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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.

  • LittleNick says:

    Similarly, Is there anyway to benefit from the low surcharges when using a Barclays voucher?

    • Rob says:

      No

      • _nate says:

        I did this successfully by booking an outbound first and then adding an inbound from a low-fee destination that was outside of 355 days when the outbound was booked.

        They refunded the difference in Avios within minutes. The inbound remained as a separate booking and the fees were not repriced. I chose the same mileage split (most Avios, least cash) for the inbound – obviously it was forced on the outbound.

  • ianwardz says:

    It appears from reading these comments that some people are still not understanding the core rule of open jaw.

    ‘The geographic distance between your original landing airport and your new departure airport must be SHORTER than either of the two flights’

    So, if your internal flight or drive or train journey is longer than either of your flights then it’s a no!

    Use Great Circle mapper with your three locations and if the middle mileage is bigger than either of the others it’s a no!

    For example:-
    We are flying to Chicago, driving Route 66, returning from LA. So using mapper

    http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=lhr-ord,+ord-lax,+lax-lhr
    ORD-LAX is less than both LHR-ORD & LAX-LHR therefore we could book

  • Steve R says:

    Rob, what about Virgin – They have Manchester for those of us North of Watford Gap

  • ROC says:

    I have used a 2-4-1 voucher and booked LHR to sao paulo and then back Rio to LHR (although i think the 2-4-1 voucher was applied to the rio-london leg). I did this following the advice of one of their agents

    The BA agents are refusing to credit me half the avios back for the other leg (its not insignificant – 50k). They refuse to let me speak to a supervisor. i wrote a complaint and its been over a mont and still havent heard back. Does anyone have any advice or options I have?

    • NorthernLass says:

      It might be helpful to put this in the forum with full details of what you booked and when so a helpful response is more likely to appear. It’s not clear what you’ve done here, so difficult to comment without speculating.

  • Michael C says:

    For next summer, thinking of MAD-GRU / MCO-LHR: think it just sneaks in?!

  • Dave C says:

    I already have booked a 2 for 1 for Cape Town To Manchester (one way). Using the open jaw rules is it possible to have a second leg that starts overseas eg São Paulo – Manchester. Or does one leg always have to originate from UK

    • Rob says:

      Logically the gap between Manchester and Sao Paulo can’t be shorter than the gap between Manchester and Sao Paulo, so it will fail. If you flew back to Glasgow it might work as I assume that makes the gap shorter than the flights.

      • Dave C says:

        Rob I don’t understand your response. Essentially my question is: can you have an open jaw where neither flight starts in the UK. In my case I would like to add a flight to my CPT – MAN itinerary but I want the second flight to be originate from outside the UK ensuring the distance between CPT and the second flight origin is shorter than either flight

        • Rob says:

          If neither flight starts in the UK (and so neither was on BA) then it would price off the Multi Partner Redemption Chart – as it would have two oneworld carriers apart from BA on the ticket – which may or may not be a good thing for pricing and therefore would decide whether an open jaw made sense.

          • Dave C says:

            But they can be on BA. My flight from CPT is on BA and I could fly a second leg from GRU back to MAN. The distance between CPT and GRU is less than either flight. I know it’s a left field question but it results from taking cruise ships to both destinations and returning home by flights. I’ll check with BA and let you know.

  • Ben says:

    In January the BA Avios team couldn’t book a Mexico open jaw (LGW-CUN, MEX-LHR) using Barclays vouchers. It simply wouldn’t ticket and I ended up using a Companion voucher. Anyone else had the same experience?

    • Elizabeth says:

      I booked LGW-CAN Premium and MEX – LHR Club using (one) Barclays voucher which allowed both flights to be “upgraded” (/charged at cabin below Avios). I booked last July over the phone and travelled in Feb and March this year. The advisor initially immediately said it wasn’t possible to do the different cabins(she didn’t have an issue with the open jaw element) but I said I understood from forums that it should be and she tried and it worked, so not sure what the difference is with yours? Frustrating!

  • Paul Griff says:

    Every day a school day. Based on this will MAD-EZE, LAX-LHR work? Start in Madrid, return to Heathrow. I now suspect no.

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

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