If you’re lucky enough to live in one of American Airlines’ or oneworld’s international gateway cities, a whole new style of award booking opens up for you. Every time you book a transcontinental award trip, you have the opportunity to add a free one-way ticket within North America. This makes use of American Airlines generous stopover rule. The North America region even includes Hawaii and the Caribbean. I already went over adding free one-way trips when I discussed how to fly from the Caribbean in winter and to Europe in summer for 20,000 American Airlines miles total, but it’s worth going over this by itself as well. It’s just such a valuable trick that it would be a shame for anyone to miss out!
At the end, I’ll give some more cities and routes you can use for adding on free one-ways. We don’t want everyone to be stuck with just trips to Europe and the Caribbean!
Free Stopovers in North America
American Airlines allows a free stopover in the North American gateway city on any transcontinental award between North American and another continent. Here, gateway city refers to the city from which you enter or leave the region.
American Airlines defines North America as the U.S. (including Alaska and Hawaii), Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean . Keep in mind you must start or end outside of North America for the award to count as transcontinental and to get the free stopover. If you try to arrange a free stopover traveling from Mexico to the U.S., for example, it won’t work.
1. Miami-NYC-London-Paris: the gateway city is NYC and a free stopover is allowed in NYC only
2. Grand Cayman-Miami-Rio de Janeiro: the gateway city is Miami and a free stopover is allowed in Miami only
3. Aruba-Dallas-Los Angeles-Berlin-Oslo: the gateway city is Los Angeles and a free stopover is allowed in Los Angeles only
4. London-NYC-Hawaii: the gateway city is New York
Note that all the above routings go through different airports. You are actually not allowed to have a one-way routing that goes through the same airport twice. The idea is that everything on your routing should be (loosely) on the way to your destination and going in a loop means you’re going out of the way.
5. Aruba-Dallas-Los Angeles-Dallas-London: this is not a valid one way-routing as it goes through the same airport twice
6. Vancouver – Los Angeles – Miami – Cancun: there is no gateway city here as the routing never leaves North America.
Adding free one-way trips within North America
If you are lucky enough to live in a city in North American between which American Airlines or its oneworld partners flies flies to another continent, you can stop over for up to a year from the time your ticket is issued.
For example, if you live in Los Angeles, American Airlines flies directly to Berlin on air berlin. You can even search for award flights on air berlin on AA.com.
If you include the flight from Los Angeles to Berlin in your routing, you can add either before or after a flight anywhere to North America.
1. Aruba — Miami — New York - Berlin is considered a one-way trip from Aruba to Berlin and allows a stop in New York up to a year
A route from Aruba to Berlin allows you to stop in New York for up to a year
2. Berlin — Los Angeles — San Francisco is considered a one-way trip from Berlin to San Francisco and also allows a stop in Los Angeles for up to a year
The one caveat is that the overseas carrier must have a published fare that includes your itinerary. I personally have been able to get around this rule by asking enough phone agents to override it and it rarely comes up, but it’s good to be aware of it.
Booking a ticket with stopover in North America on AA.com
To actually book the ticket on AA.com, you need to go to Plan Travel and then Flights. Under the AAdvantage Award tab, select the Multi-city button and type in your details. Here, I am looking to fly from Honolulu to Los Angeles in June and from Los Angeles to Japan in September.
As my example, I am going to look for a business class ticket from Honolulu to Los Angeles and then from Los Angeles to Tokyo. I first type in my dates for both segments.
Once I click Go, I will get a date selector for the first segment and the second segment. The whole thing is priced as an award from Honolulu to Tokyo and it also says:
This international award allows a stopover at Los Angeles — LAX for no additional miles. Mileage required for both flights is displayed on the Award Legend for the international flight.
Once I select both dates and flights, the whole award will price to 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles + taxes.
Routes and cities for adding free one-ways
As I said, you can add an additional trip within North America before or after any international trip as long as your home city is the gateway city. I’ll list a few direct flights you can use. You can find additional routes using the American Airlines route map. Maybe someday I’ll make a complete list, but here are a few routes from major cities to get you started on planning your trips with free one-ways.
Don’t forget that American Airlines will have a hefty fuel surcharge for flying British Airways so it’s best to avoid including any trans-Atlantic British Airways flights in your itinerary. For that reason, I won’t list any of these. Also, some of these you cannot book online or search for availability on the American Airlines website. And, of course, some of the airlines involved do not always have award seats available.
- JFK to Helsinki on Finnair
- JFK to Berlin or Dusseldorf on air berlin
- JFK to Madrid or Barcelona on Iberia and American Airlines
- JFK to Milan, Paris or Zurich on American Airlines
- JFK to London on American Airlines
- JFK to Rio de Janeiro on American Airlines
- JFK to Santiago on LAN
- JFK to Buenos Aires on American Airlines
- JFK to Tokyo on American Airlines or Japan Airlines
- JFK to Amman on Royal Jordanian
- JFK to Doha on Qatar Airways
- JFK to Abu Dhabi on Etihad Airways
- LAX to Lima on LAN
- LAX to Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane on Qantas
- LAX to Tokyo on American Airlines
- LAX to Shanghai on American Airlines
- LAX to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific
- LAX to Tahiti on Air Tahiti Nui
- LAX to Fiji on on Air Pacific
- LAX to Berlin, Dusseldorf on air berlin
- LAX to London on American Airlines
- MIA to Lima on LAN
- MIA to Santiago on LAN
- MIA to Rio de Janeiro on American Airlines
- MIA to Buenos Aires on American Airlines
- MIA to Paris on American Airlines
- MIA to London on American Airlines
- MIA to Berlin on air berlin
- MIA to Madrid on Ibera
- MIA to Barcelona on American Airlines
- Chicago to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific
- Chicago to Shanghai on American Airlines
- Chicago to Beijing on American Airlines
- Chicago to Tokyo on American Airlines
- Chicago to Paris on American Airlines
- Chicago to London on American Airlines
- Chicago to Berlin on air berlin
- Chicago to Helsinki on American Airlines
- Chicago to Amman on Royal Jordanian
- Chicago to Doha on Qatar Airways
- Chicago to Abu Dhabi on Etihad Airways
- Boston to Tokyo on Japan Airlines
- Boston to Paris on American Airlines
- San Francisco to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific
- San Francisco to Tokyo on Japan Airlines
- Dallas to Seoul on American Airlines
- Dallas to Rio de Janeiro on American Airlines
- Dallas to Buenos Aires on American Airlines
- Dallas to Santiago on American Airlines
- Dallas to London on American Airlines
There are also ways “better than free” one-way trips on American Airlines Awards (that’s right, you can SAVE miles by adding on a one-way trip in North America to an international award). Take a look at some of my posts on adding segments in North America to make your international trips cheaper:
- From the Caribbean in Winter + to Europe in Summer for 20,000 American Airlines miles TOTAL
- Adding “Better Than Free” One-Ways on American Airlines: Fly to South America for 20,000 Miles All Year!
So where do you plan to take your next North American free trip?