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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 us with issues over booking ‘open jaw’ Avios redemption flights.  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 take your return flight from a different airport to the one you arrived at.  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 three reasons why you might not want to book your open jaw trip as two separate one-way tickets:

  • Surcharges – when booking with partner airlines, 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. (This is no longer an issue on BA flights since the adoption of Reward Flight Saver, which fixes surcharges.)
  • Cancellation fees – if you book a one way ticket out and a separate one way ticket back, you would be on the hook for two sets of £35 cancellation fees if you changed your mind. If your trip is on one ticket, you would only pay one £35 fee per person.

To book an open jaw Avios redemption you need to call 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 both 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.  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, Sao Paulo or Rio, 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 (£35.97 in Club World), as you can see here:

booking open jaw flight with avios

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

Sao Paulo and Rio work in the same way. Here is a one way from Sao Paulo with £8 of taxes and charges:

booking open jaw flights with Avios

Rio de Janeiro is also £8.

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 in writing.  If you are told something different, let us know.


How to earn Avios from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (June 2024)

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

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

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £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 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 £15,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points (TO 16TH JULY), FREE for a year & four airport ….. Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable 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

10,000 points bonus – plus an extra 500 points for our readers 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 an annual £200 Amex Travel credit 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 (94)

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

  • r* says:

    must be SHORTER than either of the two flights.

    Does either mean shorter than both outbound and inbound, or either as in shorter than one of either the outbound or the inbound?

    • Rob says:

      Both

      • Paul Griff says:

        Rob, so the piece in bold text which says: ‘The geographic distance between your original landing airport and your new departure airport must be SHORTER than either of the two flights’ is incorrect. Should it say ‘The geographic distance between your original landing airport and your new departure airport must be SHORTER than BOTH of the two flights.’

  • tjtedafc says:

    Sorry
    Is that mean in order to play the game, we need to book our ticket 355 days prior to the departure day? Hope I did get it right

  • monsieurcurt says:

    Agree with the conditions above but recently have booked LHR-YYZ and SYD-LHR as an open jaw with upgrade voucher without any push backs. Luck of the draw on who picks up the phone I guess.

    • NorthernLass says:

      Good result, but just be aware that BA has occasionally been known to cancel tickets that breach rules, so keep an eye on your booking!

  • PH says:

    All this complexity with unwritten open jaw rules, a different category of Avios availability, merging bookings and doing partial refunds, folks calling Japanese call centres, etc.
    I wonder how BA would design it if they were starting from scratch.
    Presumably they feel the complexity is a price worth paying to offer a price discriminatory / semi hidden ‘discount’ on long haul premium flights that also promotes loyalty and brand/word of mouth

  • AM says:

    For reference, booked 2-4-1 ticket LHR-BUD MLE-LHR before, agent was helpful to make the trip happen. All depending on how lucky you can get hold of a knowledgeable agent.

  • Dark Horse says:

    Just a piece of info relevant to this article, that came up a couple of days ago that I thought it might come in handy for someone. I was booking an inbound BA flight GIG (Rio Brazil) – LHR – EDI to link to a 2-4-1 existing outbound MAD – SCL (Chile) on Iberia. I booked online as a separate booking with full Avios 200,000 + £35 in order to get the great ex Brazil tax level (£35 vs £400+ if out and in booked on one ticket). The BA agent then linked the two bookings and applied the 50% avios refund as expected. I booked inbound with the full 200,000 as I know from previous advice here you have to book the same avios cash mix on both inbound and outbound and I had used full avios outbound. I asked the agent about this point and they said that in my case I did indeed need to have the same avios cash mix because the outbound and inbound were on different airlines. She was very specific that if the outbound and inbound had both been BA or both Iberia she said I could have had flexed the avios mix if I wanted to save avios on the inbound. I guess you would only want to try this making a phone booking for the inbound in case the agent booking it had a different view.

  • Shabir says:

    your rio -lon open jaw example is fine in theory but not in practice, not your error. BA’s website will only show a £8 brazilian exit fee for an avios flight, in reality the ticket will not be issued until £170+ is paid for the airline charges. I did some test bookings, a premium economy flight shows a figure higher than £8 and coming home via Iberia is £100+. Paying cash shows an airline charge of £300. When I complained to BA they said their booking terminals only showed the higher figure, but after I have flown to raise a complaint, if the online is still showing £8.

    • Rob says:

      You pay £8 if you have a one-way ticket leaving Brazil – by law the taxes are £8 because the ticket will be issued in Brazil.

      If this is the return leg of an existing flight then you pay the full amount because the flight is ticketed in London (if you start here) and UK law applies.

      If you are using a 241 you DO pay £8 as long as you book both legs separately (use the voucher for a one-way out, book the return separately at full price and call BA to have 50% of the Avios for the return refunded) – the only caveat is that you need to be booking the full 355 days out to do this.

      If BA had told you any different the agent lied.

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

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