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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.

Booking open jaw flight with Avios

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:

  • Surcharges – British Airways charges higher surcharges for flights originating in some countries outside the UK, in particular the US.  You may find that the charge for 2 x one-way flights is higher than booking a return.

To book an Avios reward in either of these scenarios, you need to ring British Airways.

Usually this is not a problem. However, some agents may not fully understand how the system is meant to work. Here are what are generally understood to be the rules relating to open jaw bookings.  Unfortunately, they are not written down anywhere on ba.com and some agents may not agree with them.

booking an open jaw avios redemption

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 (5,367 miles) and back Tokyo-London (5,974 miles), because both of those flights are longer than the distance between San Francisco and Tokyo (5,124 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 (£38.20 in Club World), as you can see here:

booking Open jaw avios flights

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

Sao Paulo and Rio works in the same way.

It is possible to use a 2-4-1 voucher and still benefit from the low taxes out of Hong Kong, Sao Paulo or Rio.  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.


How to earn Avios points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (September 2022)

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

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

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

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

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

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

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

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points, £200 travel credit and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

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, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,000 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

50,000 points bonus until 2nd October – the most generous Avios Visa 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 and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year 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.

Comments (47)

  • Jan M says:

    No experiences yet on how to use a Barclays Avios voucher for an open jaw return?

  • vol says:

    Morning all, OT

    Yesterday was flying DUB LHR and onwards to JFK, and checked luggage all the way to JFK.

    Unfortunately due to restrictions the flight was very delayed in DUB and we were rerouted to Newark.

    Here is the problem: we have no idea where our luggage is as it didn’t follow us to Newark, and the luggage barcode is coming up with a mismatch/invalid when we try to report the thing as missing on the BA missing luggage portal

    Really stumped here and would be grateful for any advice 😬

    Thanks in advance

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      Can you get to an airport with BA ground handling reps?

      • vol says:

        There were no ground staff surprisingly

        Update: so, contacted BA Duty office and they’ve opened a case. Don’t think we will see our luggage this side of holiday. Not a great start but keeping receipts of replacement goods.

  • Chancer says:

    Tangent alert, sorry.

    I want to make an avios booking today, for flights in March ’23, but have a baby due in Nov ’22 which will need to fly with us. What’s the consensus on the best way to proceed? Anyway to avoid having to call them at some point please?

    • KevMc says:

      Book it now with just the adult seats. Once the baby is born and has a name, you will need to call up to add as a lap infant. They will then charge you 10% of the avios plus a small amount of YQ.

      There is no way of getting round having to call them, though.

      • Chancer says:

        That’s a shame, but thank you very much for your time and help. I’ll proceed with booking before the seats go.

        Hopefully the recent horror stories I heard in 2020/21 about waiting on hold for hours are a thing of the past…

        • Chrisasaurus says:

          They are but also be aware that they seem to sometime fail to actually ticket the infant causing anxiety at checkin esp if you’re on a super early flight – go back and check the new arrival has been ticketed before you set off

          • martin says:

            We had this, our infant was ticketed wrong after we added him, when we checked bags in, the system said he’d already flown..
            Had to buy us all tickets and claim back from BA later as on the phone they said its impossible he’s flown earlier and couldn’t fix it.
            Which was a challenge.

          • Chancer says:

            Thanks to you and Martin for your important warnings.

    • John says:

      Well if you want, you can just book an infant seat now and put the latest dob that it will accept – they don’t match the passport to the dob later on (obviously you can’t enter API anyway).

      I did this before my child was born and we didn’t need to call, but we had chosen his name already, so if you aren’t sure then you will have to wait.

      • Chancer says:

        We’ve got a frontrunner, with only two months left to go. I’ll have a chat with her and see if we’re ready to commit to it fully.

        Just thinking out loud, along the same sort of lines as wilfully entering a false D.o.B., what if we put ‘master’ in as the first name, knowing that he is a boy, then call up to amend the name later on? Should head off the type of problem Martin had.

  • Julie A says:

    “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.”

    I had LHR-DXB out and KWI-LHR return booked on a 2-4-1 open jaw. The KWI-LHR leg was cancelled and the agent let me move it to DXB-LHR return since availability opened up for the return (thanks Seatspy!).

    So it may be a quirk that if your flight is cancelled you CAN move across avios bands on the return since KWI-LHR is in a lower band than DXB-LHR although it may be that the agent just shouldn’t have done it??

  • Nigel says:

    Hi, This question is just about normal 241 flights where you buy the return using full Avios for both people and reclaim half the Avios by connecting the ticket to the initial 241 outbound. If the return remains a separate ticket, does that mean that you could cancel it for a refund of taxes plus one person’s Avios. I don’t think you can normally cancel a return for a refund.

    The reason for doing it would give flexibility to cover the case where you get Covid just before the return flight.

  • Christian says:

    Interesting about HKG/RIO/SAO still having very low surcharges. Does BA actually offer a couple of first class award seats on these flights? I recall a couple of years ago when I couldn’t find any first class award space for half a year to the end of schedule from HKG to LHR. Considering that that’s one of the better values it was rather disappointing.

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