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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 (July 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

30,000 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 – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points AND (to 27th August) £400 to spend at Amex Travel 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.

  • Zaki says:

    Oh wow that is news to me. I thought I could book both flights from anywhere as I had done it before but realised now that my inbound flight was shorter than my outbound flight.
    Me and me wife had 2x 2-4-1 vouchers expiring December 2024 and we both booked one way flights to Cape Town thinking that it would extend the date of our vouchers by 1 year and we would fly to Tokyo on the way back.
    Turns out we might have made a huge mistake.

  • lumma says:

    A very timely article as I’m just about to book one. Can someone confirm that I can book Las Vegas to London on BA and Madrid to Bogota on Iberia using a 241?

    • Chris L says:

      Do you mean booking Vegas-London Madrid-Bogotá on a single 241? I don’t think that would work but could be wrong.

      • John G says:

        That is a double open jaw so not sure how that works with redemptions.

      • louie says:

        I didn’t know you could mix and match BA and Iberia on one 2-4-1 booking. You learn something every day.

        • Toby says:

          Absolutely can. I have done Madrid to Santo Domingo out on Iberia, Punta Cana to Gatwick on BA back. So double open jaw and on different airlines.

          Have also managed with connecting flights – Madrid to Panama out, Bogota to Heathrow via Madrid back (hence avoiding UK long haul business class tax on the way out)

          • SimonF says:

            Hi Toby – looking to do similar for early 2025, perhaps Madrid – Buenos Aires then return Buenos Aires (via Madrid) to Heathrow- were you able to book this simply yourself online with your 2-4-1 or did you have to call up for an agent to do it? As you say – great idea to start in Madrid

  • Robert says:

    I’ve got LHR-BOS then JFK-LHR with a 2-4-1 this year. Should be straight forward enough, but hoping to get on the AA flight at 09:35 going. Not sure if the new vouchers allow AA metal but will try it.

    • NorthernLass says:

      They don’t – it’s BA, IB and EI.

    • Kenny says:

      Pretty certain you can’t use it on non BA, Iberia, Aer Lingus metal even codeshares.

  • DI says:

    Thanks! I have booked a one way flight from Kuala Lumpur to London using Amex companion voucher.

    Is it possible to add a second leg to another Asian city, for example Singapore? (So this is ‘reverse’ open jaw).

    • Kenny says:

      Yes if you can find availability. This is a standard open jaw btw assuming you’re meaning London to Asia

      • DI says:

        I thought ‘standard’ is something like London – Kuala Lumpur and then Singapore – London. I want to do it in reverse, i.e. Kuala Lumpur – London and then London – Singapore. Is this fine either way?

        • Kenny says:

          Yes. Now that these new 2-4-1 vouchers can be used from anywhere that will be all fine.

  • Zaki says:

    I have booked London to Cape Town with 2-4-1. Can I add return from Tokyo to London?

    • Dan says:

      We’ve booked an open jaw for Dec 24 to US west coast using the 2-4-1 voucher. Agent understood the rules however making the booking proved difficult, but got there in the end. Booking was made in Jan and taxes/surcharges paid, tickets issued but Avios points yet to be debited from the household account. Is this normal?

    • Kenny says:

      Don’t think this will be approved. Cape Town to Tokyo is substantially longer. Can always have a go at it though.

  • meta says:

    No. Use Global Circle Mapper site to calculate distances.

    • meta says:

      that was for @Zaki

    • Zaki says:

      What about if I fly to Singapore?
      There is a roughly 15m difference. Do you guys think it would go through?

      http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=lhr-cpt,cpt-sin,hnd-lhr

      • Erico1875 says:

        No CPT to SIN is greater

        • Zaki says:

          oh no
          Even by 15miles makes it an invalid open jaw route? That makes everything much more difficult for me.

          Me and my wife have 2x 2-4-1 voucher expiring end 2024 and by booking 1 voucher one way we get another year to book the return.
          We were planning on flying to Tokyo after Cape Town.
          I guess this sh*ts on all our plans! Gotta start looking at alternative routes now.

      • louie says:

        Even if the distances did work, how would you get from CPT – SIN using a 2-4-1? Not something you could do on BA, Iberia or Aer Lingus.

        • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

          You don’t use the 2-4-1 for getting between the jaw cities.

          It’s sort of implicit when booking them than you’ll be making your own independent arrangements to do that.

          • meta says:

            @Zaki you also can’t book the return portion of 241 voucher after you have flown the first leg. In fact you are restricted by 12 months ticket validity. So if you booked in January 2024 for end 2024 you need to fly your return by January 2025.

          • Zaki says:

            Yes was looking at KL as an option but I really need to get to Japan. Taking another flight for 7.5 hours from there doesn’t seem worth it.

          • louie says:

            I took the map to mean he was planning to fly LHR-CPT-SIN then the open jaw would be SIN-HND. Which definitely wouldn’t work!

  • Ste says:

    From experience, when booking the return flight using full Avios to complete a 2-4-1 booking. There is the risk of not seeing the same availability the 2-4-1 voucher opens up, even on a BAEC Gold account. Has anyone else experienced this?

    • NorthernLass says:

      You won’t see it unless you’re searching with a voucher, but there have been posts saying that BA can see it if you call.

  • ayearinmx says:

    Just checking, if I book a single flight using a 241, then want to add a return, I have to book the return before I fly the first flight?

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

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