As many of you probably know, American largely eliminated free stopovers on partner awards a few years back when they introduced one-way awards, though they do still allow a stopover at the North American gateway city on an international award. To many this translates to a “free one-way ticket” you can save for a later date. For example, if you book an award ticket from Hong Kong to New York, you can tag on a flight from New York to Los Angeles for a later date, be it a week later, a month later, or several months later.
I’ve written about it in the past, as have many other bloggers, though there are still a lot of misconceptions about what’s allowed and what isn’t. Many seem to think that they can tag on any flight within the US, but that’s simply not the case, so I figured I’d explain what is and isn’t possible.
First the basics:
- The North American gateway city is the city in which you get on/off your transoceanic flight
- All travel has to be complete within one year of the date the ticket was issued
- American allows you to exceed the maximum permitted mileage for a city pair by 25%, though the maximum permitted mileage is based on the origin and final destination. That means if you want to fly Hong Kong to New York, have a five month stopover, and then fly from New York to Los Angeles, you’d need to make sure you’re within the Hong Kong to Los Angeles maximum permitted mileage. The Hong Kong to New York maximum permitted mileage would be irrelevant.
- As discussed here, in order for a routing to be legal, the overwater carrier has to publish a fare between the origin and destination. For example, while Etihad publishes a fare between New York and the Maldives, they don’t publish a fare between Los Angeles and the Maldives, so you couldn’t include a segment between Los Angeles and New York on an award.
So how do you find the maximum permitted mileage (MPM)? Let’s do it in the form a few examples that involve transpacific travel on Cathay Pacific, assuming you’re originating in Hong Kong, live in New York, and want to tag on an extra flight to somewhere fun.
You can use a subscription service like ExpertFlyer to look up the MPM. Once logged in click on “Fare Information.”
Then enter the origin and destination, an arbitrary date in the future, and the operating carrier. Let’s assume you live in New York and want to fly from Hong Kong to New York on Cathay Pacific.
The next page will show you a bunch of fares. When you find the most expensive fare, you’ll see three buttons on the right. Click the center one, which will show you the routing rules.
The next page will show you the MPM.
As you can see, the MPM is 9,666 miles. Keep in mind that you can exceed the MPM by 25%, meaning you could actually fly 12,083 miles between Hong Kong and New York.
But let’s say you live in New York and you want to have your stopover in New York and add on another destination a few weeks after you arrive back in New York. The MPM for HKG to JFK is useless, since you need to know the MPM between the origin and destination.
So instead let’s say you want to fly from Hong Kong to New York, have a stopover, and then later fly from New York to San Francisco. Could that be included on the ticket at no extra cost?
To find out I pulled up the MPM for Hong Kong to San Francisco (using the same steps as above).
So it’s 8,298 miles between Hong Kong and San Francisco, and with the 25% bonus that comes to 10,373 miles.
Hong Kong to New York to San Francisco is 10,658 miles, so that wouldn’t be allowed.
But let’s try Hong Kong to Los Angeles, for example.
The MPM is 8,698, so with the 25% bonus that comes to 10,873 miles.
Hong Kong to New York to Los Angeles is 10,547 miles, so that would be allowed.
What about Honolulu?
The Hong Kong to Honolulu MPM is 6,781 miles, so with the 25% bonus that’s 8,476 miles.
Hong Kong to New York to Honolulu is 13,055 miles, so that’s not even close to being legal. Even Hong Kong to San Francisco to Honolulu is 9,325 miles, so wouldn’t be legal.
Now, remember how above Hong Kong to New York to San Francisco wasn’t within the MPM? Let’s take a look at Singapore to San Francisco, though.
The Hong Kong to San Francisco MPM is 10,130 miles, so with the 25% bonus that’s 12,663 miles.
Singapore to Hong Kong to New York to San Francisco is 12,246 miles, so would be legal. That’s right, Hong Kong to New York to San Francisco isn’t legal, while Singapore to Hong Kong to New York to San Francisco is.
So as you can see there’s quite a bit of fun you can have with this, though not everything is possible.
If anyone has any questions about the above, wants me to check MPMs, or anything else, please let me know!