This was originally posted at the MrPickles blog here.
American Airlines allows a stopover on international award tickets–with very strict rules. They only allow you to stopover in your North American (USA) gateway city. This is defined as the city in which you enter or leave the USA. For most people it will be one of their hubs: Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, or New York.
This has limited uses for people who do not live in an American Airlines hub city but there are a couple of tricks that can make it more flexible. If you get creative you can combine your American Airlines stopover with other bookings to save yourself miles and money in the long run. Here are some examples:
1. Combine your domestic stopover with an economy off-peak saver award later on. Example: Fly Los Angeles – Miami in May (stopover) and onward to Guatemala in September. Off-peak to Central America prices at 15,000 miles one way versus the normal 17,500 miles in economy. This lower price covers both flights! A one way from Los Angeles to Miami is 12,500 miles so it only costs 5,000 more miles to go to Central America too! Note: You would need to book another ticket to get back to LA and to Miami again to pickup the flight to Guatemala.
2. Use British Airways Avios points to book short haul flights on American Airlines or other oneworld partners. You can combine this with the strategy in number 1 above to save miles and cash. Booking separate award tickets with BA can give you stopovers anywhere. Book the long haul flights using American Airlines miles and use British Airways Avios to take the shorter flights. Example: Book a round trip flight from New York to Tokyo using American Airlines miles. Use your British Airways Avios to book flights from Tokyo to Osaka for 4,500 Avios each way in economy. A great deal!
3. Combine with other award tickets with free one ways (such as Delta or United or even a second American award) to create 3 trips from 2 award ticket redemptions. Get creative to create 3 trips: 2 trips to international destinations with a domestic trip from two combined stopovers in the middle!
How to book:
American allows you to book a short list of partners online. They have been adding more partners online recently and I hope the trend continues. If your itinerary includes a partner that you cannot book on AA.com–such as Cathay Pacific–you will have to call them to book your award. This will incur the applicable phone booking fee based your your elite status with American Airlines.
1. Search AA.com and other resources (such as ba.com) to find the flights that fit your needs. Write down the Flight number, date, and times. Do this for all flights including your free one way from the US gateway city.
Note on off-peak economy awards: Your first flight segment must occur during the off-peak dates of the final destination. You can find those dates here on AA.com (bottom of the page) (link: http://www.aa.com/i18n/disclaimers/free-ticket-award-chart.jsp). All subsequent flights can be whenever you wish. Example: If you fly from Los Angeles to New York in December and onward to London in June (June is peak for Europe) and AA.com will still give you the off-peak price for the whole trip because December is part of the off-peak date range for Europe!
2. If you are able to find all your flights on AA.com, such as the example below, you can book directly on the website. If not then call American Airlines with the info you gathered in step one to book over the phone. This example below also includes taking advantage of American’s off peak dates to save miles.