I got an email from a reader that demonstrates a common point of confusion about stopovers on American Airlines awards. Hopefully my answer will illuminate for everyone how American Airlines stopovers work, so that you can enjoy free oneways to Hawaii on your next international American Airlines award!

Hello Scott.  I am trying to book a flight from Paris – Atlanta (stopover) – Honolulu.

When I look at one-way Paris-Atlanta, I see several AA flights with minimal taxes and surcharges.

But when I change the search to multi-city, Paris-ATL-HNL, there are no longer any AA flights available on the Paris-ATL leg – just British Airways flights with almost $400 in taxes.

The AA flights no longer show up as a choice.  Should I call in to AA and would that trigger a fee?

Many thanks for your blog – I read it every day and have learned so much in the past year!

What’s the answer to this reader’s question? How can she get a free oneway to Hawaii?

The Problem

From the Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards:

Stopovers must occur at the North American International Gateway City. The North American International Gateway City is the last North American city you transit on awards leaving North America.

The North American International Gateway City depends on your routing. If the reader flies Paris to Miami to Atlanta to Dallas to Honolulu, the gateway city is Miami. A stopover would only be allowed in Miami on this routing on an American Airlines award.

If the reader flies Paris to London to Atlanta to Dallas to Honolulu, the gateway city is Atlanta. A stopover would only be allowed in Atlanta on this routing.

The Options

Since the reader needs the stopover in Atlanta, she needs to fly a routing like the second one that has a direct flight from Europe to Atlanta. There is only one such flight flown by an American Airlines partner–London-Heathrow to Atlanta on British Airways.

Unfortunately American Airlines collects fuel surcharges on British Airways flights, so the reader has three choices.

  1. Fly an award from Paris to Atlanta on American Airlines or airberlin flights. Forget about the stopover in Atlanta and later free oneway to Hawaii.
  2. Fly an award from Paris to London to Atlanta on British Airways, followed by a free oneway to Hawaii on American Airlines flights. This award will cost about $500 in taxes and fuel surcharges one way for one person.
  3. Fly an award from Paris to Miami on American Airlines or airberlin flights, continue it later with a free oneway from Miami to Hawaii. This award will cost only about $100 in taxes. Get from Miami to Atlanta and back to Miami for 9k Avios and $5 roundtrip. (This is my Almost Free Oneways trick.)

Option 3 is probably the best. If you don’t live in an easy place to book option 3–easy places are cities with a short, direct American Airlines flights to a suitable gateway city–then choosing between option 1 and 2 is hard.

Option 3 visually: American Airlines award in red. Roundtrip Avios award in blue.
Option 3 visually: American Airlines award in red. Roundtrip Avios award in blue.

In economy, I think option 1 of foregoing the free oneway is better. In business, option 2 is probably better. The extra $400 in taxes/fees is frustrating, but one way to Hawaii in business class is worth that, plus it means flying the superior British Airways business class on the longhaul segment.

What the Problem Looks Like

Just as an example of what the reader was seeing on aa.com, I recreated what she was searching with arbitrary dates.

Imagine trying to fly Paris to Atlanta in February and Atlanta to Honolulu in June.

There is space in economy from Paris to Dallas to Atlanta in American Airline economy for 20,000 miles.

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 2.35.48 AM

 

And there is space in June from Atlanta to Honolulu with a combination of American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines flights at the Saver economy level.

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 2.37.02 AM

But as soon as you change to a multi-city search, all that’s left is British Airways space that features the direct London-to-Atlanta flight. AA.com knows the stopover rules, so it knows that to give a free stopover in Atlanta, Atlanta needs to be the North American International Gateway City.

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 2.38.41 AM

 

Putting together an award with the British Airways flights bumps the out of pocket cost near $500 with most of that being fuel surcharges.

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 2.41.45 AM

More Info

Everyone should read Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards.

If you want to book a free oneway on an AA award, check out Master Thread: Free Oneways on American Airlines Awards.

If you’re a visual learner, check out my video tutorial on booking a free oneway on an American Airlines award:

If you want some help, hire my Award Booking Service to handle your award for you.

3 COMMENTS

  1. This is not the only problem with this itinerary. Apparently there is a rule that awards from Europe to North America cannot use flights on HA at all… something I learned by finding space from CPH to JFK and JFK to HNL with no stopover at all. I even called AA and the agent spent 20 minutes with the pricing desk trying to get it to go through, since they couldn’t find any rule against it… but apparently the system will not do it.

    This is a huge problem because most award space available at the moment flies via HA. AA is being incredibly stingy with their summer HNL space.

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