Understanding United’s Open Jaw Rules

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).

Open-Jaw-Example-1
Allowed routing: Newark > Frankfurt, [open-jaw], Paris > Newark

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).

Open-Jaw-Example-2
Allowed routing: Newark > Frankfurt, [open-jaw], Paris > Chicago [open-jaw]

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).

Open-Jaw-Example-3
Invalid Routing: Newark > London, [open-jaw], Paris > Cairo, Cairo > New York

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.

Open-Jaw-Example-4
Allowed routing: Newark > Paris [Stopver] > Cairo, [open-jaw], Dubai > Frankfurt > Miami [open-jaw], 

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!

Comments

  1. says

    Except for the part where I’ve booked an open-jaw at a stopover, not a turnaround point, several times I’d agree with you.

    Maybe the computers are getting better at kicking out questionable itineraries, but I also had an agent read me the rules in his system last time I did it and he conceded that, while what you’ve described here is what the common understanding of an open-jaw is, that’s not what UA’s rules said and he couldn’t enforce it that way based on what they have in their systems.

    Maybe that’s changed recently, but it definitely is not a hard-and-fast rule.

  2. says

    Travel is Free I think has several good posts on this that explain things. From what I understand it, it’s not necessarily a “turnaround” point, but each continent is in a “zone” and whatever is the “most powerful zone” is what United’s computers count as the destination.

    Definitely agree though with what you said about the fact that whatever the computer says is gospel, which can be good or bad, depending

  3. Robert says

    How about such itinerary, first flight GDN-MUC and another one two days later but from FRA to NYC and finally a return flight NYC-FRA-GDN??? All the flights with LH. Now, should it be considered a trip for 100K UA miles in business class? Apparently, they were not able to price correctly (unless I am wrong!) and I had to book GDN-MUC for 20K plus the rest of the trip for 100K.

  4. says

    I’ve also had luck as recently as yesterday getting an open-jaw in the middle of the return to price out.

    IAD-NRT-AKL//AKL-BKK-PVG//PEK-IAD

    It is quite counterintuitive, but SHARES often allows it.

  5. snic says

    I recently changed an award ticket such that it now has an open jaw at the stopover point. I’m not quite sure why they let me do that, but there was a schedule change that would have added 110 minutes to a connection. So I had them just remove the first (very short) leg.

  6. Brian says

    Last night I booked the following itinerary:

    EWR-FRA-BKK-HKT(destination)-BKK-LHR-EWR(stop)-CLT-AUA

    I’m trying to change it to this, but they keep telling me that it’s invalid:

    EWR-FRA-BKK-HKT(destination)-BKK-LHR-EWR(stop & Open jaw) PHL-AUA

    Based on what I’ve read in many other places and just in the comments of this post, it should be allowed. Anybody know what the issue is and how I could possibly convince them that it is in fact legal?

    Thanks!

  7. John Gillespie says

    Anyone flying an international UA ticket in W class or higher today? I have some systemwides to sell/give away!!!

    Contact me at 8083454117.

  8. says

    @ Brian — I’d argue it’s not allowed. In this case EWR/AUA are the turnaround points, and not PHL. That’s why the computer isn’t pricing it.

  9. Jackson says

    I got an open jaw at the stopover 2 days ago. It definitely requires some handholding (and likely manual pricing), but it can be done

  10. JD says

    Lucky, would the following route work as a RT award?

    A: in US
    B, C, D, E: in China

    A-B, C-D, E-A?

    With A-B being the longest route, E-A, then C-D.

  11. Ryan says

    I took full advantage last week and booked JFK-SFO-ICN (Asiana Smartium) [stopover] ICN-HKG [open-jaw] TPE-JFK (EVA Royal Laurel)

  12. says

    @ JD — Per my interpretation (and I say that because others above are disagreeing with me) I’d say no. I believe you can do an open jaw on each end of the trip, but can’t do two open jaws on one side of the trip.

  13. MSPpete says

    I agree with Wandering Aramean about using an open jaw at the stopover point, in addition to the origin/destination. I am flying one in March that I booked last year in April. I hope to book one in February for travel in January 2015. Hope it goes well.

  14. Jeff says

    Lucky,

    I have 25,000 miles coming in a few days to my account! If I put a flight on hold with United, will it keep at pre-deval pricing?

  15. says

    I have been successful in getting the United computer to accept “crazy” one-ways using a multi-city search:

    FRA – ARN (23 hour layover)
    ARN – OSL (23 hour layover)
    OSL – FRA – RIX (destination; potentially just get off in FRA)

    So for a 2 day weekend trip at 23 hours in destination and back home for 12,500 miles pre-devaluation, and I guess 15,000 miles post devaluation

  16. says

    Also – I successfully booked the following 2 weeks ago for 3 people at 25,000 United per person:

    FRA – BIO (stopover)
    BIO – OSL (open-jaw)
    BGO – FRA (finish)

  17. Vik says

    Anyone else noticing the horrendous delay in transferring points from UR to United today? I hope they haven’t put a block on transfers until tomorrow.

  18. Brian says

    Recently, I needed to log out of my UA account and my Hyatt account and log back in to see the new balance. No matter how many times I refreshed, nothing showed up. As soon as I logged out and back in though, they were there.

  19. Dave says

    My personal favorite was the time I tried to book a double open jaw (one at the destination (not a SO) and the other back in the US. The agent told me that I wasn’t allowed two open jaws. I read to him the rule, verbatim, from the website, including the example given by UA. I explained that I was quoting the published rule verbatim. He still said that I was wrong, and that the example quoted was two one-ways and not a valid round trip. That’s when I hung up.

    I agree that there are many success stories of people booking open jaws at stopover points. I also agree that when reading the rules and the various definitions, they technically do not allow an open jaw at a stopover point. So if/when it happens, consider yourself fortunate.

  20. ande777emt says

    I was surprised I had an ORD-MEX-FRA-HND price today. The agent said she would let it slip by but was going to tell tech support something was off. Either way, it worked for me and was advised not to alter the ticket.

  21. Jonathan says

    @Matthew – The open-jaw in your example is not “in the middle of the return.” AKL is the stopover and PVG is the destination. Therefore, your open-jaw is at the turnaround point.

  22. Max says

    Regarding the United devaluation more generally, if I put a ticket on hold tonight and have it issued tomorrow, will the new award chart apply? Also, anyone know how long Chase UR>MP transfers take to post?

  23. Lola says

    Thanks, Ben! I do have a question and appreciate the help…last year we booked EWR-HNL-NRT-EWR with no problem using the equivalent miles for one round trip to tokyo; this year we booked these me thing but we are flying back EVA since we couldn’t find any available United flights. the EVA flights were an option on the UA website. When I called to book, I was told that because it is an EVA return the segments all had to be booked as one way rewards and the ‘free’ stopover didn’t apply. Does this seem correct to you? Thanks so much!

  24. Nick says

    So I have a double open jaw to Africa via Europe, so what are my chances of getting a stop in Europe as well or is the computer counting one of my Africa open jaws as a stop. I guess that’s what’s happening.

  25. mom of 4 says

    Thanks to Lucky (and other bloggers)I was able to get 6 UA award tix which we flew IAD-EWR-MAD (open jaw) BCN-VCE (stopover)IAD (via FRA). This was in June 2013, prime time, so we booked July 2012. Yes, we flew economy (E+ all of us via hubby’s MM PP). I don’t mind E+ to Europe, and over Christmas/NY 2011/2012 we flew E+ to BKK. Yeah, that sucked, but all 6 of us flew on awards and we to to see Thailand. I am bummed with UA devaluation as I had hoped that once all the kids were in college, hubby and I would be flying in premium classes. Oh well. At least we get to see the world and we have taken our kids with us.

  26. Kacee says

    Yes you can OJ at a stopover. I’ve booked it. Recently. It requires a cooperative agent and they have to send it to the rate desk to price. But it can be done.

  27. Shawn says

    Is there a way to do this as a double open jaw with a stopover? How would I get an agent to price it?
    FRA-JNB (stop) – GRU
    AUA-SFO

    If not, how would I get the best value for a similar route?

    Thanks!

  28. sara J says

    Can anyone help me to complete this itinerary on united?
    I want iah > arn (stoppover) arn > rom (open jaw) lon > iah
    the system wont let me, what am I doing wrong? also what else could I add to this trip any other open jaws?

    any help will be greatly apreciated

  29. says

    @ sara j — That should be legal, assuming you can keep it to under five segments per direction. With an open jaw and stopover, you’re just about maximizing what you can book. You’d have to book something like this by phone, though.

  30. Robert says

    @ sara J – I’ve noticed that United’s search engine isn’t really helpful when it comes to multi-destination searching. Even though, there are such and such flights available for a single leg, once combined we get an error message. The only solution is to talk to a customer service rep from Mannila or so :) Do not forget to ask to waive a $25 booking fee.

  31. James says

    HI Lucky,
    Can you book one way from ORD to FRA, FRA to HKG or ICN then one of those destinations to TPE with 110,000 miles?? It would just be standard layover time in between them.

    Thank You for your help

  32. Ivan says

    Is the website for multi-destination function not working? I check if they’re flight using one-way only. Its saying, not flights available.

    Trying to book SFO > FRA , FRA > SFO. Ha ving issues trying to get the open jaw flight

  33. Mark says

    Would either of these be legit?

    Denver, CO to Lihue, Hawaii
    Lihue, Hawaii to Paris, France
    Paris, France to Manchester, England
    Dublin, Ireland to Denver CO

    or

    Lihue, Hawaii to Paris, France
    Paris, France to Manchester, England
    Dublin, Ireland to Denver, CO

    Neither ‘works’ on the multiple destination option….

    Thanks, great site

  34. lucky says

    @ Mark — The latter should be fine, if you can keep the number of segments down.

  35. Robert says

    I’ve just found out that our itinerary: EWR-GRU, EZE-SCL-BOG-UIO-(stop-over)-SAL-EWR is not possible to make because an open jaw GRU – EZE is around 1,000 miles and it has to be less than 700 miles. Any comments on that???

  36. lucky says

    @ Robert — I don’t think that’s the issue. I think the issue is probably that you have more than four segments, and they probably limit a one-way itinerary to four segments.

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