How to Book Free Stopovers Online: American Airlines

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Update: You can no longer book stopovers on American Airlines awards.

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American, Delta, United, and US Airways all offer some version of a free stopover on award itineraries booked with their miles. Free stopovers are a great way to add tremendous value to your awards, but free stopovers can add complication to the booking process.

A natural instinct might be to call up the airline to book whenever your dream award includes a free stopover. Fight that instinct. By knowing how to book your free stopover online, you’ll save yourself a $25 per passenger phone booking fee and the headaches of hold time, talking to computers, and talking to incompetent agents.

American, Delta, and United allow you to book a free stopover online as long as the airlines you’re flying are bookable online. US Airways does not allow you to book a free stopover online, but at least the $25 phone fee is waived by US Airways when you’re calling to book an award you can’t book online.

Let’s start with American. On the aa.com homepage where you can search flights, check the box that says Redeem AAdvantage Miles, then click the link that says Multi-city.

This will bring you to a screen like the one shown below. Note what I’ve highlighted in red boxes.

The first two things I’ve highlighted show that you should automatically be brought to the AAdvantage Award tab with Multi-city selected. If you weren’t brought there, get there. Next search for the itinerary until the stopover and for the itinerary after the stopover.

Here I’ll be searching for my award LA to London (LAX-LHR). I’m taking advantage of American’s free oneway stopovers to get a free flight from Honolulu to LA (HNL-LAX) before my trip to London.

So I’ve typed in HNL-LAX for Flight 1 and LAX-LHR for Flight 2. Important: Type in your origin to your stopover for Flight 1, and your stopover to your destination for Flight 2. Do not type in each individual segment. For instance if I wanted everything the same but a destination of Paris not London, I would type in HNL-LAX and LAX-PAR. I would not type in HNL-LAX, LAX-LHR, LHR-PAR.

Next I’ve highlighted the dates just to point out that the stopover can be as long as I want. In this example, my stopover is almost eight months, which is convenient since I live in LA, and this is not really a stopover, but an award to London with a free trip to Hawaii tacked on.  The stopover is only limited by the fact that all award travel must be competed within one year of booking.

After filling out the form, click the red GO button.

You should now be brought to a screen like this:

Look at what I’ve highlighted in the middle: the computer knows you’re getting a free stopover!

Now it’s up to you to choose what class you want. If you want Economy, select the Economy MileSAAver Off Peak for both legs. If you want business, select Business/First MileSAAver for both legs. First class is not available these weeks, but if it were, you’d select that in both places.

At the top, choose the date of the HNL-LAX leg. Why are there dashes instead of prices at the top? Because this is a free stopover, so the leg adds nothing to the miles prices, which are listed below for the main award leg.

After selecting dates, you can select flights. After selecting flights, we come to the checkout screen. Look at that price: 20,000 miles and $5 for 16 hours of flying!

What an incredible deal. And by knowing how to book this stopover online, we saved $25 and the hassle of calling American.

Check back in the next few days for step-by-step guides on how to book United and Delta stopovers online.

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69 COMMENTS

  1. Is the low award rate of 20,000 miles one way in coach because of an off-peak award redemption? I was under the assumption that LAX to LHR was at least 30,000 miles in economy each way on AA.

    Thanks for a helpful post! 🙂

    • Yes, that is correct. Off-peak from the US to Europe is 20,000 miles, from October 15 through May 15.

      This is practical if you live in one of American’s US gateway cities such as Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, New York, or Miami. For those of us who live elsewhere, the options are unfortunately much more limited.

    • Exactly Maya! If you fly between October 15 and May 15, you can fly North America (including Hawaii) to Europe for 20k oneway!

      If you can get right on the edges of the off peak zone (October or May), I think it’s a fantastic deal since many places in Europe still have decent weather.

  2. So, I’m a little confused. If you live in LA, how did you get to HNL in the first place in order to then depart from there? Was LAX to HNL a separate purchase one-way? As someone who flies yearly to Hawaii but dreams of Europe, this scenario is very appealing!

    • Exactly, I can get to HNL via a purchased oneway or a oneway award. Ideally from LAX, I would find space in economy on an AA flight then book with British Airways Avios for 12,500 Avios and $10.90. Then for 12,500 Avios, 20,000 AA miles, and $15.90, I’d have a roundtrip vacation to Hawaii and months later a oneway ticket to London!

  3. Oops. Nevermind! I just read your full-post about stopovers! I think I understand the assumptions made in this post, now. 🙂

  4. This looks like it has the potential for incredible value, but my hypothetical searches seem to have CRUSHING “taxes and fees.” Am I doing something wrong or is that just the way it goes? Looking at ORD->MAD then BCN->ORD then ORD->HNL.

  5. In your example you were able to see award availability on the AAdvantage site, but how would you book the free stopover if you want to fly on an airline (like Cathay Pacific) which does not show award availability on the AA award booking site?

    Thanks!

    • Find the availability on BA.com or Qantas.com and call AA to make the booking. Feed the agent the flights you want, and he can book the free stopover no problem.

  6. Thanks for the awesome tip! Now, I’m guessing the following wouldn’t work, could you let me know? Could I do a trip from SFO-CDG and do my separate stop-over in MIA? I thought it may work, but I can’t get the AA site to do it. Thanks again!

  7. Do free stopovers on American apply only if you are a member of American’s frequent flyer club? Are free or low-cost stopovers available if you are not a club member and are just booking a trip on-line? My wife and I are planning a trip from Washington, D.C., to Honolulu via Los Angeles, and would like to spend a day or two in LA on the way. Thanks.

    • Free stopovers are on award tickets. Paid tickets do not have free stopovers as described in this post. For an award ticket to be booked, the person with the miles is a member of the AA frequent flyer program, so I guess the technical answer to your question is “yes,’ but anyone can join the program for free. I put a link to the sign up page on the blog a few days back.

  8. Any advice on using miles for Buenos Aires in February? We are flying from DSM to EZE and AA, Delta and UA are scarce and at least 60,000 miles pp roundtrip

    • If I had any advice, I might keep it secret since I’m planning a trip to EZE in February also and seeing the same problem. My best advice is to check LAN’s availability through LIM and SCL. I am probably going to wait until the last second and hope United opens up some premium award space.

  9. Thanks for this really clear post. I’m curious how stopvers work when not flying from/out of North America?

    I’d like to book a one-way from Indonesia to New Zealand with a month-long stopover in Melbourne. When I put in CGK to AKL, aa.com gives me the ticket for 25k miles. When I put in CGK to MEL, MEL to AKL, I have to pay 25k + 10k miles.

    Why is this, and how can I get a free stopover in Melbourne?

    Thanks so much!

    • There are four rules to AA stopovers. One of them is the stopover has to be at the North American International Gateway city. You can’t have stopovers outside North America on AA awards.

  10. Hi there! Best explanation I’ve seen for booking free legs with AA and the screenshots are invaluable!

    Does this only work when your international destination is in Europe?

    Using the multi-city booking tool, I’m trying this itin:

    LIH-LAX (extended stop-this is my free leg)

    LAX-SJO

    SJO-LAX

    It’s pricing out LIH-LAX as 15k and LAX-SJO as 15K, instead of reading it as LIH-SJO with an extended free stop.

    Any ideas? Thanks SO MUCH!

    • Sure, stopovers are only allowed on AA awards at the international gateway city. Since this award leaves the USA, your stopover would have to be at the last airport in the USA. There are no direct flights from LAX to SJO on AA or its partners, so you can’t have a free stopover in LAX on this trip.

  11. This is fantastic! Can this also be used to book a stopover after the international leg? For e.g. we are based in Seattle and looking to go to Nicaragua (MGA)over Thanksgiving and were wondering if we can add a stopover to HNL during Christmas.

    Would you be able to provide some guidance if that is possible?

    Thanks a lot!

    • A stopover can’t be “to” anywhere. A stopover is somewhere. The stopover must be at the international gateway city on AA awards. Since AA only flies to MGA from Miami. Your stopover on this award would have to be in Miami.

      • Thank you for correction.

        So it seems that the stopover can be at an international gateway city only.

        Thanks again for your input.

  12. […] award. Trip cost 25,000 miles + $7.50. Seat selection available, and able to book / hold. How to Book Free Stopovers Online: American Airlines | milevalue.com How to Book Free Stopovers Onli… Not sure that MPM is an issue. As a paid seat, you'd book it as two oneways, or a multi-city. […]

  13. Hello and thank you for this very helpful advice. This is the first time I will be attempting to have a free stopover and so let me apologize upfront if you’ve answered these questions earlier. Does AA allow you to have a free stopover on a one-way flight? I booked a one-way ticket from PIT to LAX for Oct 31. I plan on booking a flight from SNA (Santa Ana-Orange County) back to Pittsburgh in December however I would like to have a free stopover in Texas. I am going to Corpus Christi however a stopover in Houston or Dallas would work as well. Is it possible to get the free stopover in Texas on a one-way ticket from LAX to PIT or would I have to re-do it into a round-trip ticket?

  14. Hello
    is it possible to do the same for South America ? for example my home airport is dallas and I create res Chicago to Dallas then a month later Dallas to Rio. do i have to fly to chicago and to dallas? or can i just board the plane in Dallas ?
    Thanks

    • It is possible to South America, but you do need to fly that first segment or the whole thing will be cancelled.

  15. Good write up.. Thank you! I am slow so I had to read it over and over again 🙂 I have been trying out some sample itins to get ready for next year’s travel. I was able to get 20K quote for HNL-PHX(Mar)//PHX-LON(Jul). This is great. I can find a way to get to HNL (using avios or something or paid ticket), but I am not able to find saver ticket to come back from LON-PHX in July. It shows 60K. Is there any trick? I now have 300K AA that I plan to use to get two vacays (e.g. Hawaii & Europe or Tahiti & Europe or South Am & Europe) in March and June/July next year. All economy. Have lots of Avios too… Possible?

  16. Can the stopover (in this case LAX) be only at AA hubs? I tried booking an MSY-AUS tacked on to AUS-BOM but it wouldn’t allow me to do that. However, for the same dates, it allows MSY-DFW tacked to DFW-BOM and MSY-ORD tacked to ORD-BOM.

  17. Hi Scott,

    I’m having trouble using this award trick. I see HNL-SFO availability on Mar 14 and SFO-DUS on Jun 12, but when I piece together a multi-city itinerary for HNL-SFO, SFO-DUS the results just show up gray without letting me select anything. Any idea what’s going on there?

  18. Awesome tip! I’m planning on booking my honeymoon this way. I can book the outbound on AA.com: LAS-HNL, HNL-PPT which is 37,500 points on Hawaiian. However, the return portion is PPT-LAX on Air Tahiti Nui, also 37,500. I believe I need to call AA to do this. Can I add a free one-way (stopover) at the end? Say, back to HNL, to use later (or some other direct flight from LAX)? Thanks!

  19. Trying to book SFO->BOS on AA on 4/1 and then BOS-> on JAL on 4/30. However, AA rep keep telling that this is not possible because I am flying West Coast to East Coast and then back West. Is there any rule regarding this posted somewhere on AA’s website?

  20. Hi Scott. Really enjoy reading your blog everyday. You have the most useful info on award booking. I would appreciate any tips you can provide for this scenario. I need a one way back from KOA to IAH on 11/28/13. We have a trip to PPT next year for spring break on March 8-16th that I would like to book using AA miles. What’s the best way to take advantage of free one ways with AA? We also have plans to go to BCN and CDG in June 2014. I would like to maximize my AA miles and we also have lots of Avios. There are 3 travelers.
    Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

  21. Hello, nice work. I have read a few of your posts and still cannot find a result for my search. Basically, I want to go one-way from HKG or even Tokyo or Singapore, to NYC some time in Aug or Sept but AA.com will not show anything and I do not get how I know the #of miles needed if I see there is a flight on Cathaypacific.com or Ba.com(qantas will just not work for me).I am in the US while searching.
    The info of # of AA miles required for date X for each class is what I want to know.There are obviously many flights on oneworld partners and I do not want to call and ask for every possible permutation.That seems a bit much.Anyway,thanks if you answer.Oh, can you not use Amex reward points to put on oneworld? That seems insane. Thanks again.

  22. Hi Scott
    I have been reading your posts for some months now. You have an amazing understanding of these permutations! In this string you are describing intenational travel with free stopovers. I cannot find any discussion of free stopovers within the US. I would like to goSAN to BOS and return with a free stopover in ORD using first class on AA. They say it cannot be done. Are they correct because it is travel wholly within the US region?

    Thanks
    Marty

  23. I seem to be unable to use this method for a “free stopover”–so likely I am doing something wrong or missing something. I am trying to go from Minneapolis to Guadalajara, Mexico using AA award miles, with a stopover in Dallas-Fort Worth. I’ve tried getting the stopover outbound and inbound (either way is fine for me) following the directions here but I’m charged 12,500 miles for each segment. I only have 26,000 miles. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Your award doesn’t leave North America, so it is not eligible for a free stopover at the North American International Gateway City.

  24. You mention that Delta and United also allow free stopovers on award travel, but Delta says I need two separate awards to go LAX-TOKYO with a stop in HNL. I wonder if this works on United, and which airlines work the best for this routing in terms of least miles and seat availability. Thank you.

  25. Hi, I’m trying to book a multi-city flight but AA’s new website doesn’t seem to have a multi-city option anymore. Did they remove this option? thanks!

  26. I just tried to do this and it did not offer as one trip. When my itinerary didn’t work, I tried your cities and it still didn’t combine into one award. Does this still work? Thanks!

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