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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

10,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and an Economy 241 voucher for spending ….. Read our full review

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

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

The 30,000 points bonus on Amex Gold runs to 9th November 2021. The 60,000 points bonus on The Platinum Card runs to 2nd November 2021.

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:

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

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

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:

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

60,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios 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.

(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)

  • Billy Nicholson says:

    I have booked open jaw on 2 separate occasions. First time we made the entire booking (both ways) over the telephone and it was the agent who suggested we could return from a different location in Asia as we planned to tour Asia for our Honeymoon.
    Second time I booked outbound to SYD online using 2-4-1 then couple weeks later I sat up till early hours calling BA in South Korea as their office opened when the rtn I wanted came online and the agent refused to add the open jaw rtn. I then called BA UK next day and the first agent I got also refused giving Avios pricing zones as the reason. Then I called BA UK again and 3rd time lucky the agent booked it no questions asked.

  • Chris Heyes says:

    More often than not we use open jaw flights, due to us having 3/4 weeks hols, mostly 10 days or 2 weeks then local flight usually AA or transport to another destination with no problem (using Avios 241 mostly)
    With no problem BA book AA flights for us as well, all nice and easy over phone
    We have probably been lucky in return flight home never been questioned.
    My only “Gripe” with BA is they wont/cant book our luggage on the AA flight, we have to book them ourselves when we arrive in US most annoying, costs us extra for the 3 suitcases as well
    We try every year but BA always say no can do, they give us a flight number to give when we ring to book them in.
    I Don’t see why they cant just book 3 suitcases in at same time ?
    But that’s the only gripe, always had excellent service booking open jaw on the phone.
    MY Only tip would be when you book the outbound let them know that in 4/5 weeks
    (less than that if you are flying back sooner)
    you will be ringing to book an open jaw back
    (AA don’t release flights same time as BA so may need 3 phone calls to be sure)

    • JAXBA says:

      Do you mean through checking your luggage to AA? If your onward AA booking is on a separate ticket from the BA flights (and if you’re using a 241 they’ll have to be separate), then no, BA won’t through check on separate tickets.

      When tickets are separate, then different baggage allowances apply. You could book BA+AA together, but not be able to use the 241 – or you can use the 241 and book AA separately, but have to pay AA’s baggage fees when checking in with them.

      You could try showing your inbound BA boarding passes to AA, showing you had an international oneworld flight coming in, but it probably won’t make a difference.

  • Ian says:

    In 2018 I successfully changed a LHR – HKG/PEK – LHR booking to LHR – HKG/HND – LHR booking (PEK and HND are in different Avios zones).

    The agent initially said it couldn’t be done due to the different zones, but I politely insisted I’d heard of others doing this (completely ignorant of the guidelines Rob has detailed).

    She consulted with a supervisor for about 10 minutes and came back saying that she could make an exception “just this once”. When the call ended I checked online and found the guidelines above, and realised I was wrong. Luckily I got a helpful agent/supervisor!

    I haven’t tried it again since.

    • geoff says:

      Thats another good reason for having them as 2 separate one-way PNRs (even if under the same 241 voucher) as sectors can be changed (or cancelled and re-booked) independently.

  • Terry S says:

    Hi. Am I wrong but I thought it had changed so if you book the outbound on say a 241, then book a return later when it goes on sale, and you then call to have the flights combined, they won’t do this. You now have to ring to book the return and get them to add this to the 241 booking?

    • Rob says:

      I thought it was still happening, but to be honest there are so few people booking at the moment the news may not have reached me.

    • C says:

      They refused to do this for me last year when I made 2 one way bookings during the sale

  • ADS says:

    “You will make a big saving if you book UK-somewhere and Hong Kong-UK on two separate tickets.”

    I think that also applies to flights from Japan, and possibly also from Brazil ?

    • Rob says:

      Rio is modest now – still £200 one way in Club.

      • Vicky says:

        GIG / GRU is still £18.70 tax if you book via Avios or Iberia but BAEC charge £200 +. Surprisingly BA has not touched HKG outbound while CX and all others have hiked out their carrier charge following changes few years back. Japan is still low tax. I will always check Avios before booking anything on BAEC.

  • Joel M says:

    This is also a good option where availability can be limited, we flew London to Johannesburg and returned home via Cape Town using a 2-4-1 voucher – CPT is very limited and wasn’t possible to do the return trip. While we chose to fly straight from Joburg due to time constraints, obviously this is a lovely drive along the Garden Route

  • AspirationalFlyer says:

    Last year I used a companion voucher: London – Dubai outbound, with Singapore – London return without a problem.
    I think London-Dubai is shorter than Dubai-Singapore.

  • Zebrum says:

    Remember also if flying to USA on Visa waiver, at the check-in desk and at USA Customs they might ask for proof of the return one-way booking.

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