(Today’s post is from Alec, who writes for You Can Fly For Free.)
As The Noob Master has written before, there are many reasons why you should get to know the stopover. Most airlines allow some type of a stopover on award itineraries, but United Airlines is by far the most generous with their stopover rules.
Unlike American Airlines which only allows a stopover at the North American International Gateway, United allows a stopover on any continent in the world.
Here are the main points of how United stopovers work:
- 1 stopover is allowed on international roundtrip itineraries. Stopovers are not allowed on one-way or wholly domestic itineraries.
- A stopover acts like a long layover of several days or even months. A layover is less than 24 hours.
- All travel on the itinerary must be completed within 1 year of ticketing.
- 4 flight segments are allowed each way on your itinerary for a total of 8 flight segments.
- Stopovers must be a reasonably logical connection between 2 cities.
There are 2 surprising things to point out about these rules that are awesome.
- Having up to a year to complete all travel opens a lot of possibilities because you can stay in your stopover city for several months. In fact if you wanted, you could spend 6 months in your stopover and only 6 days in your destination city.
- The “logical connection” rule is a flexible one because there are actually some connections that seem illogical but are still valid. For example, you can stopover in Europe on travel between the U.S. and Asia. Similarly, you can stopover in Asia on travel between the U.S. and Europe. This essentially allows you have a round the world trip for the cost of a simple U.S.-Europe or U.S.-Asia award.
Also, I should briefly mention the cousin of the stopover: the open jaw. Open jaws allow you to fly into one city and fly out of another. You’re allowed 2 of these on a roundtrip international itinerary. You can even use a stopover and open jaw together to give yourself extra flexibility.
Now, let’s get back to stopovers by running through a couple examples.
If you want to keep it simple, stop in Bogota on your way to Lima, or Munich en route to Rome. However, the real advantage of stopovers is using them to visit another continent entirely.
Remember how I said you can have a stopover in Europe on your way to/from Asia? Well, you can craft an itinerary like the one below for the same miles as a typical U.S.- S. Asia award.
Newark(EWR) – Paris(CDG) (stopover) Paris(CDG) – Bangkok(BKK) (destination) Bangkok(BKK) – Los Angeles(LAX) – Newark(EWR)
In this example, Paris is your stopover city en route to your destination Bangkok, but you could stay in Paris longer than Bangkok.
Example #1 is not even that complicated of an itinerary. By introducing 2 open jaws to your itinerary, you can create a seriously epic trip.
Los Angeles(LAX) – Seoul(ICN) – Taipei(TPE) (destination and open jaw #1) Tokyo(NRT) – Bangkok(BKK) – Paris(CDG) (stopover and open jaw #2) Frankfurt(FRA) – Los Angeles(LAX)
In this itinerary, you visit Taipei, Tokyo, Paris, and Frankfurt while spending the same number of miles as an ordinary Los Angeles to Taipei roundtrip. Plus, if you can set up long layovers less than 24 hours in a layover city like Bangkok, you’d have time to grab a Thai curry, tour the Grand Palace, and check out Bangkok’s infamous nightlife.
Note that you would still need to buy a cheap flight between Taipei and Tokyo, and buy a cheap flight/train between Paris and Frankfurt.
How to Book
You won’t be able to book most of these complicated itineraries online so you’ll need to call United at 1-800-UNITED-1. Before calling, use United.com to find availability for each flight segment in your journey.
Sometimes United agents will say you can’t book awards over 2 oceans like we’ve done in these examples. This is a made up rule that only some booking agents believe in.
People are booking these types of itineraries successfully every day so the key is to keep calling until you get an agent who can help you. If an agent says no, politely end the call and simply call again.
There is no official word on how these rules may change after February 1, 2014. All we have from United is this vague statement: ““For travel booked on or after February 1, 2014, a stopover is permitted only on certain roundtrip itineraries. Additional mileage may be required.” Source.
Things are still great for now so go ahead and book that epic trip as soon as possible.
— Geoff Whitmore