Admittedly a lot of people would have probably benefited from this earlier, but at the same time better later than never. And hey, I figure a lot of you are probably redeeming United miles today, as award rates go up drastically tomorrow due to the devaluation.
I’ve come to realize that the single thing I’m most often asked about when it comes to booking United MileagePlus award tickets involves United’s open jaw rules. For the past month I’ve literally been asked for clarification a handful of times per day via email and the blog, and the past few days I’ve been asked at least a dozen times a day. So I figured I’d clarify it once and for all, since it’s an easy concept to misunderstand.
As most of you probably know, United allows two open jaws and one stopover on a roundtrip international longhaul award ticket. For these types of tickets a stopover is when you’re staying somewhere enroute for more than 24 hours, while an open jaw is when you’re flying into one city and out of another.
For example, if you’re flying outbound Newark > Frankfurt and returning Paris > Newark, you have one open jaw (between Frankfurt and Paris).
If you’re flying outbound Newark > Frankfurt and returning Paris > Chicago, you have two open jaws (one between Newark and Chicago, and one between Paris and Frankfurt).
Both of the above scenarios are legal.
But anything more complicated than that seems to be where the confusion kicks in, especially regarding where open jaws can be.
When booking MileagePlus awards, the open jaws have to be at your turnaround point(s). The turnaround point refers to your origin or destination; not anywhere in-between.
In both of the above scenarios, you’re originating in the US and terminating in Europe, so those are your turnaround points, which is why open jaws are allowed there.
So what kind of open jaws aren’t allowed?
Say you’re flying between Newark and Cairo. You couldn’t fly Newark > London, have an open jaw between London and Paris, then fly Paris > Cairo, and then fly Cairo > New York. That’s because an open jaw isn’t allowed between London and Paris, since in the above award Europe isn’t your turnaround point (your turnaround points are the US and the Middle East).
Ultimately you could actually book something far more complicated than that, as long as it meets the rules.
For example, you could fly outbound Newark > Paris and have a stopover there (rather than an open jaw), then Paris > Cairo. Then on the return you could fly Dubai > Frankfurt > Miami.
In this case you’d have a stopover (in Paris) and two open jaws (one between Newark and Miami at your point of origin, and one between Cairo and Dubai at your destination). But the key is that both of those open jaws are at the turnaround points.
Lastly, keep in mind that at United the computers price award tickets. It’s not a manual process, but rather whatever the computer determines the price is, that is the price the agents will enter into the record.
So there’s no sense in “hanging up and calling again,” or trying to find an agent willing to book such an open jaw, unlike at US Airways for example, where all awards are priced manually.
I hope that makes sense and hopefully explains why a lot of people are having issues pricing MileagePlus awards with open jaws mid-itinerary.
If anyone still has any questions on the above, please let me know below!