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This blog became famous because I was the first to articulate how to book free one ways on United and US Airways awards.

A free one way is a one way trip to or from your home airport that is tacked onto another award for no extra miles. Free one ways cut your flight bill in half for a second trip without adding to the price of the first trip!

American Airlines killed free one ways on its awards in April 2014 by nixing all free stopovers because free one ways always rely on a free stopover at your home airport. Delta killed its free one ways on January 1, 2015 with the elimination of free stopovers on its awards (though in return, we do now get to book one way Delta awards.)

What’s the current state of free one ways with major frequent flyer programs?

If you get confused during this post, please read my Introduction to Free One Ways.

Alaska Airlines

Free one ways are possible on one way Alaska Airlines awards. That means you can book two free one ways per roundtrip awards.

Alaska has an amazing group of partners:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • Horizon Air
  • AeroMexico
  • Air France
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways (fuel surcharges)
  • Delta
  • Emirates
  • Fiji
  • KLM
  • Korean
  • Qantas
  • Ravn Alaska (flights within Alaska)
  • PenAir (flights within Alaska)

Unfortunately you must book only one partner each one way award (you may add Alaska Airlines flights as well.) And unfortunately most Alaska Airlines awards need to either start or end in the United States.

Abide by those rules, though, and enjoy some amazing free one way opportunities.

For full details, see Free One Ways on Alaska Airlines Awards.

American Airlines

Free one ways are impossible on awards booked with American Airlines miles. Free one ways always rely on a free stopover at your home airport, and American has eliminated the chance to take any free stopovers on awards.

British Airways

Free one ways are impossible on awards booked with Avios. Every flight on an Avios award has a mileage cost (determined exclusively by its distance and the cabin you book.) If every flight has a cost, there’s no way to get one for free as a free one way.

Delta Airlines

Free one ways are impossible on Delta awards since stopovers were eliminated on January 1, 2015.

United Airlines

Free one ways are possible on both international United awards and awards between the mainland and Hawaii. Free one ways are not possible on awards wholly within the mainland United States and Canada.

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Roundtrip award from Los Angeles to Honolulu with a later free oneway to Newark

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You can either have a free one way BEFORE your main roundtrip award TO your home airport or AFTER your main roundtrip award FROM your home airport.

United’s routing rules are pretty lenient for free one ways. You can do some amazing backtracking. You can also do “cheap one ways” where you fly the extra leg to a distant land and pay far fewer miles than you “should.”

You will get a lot of errors trying to book free one ways on united.com because united.com’s multi-city search tool is broken. Don’t despair. Find all the space you need with one way searches, then call in to book.

For full details, see Master Thread: Free One Ways on United Awards.

While American, US Airways (by ending its mileage program), and Delta killed its free one ways recently, and free one ways have never been possible with Avios, free one ways are still possible on awards booked with United and Alaska miles.

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28 COMMENTS

  1. Are tickets that have been previously booked before the no stopover rule was implemented still valid to have stopovers over 24 hours?

    • Yes. Anything previously booked is always safe. They can’t just cancel current tickets without incurring the DOT wrath.

    • I don’t think so. Can you give an example of one that you got to price as a free oneway? Please include dates and segments.

  2. Was AA’s move an attempt to give
    competitors permission to do same…?
    If competitors don’t respond by also
    eliminating free-one-ways will AA revert?

    • I do wonder what the rule will be with the new combined AA and US program. I hope they adopt one stopover per roundtrip at a minimum.

    • Yes, this post only deals with awards BOOKED with the five types of miles in this post, not awards flown on those five airlines. That is a good tip though.

    • Definitely allows a free one way by allowing two stopovers per roundtrip. Make one or both your home airport.

  3. With Delta, any chance you can book your main award, say a round trip flight from JFK to Quito, Ecuador (UIO), and just wait until it gets closer and then change your return trip to include a free oneway? Basically, on May 1st, 2014 I book my award which would be Feb 7th 2015, JFK to UIO and Feb 21st 2015, UIO to JFK. Then on October 1st 2014, I want to change my award to include a JFK to Phoenix (PHX) flight on September 26th, 2015. Hopefully that’s possible. I’m thinking if I find a low level award from JFK to UIO on May 1st, I won’t be able to book a free oneway far enough away from the Ecuador trip. Does that make sense? Any suggestions?

    • I think I found the answer to my own question. From Delta’s FAQ:

      CAN AWARD TICKETS BE CHANGED?
      Yes. Members can make changes to an Award Ticket up to 72 hours prior to the original departure time (outbound or return). All taxes and fees associated with that ticket will apply. The fee for reissues is $150 USD. The fee is waived for Diamond and Platinum Medallion members, provided the member makes changes at least 72 hours prior to the original flight departure time. Miles for Award Travel are nonrefundable for flights canceled or changed within 72 hours of the original flight departure time. See Award Travel Fees for full terms and conditions.

    • All flights on an award must be flown within one year of the original booking with all airlines. In your example all flights would need to be flown by April 30, 2015. (Though now your question is moot since Delta eliminated free stopovers.)

  4. I just booked my dream vacation using your tips along the way. It was not perfect but I think I did well for my first time. I was able to use delta miles and book on the last day possible for a free stopover. I fly from my small airport have a 6 day stopover in Seoul and fly to Hanoi, Vietnam. I have two weeks to get down to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to fly home. I got a stopover and an open jaw in economy for 115k miles and $126 in taxes. I fly out of the small airport 30 mins from me and fly back into the puddle jumper airport 5 miles from me. I also didn’t notice at first but I get an overnight layover in Seattle and that lets me see an old friend for a night. I am so excited. Thank you for all of your tips. Cindi Brinkman

    • Cindi, I just got back in January from a great trip to Vietnam. We started in Hanoi and hit all points South to Saigon. We used a private chartered 15 passenger van. If you’re interested contact me and I’ll send you all the info. The driver doesn’t speak english very well but you can also get a translator. Both very reasonable. cleanlens@aol.com

  5. Scott, is it possible to use United miles for free one way or stopover? I’m thinking of SFO-hawaii-korea/japan-SFO in business or first….is this doable and how many miles will it cost?

  6. Yes, I was just able to use Alaska miles to book a free AA/AS one way. I used 15,000 Alaska miles to book Quito-SFO in January, plus a completely free AS oneway SFO-Victoria in June. (I could have gotten even better value booking a free oneway SFO to Alaska, but, alas, I don’t want to go there this year. I didn’t check how SFO-Hawaii would have priced out.)

  7. Trying to mastermind a trip to Africa (Zambia or Tanzania) in the Fall using United Miles and getting on biz class. Starting from Boston, and have been contemplating stopovers in JNB (using SAA) or Europe. Would United’s stopover rules allow either?

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