Reader Questions about Free Stopovers on American Airlines Awards


I have already written a post about the rules of free stopovers on American Airlines awards and even how to book those stopovers online, but it’s a subject I get a lot of questions about, so I wanted to answer some here to try to clarify the rules. There are four rules with which a stopover on an AAdvantage award must comply.

The four rules with which stopovers must comply:

1) Stopovers must occur at the North American International Gateway City. The North American International Gateway City is the last city in North America you fly out of on awards to other regions from North America. On awards from other regions to North America, the North American International Gateway City is the North American city in which you first arrive. North America is defined as the 50 US states, Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, Bahamas, and the Caribbean.

For a complete list of international gateway cities of all AA partners, see here.

Examples: On the itinerary LAX-JFK-BOS-LHR, the North American International Gateway City is Boston because it is the city from which you leave North America, and it is the only place on the itinerary you can have a free stopover. On the itinerary MEL-SYD-HNL-LAX-JFK, the International Gateway City is Honolulu because it is where you enter North America. It is the only place on the itinerary where you can have a free stopover.

2) The stopover must be part of a routing that does not exceed AA’s Maximum Permitted Mileage for your origin and destination by more than 25%. Maximum Permitted Mileage (MPM) is a number of miles that the airline puts on all possible city pairs, and awards can exceed it by 25%. MPM is not the direct distance between two cities; it is usually a larger number. You can find the MPM for a city pair on Expert Flyer, the KVS tool, or by asking an AA agent.

Example: Say you want to try this routing, LAX-BOS//BOS-NRT-TPE, Los Angeles to Taipei with a stopover in Boston. First I would head to Expert Flyer, and I would look up the MPM for LAX to TPE since that is the origin and destination. LAX-TPE has an MPM of 8,137 miles. (Note that this is much farther than the direct distance between the two, which Great Circle Mapper lists as 6,799 miles.)

Next I would multiply the MPM by 1.25, since we can exceed the MPM by 25% on awards. 10,171 miles is 25% greater than the MPM of LAX-TPE. Now, I can go to and check the distance of our putative routing. LAX-BOS-NRT-TPE is 10,669, which exceeds the allowable 10,171, so this is not a valid routing.

3) The airline that operates the flight that connects the two regions must have a published fare for your origin and destination city pair.

Example: You want to fly MEL-LAX-JFK-BWI with a two month stopover at LAX and will fly on Qantas from MEL-LAX. That means Qantas has to have a published fare from MEL-BWI for the stopover to be valid and to avoid this being priced as two awards.

How do you figure out if there is a published fare between a city pair? You can see if you can book a ticket between the city pair on the operating airline’s website or kayak. In practice, I just see if I can have it price as one award over the phone. If I can, I have a legal routing and stopover.

4) A stopover’s length is limited by the fact that all award travel must be completed within one year of its booking.

Example 1: On January 1, 2013, you book MEL-LAX-JFK with a stopover in Los Angeles. MEL-LAX is January 2, 2013. Your maximum stopover in Los Angeles can be for nearly a year, you just need to complete LAX-JFK by December 31, 2013.

Example 2: On January 1, 2013, you book MEL-LAX-JFK with a stopover in Los Angeles. MEL-LAX is November 15, 2013. Your maximum stopover in Los Angeles is about a month and a half. You need to complete LAX-JFK by December 31,2013.

Those are the four rules. Once you’ve found the gateway city where you want your stopover, it is a matter of figuring out whether the operating overwater carrier has a published fare between your origin and destination and making sure that you don’t exceed MPM by more than 25%.

Let me run through some itineraries based on ones that readers, Ryan from MA and kate, asked me about.

Puerto Rico-Boston//Boston-JFK-Tokyo-Taipei–invalid

This itinerary is going from North America to Asia, so the international gateway city is the last North American city, JFK. The only valid stopover point is there. Don’t be confused that Boston is the arrival point from Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is part of North America according to AA’s inclusive definition: the 50 US states, Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, Bahamas, and the Caribbean.


The North American International Gateway City here is SFO. Remember AA’s expansive definition of North America includes Mexico, so the flyer hasn’t left North America until flying SFO-HKG. And the city where you leave North America is the only city on the outbound where you can have a stopover.


From above: LAX-TPE has an MPM of 8,137 miles.  Multiply the MPM by 1.25, since we can exceed the MPM by 25% on awards. The MPM of LAX-TPE times 1.25 is 10,171. LAX-BOS-NRT-TPE is 10,669 miles, which exceeds the allowable 10,171, so this is not a valid routing.


This itinerary has the stopover at the international gateway city, and it’s about as direct as possible, so no exceeding MPM worries. But does Japan Airlines, the overwater carrier from Tokyo to Boston. have a published fare from Tokyo to San Juan? YES!

I hope this post has cleared up any confusion about the complicated stopover rules on AA awards. If it hasn’t, keep the questions coming.

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  1. just wondering is stopover permitted on one-way tickets with American? For United, I know they only allow stopover on r/t tickets.

  2. […] Regular MileValue readers know that one of the stringent requirements for a free stopover on an AA award is that the stopover can only be at the international gateway city. While the list of such cities is long, it doesn’t include every airport or any tiny regional airports, where a number of people live. […]

    • Click on fare information, type in the routing and airline, then click the the weird wavy icon next to the most expensive fare.

  3. If I am flying from HKG-SFO nonstop (Cathay Pacific), could I add on HNL or LAX as a “final destination” a month later? Thank you.

  4. Have really been enjoying your blogs – full of great info – very much apprecited

    Can we go using AVIOS from RSW (or MIA ) to Madrid – stopover 3 days – onto Paris via IBERIA ?

    Using a free stopover in MAD would be great, if permitted ?

    Return leg would be Barcelona – MIA and onto RSW -using AVIOS on Iberia

    Any help appreciated

    • You can do this, and Avios allows unlimited stopovers since each leg costs what it costs whether you fly it two hours after the last leg or two weeks. You will run into huge surcharges on transatlantic British Airways Avios awards. If you’ve had an Iberia Avios account open for a few months, you can make a free transfer and cut your surcharges dramatically by booking out of an Iberia Avios account.
      If you can’t transfer to Iberia Avios, your Avios will be better used from MIA to Central and South America (no surcharges!)

  5. Great site! From reading your blog… seems possible to book a flight from LAX->HNL-(another city in Asia depending on what airline)–>BKK final destination – and get a Free stop over in HNL? What airline do you recommend? I’m very new to this miles and point thing. Can you save your stop over for later LAX->HNL?

    • LAX-HNL//HNL-???-BKK//BKK-???-LAX is valid. You can even add a free oneway from LAX to many places at the end. You can get a stopover each way on AA awards in the North American International Gateway City. I recommend whatever airline has award space, maybe Hawaiian//JAL//Cathay

  6. Hi, I’m trying to plan out a stop over and not sure if this route would work as the MPM and city pair concept is still a bit hard to grasp for me.

    I’m assuming city pair means the city of the airport u fly from and the final destination.

    So, SFO being my home airport. I have plans to travel to PIT in Jun 2013 and plan to travel to TPE in Nov 2013 and back to PIT in Jun 2014.

    I wanted to do the following flight PIT/SFO (Stop over for 5 months) then SFO to TPE. So the city pair is PIT to TPE, therefore the stop over should be less than the MPM. Would that be doable as one award ticket on AA for 37.5K?

    Then I would book a one way award tix from TPE to SFO.

    Wondering if I could do a free one way from SFO to PIT (for travel 7 months later).

    Lastly, for the SFO TPE flight, I’d have to first check availability via Cathay before I can call AA to book, right?

    Thanks for your blog on explaining the stop over and free one way!

    • PIT-TPE is the relevant city pair for checking the MPM. PIT-SFO//SFO-TPE and TPE-SFO//SFO-PIT are both valid for 35k each in economy as long as SFO is the last/first airport in the USA (North American gateway city). You can have the long stopovers in SFO. Just make sure that all travel is completed within one year of booking the ticket. Check Cathay space before calling AA to save yourself trouble.

  7. Hello! Thanks for your info. I am trying to figure out if this routing will work.

    CDG – Lax (Stop) – HNL (or any other hawaiian airport) with flying the CDG – LAX leg on air tahiti nui


  8. I have been reading a lot of the posts and they all make sense to me except for one point with AA. I understand how you can add a extra free leg at the end of the trip with United. But with AA you put it on the front of the trip. My question is does that mean you have to at some point before your “main” international trip you need to take the first “free” leg? Or can you save it for anytime within a year? Ex. ORD -> IAD // IAD -> SJO // SJO -> ORD
    With IAD being home, does that mean at some point before my trip to San Jose I need to first get to Chicago and then fly to IAD to make my ticket valid for the future trip??? Can I use the ORD -> IAD leg sometime after my round trip to SJO? I wouldn’t think that is possible and would void my ticket since I missed the beginning of my trip. I didn’t see anything which addressed this in the blog. Thanks

  9. Hi, love the site. Would this routing work, for 40k AA miles one-way? I am going to call to ticket, but want to have my facts straight..
    BNE-LAX (stopover)

  10. Trying to book DPS-KUL-CDG-JFK as an award on AA (using MH to CDG then Openskies to NY) but have been told by 2 reps that transatlantic routing is only permitted on AA metal (which is unavailable for my dates). I checked MPM’s and I’m well under, and MH publishes a fare for DPS-JFK. Is that rule real?


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