport has to be the shortest of the three legs.

      • Lady London says:

        That’s probably more to do with furthest point ticketing rules not OJ

  • Stu says:

    A couple of times I’ve booked (not strictly an ‘open jaw’) Avios redemption out from INV, returning to GLA. Flying out from INV saved us £380 in taxes last time. A first class single for two from Glasgow to Inverness cost us just shy of £100, and the hotel £39 and it added a little extra adventure to the trip (train ‘picnic’ etc). However, we wouldn’t want to return there as you just want to get home after a long trip, and as it happens taxes returning to GLA were £60 cheaper than returning to INV.

    No problems whatsoever booking this with BA over the phone.

  • NeilB says:

    Thanks to HfP I have booked open jaw on 2-4-1 several times. Mainly JFK or BOS and BDA. Most recently YYC / SEA – sadly cancelled.

  • Michael C says:

    I booked the “return” from HKG separately as mentioned, then linked that leg as described, all v easy (NB still had 2 flight reference codes).

  • Martin says:

    I once booked tried to book LON – CTA and PMO – LON using 2-4-1. I booked the first leg online and then called to add the return leg but the agent insisted it cannot be done and had to cancel yhe first leg and do it in one go, risking that I’ll lose the reward availability. Luckily the seats went back to reward availability so I got those flights solved. Does that mean that I should have hung up and tried a different agent?

    • Louie says:

      Yes

    • Michael C says:

      Totally. I must admit, my last one was MUCH more difficult, involving 10-min. gaps “while I consult someone”, and eventually a “just this time, as your such a good customer” *eyeroll* !!

  • memesweeper says:

    “`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.“`

    — this is exactly how it’s worked for me, twice, once in N America and once in S E Asia. Using companion vouchers meant both were organised through the call centre, without any fuss. Highly recommended if you can work in a ‘fun’ surface sector.

    • Lady London says:

      It’s meant to work as Open Jaws (Orange Juice or OJ) are governef by IATA ticketing rules not BA. If anyone has leisure and a flexible mind the IATA rules can be quite helpful to study.

  • Sean says:

    The one that fought me out was Mauritius. I could get two return J seats but no outbound so I booked LHR-JNB(F)/MRU-LGW(J) and JNB-MRU in J on Comair. When the LGW-MRU availability came up I could not change the outbound leg as JNB and MRU are in different zones.
    I had to cancel anyway because of the pandemic. The second time I’ve had to let a premium MRU 241 trip go.

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