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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.

  • NorthernLass says:

    Be aware as well that there have been a few instances recently of BA refusing to refund the 50% avios if the inbound was already available when the outbound was booked.

    • Rob says:

      Correct. BA is only lenient when you book on the cusp of 355 days. Same leniency which means you are not charged the £35 admin fee for adding a return leg.

      However, there is no logical reason to do this unless it is 355 days out.

      • LittleNick says:

        There is a logical reason as you point out to benefit from the low taxes + surcharges. Booking a return from London means 2xRFS fees instead of the lower amount when originating from HKG for example

  • Clare says:

    Last year I used a 2 for 1 for a flight to Santiago, returning from Buenos Aires but I think I might have paid more tax than if I had not booked an open jaw. I arranged the return leg over the phone.

    • Ste says:

      That’s correct from my experience, taxes charged on outright avios bookings tend to be less than using the 241. You save on the avios required for the 241 but tend to pay higher taxes.

  • Tiberius says:

    I recently travelled on Lon-bahrain, doha-london on an open jaw booking with a companion voucher even though Doha is further away (albeit marginally) than Bahrain to London. Is there any discretion allowed here or was this an error?

    • Rob says:

      Not an error. Bahrain to Doha is shorter than Lon/Bah or Lon/Doh so is fine.

      • Bagoly says:

        Ah, so the editorial policy about not using airport codes has an exception if the airports are spelt out earlier in the sentence 🙂

  • Softy25 says:

    I booked LHRDEL and BOMLHR on 241 by ringing BA no problem.

  • Andrew says:

    I intend to phone BA at midnight – this coming Saturday evening – to add an open jaw return to my recently booked Santiago (Chile) outbound booking (on IB metal) next March.
    Would someone be able to confirm that I ring the standard BA booking telephone number (0344 493 0787) and I will be automatically directed to a BA office that is open at the time e.g. in Japan or the US?. Thanks.

  • _nate says:

    How timely! I can confirm that if you book an outbound using a Barclays voucher but the inbound is not available due to the 355 rule, you can book the inbound separately and call and they will refund the difference in Avios. This was very handy for my open jaw booking as the inbound was from Hong Kong so I benefitted from the lower taxes.

  • buchanan101 says:

    “To book an open jaw Avios redemption you need to call British Airways”

    No you don’t.

    Book the two legs separately online and DM BA on X, using the 241 on one leg. They refund half the Avios for the other leg. Takes 2 or 3 days. You can probably do the same on webchat, but X is quicker, just give them all the info (including the usual email address, first line of address)

    Did last year for Lisbon/Porto open jaw

    • LittleNick says:

      Even if te inbound is available to book at time of booking outbound?

      • Rob says:

        Yes

        • TD says:

          This is definitely correct about booking both open jaw legs online and then reclaiming the Avios? I’ve already booked one-way LHR-HKG using the 2-4-1. I want to book the inbound (SIN or KUL-LHR) at 355 days this weekend.

          • Rob says:

            Shouldn’t be an issue at 355 days – book online (using EXACTLY the same ‘cash and Avios’ mix as the outbound) and ring BA the next day to get half back. If they won’t do it, let us know.

  • teaboy says:

    Is it possible to use the Barclays ‘upgrade’ voucher in a similar way to the 2-4-1 voucher? That is:
    1) can you book open jaw on the upgrade voucher?
    2) can you add inbound flight from a different airport at a later date to the original time of booking?
    3) can you add an inbound that has already been paid in avios to the voucher booking and which either ‘upgrades’ to a higher seat class or refunds you the avios difference (where the higher seat class is the same as your outbound)?

    • AnnaB says:

      So yes I’ve booked an open jaw with upgrade voucher but has to be on one booking on the phone as they couldn’t add it on when I called up so had to cancel both and rebook but as was 355 days out was no problem.

      Not sure I understand the last question.

      • teaboy says:

        Thanks!
        I think @_nate answered my last question with his post although his experience with CS seemed to run more smoothly. With 3), I meant can you add an already booked avios inbound to the outbound voucher booking.

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

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