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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 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.


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 from UK credit cards (February 2023)

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:

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 21st February 2023, the sign-up bonus on the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card is increased to 35,000 Avios from 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

35,000 Avios (ONLY to 21st February) and the famous annual 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.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and unbeatable 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 10,500 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers 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 £200 Amex Travel credit every year 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)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Marco says:

    On a 241 voucher….does the return leg need to be booked before I fly the outward? let’s say I can’t find availability for the return leg….can I fly the outward, wait to find availability and not lose my ticket?

    • Rob says:

      Good question …. no idea. There are issues over amending part flown tickets. Immigration is also likely to be an issue with no return booked.

  • pauldb says:

    Does the Brazil YQ exception still work? The first screen shows me £11 fees but then it jumps to £235.

    • Rob says:

      One of those is wrong and it’s usually the 2nd screen. numbers are usually correct if you do a dummy there.

      • xcalx says:

        Yes £11.70 on, does the BA screen go back to this figure from £235 on the payment page. I want to use a 2 for1 so no option to use Thanks.

        • Jill Preston says:

          Hi – I booked open jaw return from Rio recently on BA website and experienced just that. The amount I was charged stayed at the higher figure. When I queried this with the BA agent when I called to link the return flight to the companion voucher she said that the higher charge was correct and this reflected the BA surcharges.

          • Rob says:

            It is illegal to add surcharges to flights starting in Rio AFAIK.

          • pauldb says:

            I think there may be some subtlety that the ban applies to tickets originating and ticketed in Brazil. BAEC tickets are ticketed in your membership country. Right or wrong, the problem is what can you do: take BA to court in Brazil?!!

          • Rob says:

            I know a reader took BA to CEDR over this and won.

      • zark says:

        I did as you say Rob in early February ’22, first booking out to Sao Paolo with Amex 241 and later booking Rio-London one way(for January ’23 flight using 75K Avios/person.
        First screen (Journey summary) showed 75,000 Avios +£8.23 (now £11.55)/person , but when click Continue to ‘Your Price Quote’ showed 75,000 Avios and £208.10 (now £242.10 =Embarkation fee £11.70, Carrier imposed charge of £230.4).
        I completed the booking. Later called BA to get the 75K Avios back which they gave me and did combine the bookings. I pointed out that the extra £200/person in fees was wrong but was dismissed.

        Just now I did a dummy booking of a o/w on BA and the same happens.
        Unless I am doing something completely wrong, at least for RIO-London using Avios (I tried a dummy cash version & the £11.55 only seemed to hold through to payment page), it seems that BA have hard coded this ‘enhancement’!
        Back in January ’18 out to Santiago,Chile, back from Rio did work with very low fees back from Rio.

        • Michael C says:

          I’m also 99% sure the “trick” has disappeared: as others mention, the “click on final price” simply adds a whack on, but never used to.

          • Rob says:

            I just checked and Sao Paulo prices at £12 taxes and charges all the way through – it is that is wrong in adding surcharges on the final page.

        • Ladyshopper says:

          We booked a one way back from Rio in clubworld using a companion voucher. Cost £200 each in fees/charges. This was back in around Feb time, so not all that long ago, for a booking for this December.

    • Callum says:

      I found a similar issue a couple of years ago, higher price online than initially displayed but doing it over the phone I was charged the lower amount by the agent, plus a fee for having done it over the phone which I believe was £25 p/p.

      We never took the trip in the end due to covid. Based on this article I’m going to look into 1st to Santiago and then return from Rio, it sounds like I’ll need the points to book the return from Rio without a 241 initially and will subsequently get the half returned.

      • newel says:

        I can confirm this trick still works and I happened upon it by accident. I was trying to book an open jaw redemption LHR-MAD GRU-LHR with a 241 (this was so I could fly out of MAD to Colombia with Iberia Avios as BA don’t fly anywhere near there and a sweet spot for Iberia business redemption).

        However I was quoted for the GRU-LHR stand-alone first on the phone and was given taxes of about £10 per person (this showed up closer to £200 per person online). When the LHR-MAD leg was added it went up to £250+ per person in taxes (so presumably the additional incorrect Brazil surcharge was being triggered by that for some reason).

        So I just booked the one way GRU-LHR leg with the 241 and paid an extra £15pp to book it on the phone (netting a saving of about £185pp over booking the exact same flight online).

        Sorted the LHR-MAD separately since wasn’t much benefit on using Avios for that leg anyway.

        Anyway the key thing is if you’re seeing high BA surcharges on a Brazil departure online, may be worth calling to book the same flight on the phone and just paying an extra £15 to save a lot more on surcharges!

  • aseftel says:

    How does it work if you have more than two flights? E.g. would DUB-LHR-SEA/LAX-LHR-DUB be impermissible because SEA-LAX is further than DUB-LHR, even though LHR-SEA/LAX-LHR is fine?

  • bellasmummy says:

    I booked open jaw last week for next august. No issues at all on the phone, the lady was a pleasure to speak to and told me that she’s only been there two months and not long finished her training. She works for Avios group not BA and had a very thorough knowledge.

    I wish all calls to BA were as smooth as that one.

  • krys_k says:

    Interesting about the HK and Rio / São Paulo work around. Any reported issues doing this?
    Wonder if the same agent on same call would action this.

  • Andrew says:

    “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.”

    I’ve never heard of this. Presumably that’s possible with any route? Presumably it’s also not especially worth doing unless the taxes are worthwhile, even on low availability routes when you need to call up at midnight?

    • Geoff says:

      Used this method often – you need to check the fees, but it removes the need to be on the phone to a BAEC office open at midnight UK time. It can be useful to have separate flights when it comes to changes but you will pay double the canx fees if you cancel the lot.

  • Mike F says:

    Have booked flights to MIA for next March using a Companion Voucher (one way) since we’re sailing to Barcelona as the return journey. Can I phone and ask for the return from Barcelona to LHR to be added as the return leg of the Companion Voucher?

    • Rob says:

      No, because the gap between Miami and Barcelona is not shorter than both of the flights.

    • Sean says:

      I booked LHR-MAD/MIA-LHR which was fine. The difference between MIA-LHR and MAD-MIA was one mile. You may want to look at this and add in a cheap flight between MAD and BCN or an Avios redemption.

  • Steve says:

    As ever very useful Rob. Can you confirm how I should proceed with the following? I wish to book a club avios flight (using 2 for 1)to Vancouver and then fly back from LA. My concern is that when availability opens for the Vancouver flight in 355 days time of course availability wont yet be there for the return from LA, but if I wait another couple of weeks for the LA flight to go on sale, then the Vancouver availability maybe taken? Is there a way I can manage this problem?

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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