When I first got involved in travel hacking, one of the coolest ideas I learned about was free one-way awards. By taking advantage of flexible routing rules when booking award travel, you may be able to tack on a free one-way flight before or after a round trip award. Since learning this trick, I’ve done it many times and I’m amazed every time that it works!
A real life example
I used Delta SkyMiles to book a round trip flight from Detroit to San Francisco. Since I knew that I needed to be in the New York area a few months later, I added on a free one-way from Detroit to Newark for the date I needed to be there. I had to separately book a return flight from Newark, but my flight to Newark was free. For my return from Newark, I did the opposite. I booked a flight from Newark to Detroit (my free one-way) and then six months later I continued on from Detroit to Los Angeles and back. So, altogether, I booked three round trip flights for the miles cost of two round trip flights. If you can work out the logistics, this is an awesome way to stretch miles further. (Unfortunately Delta discontinued the ability to book free one-ways on January 1, 2015.)
How it works
With award travel, some airlines allow free layovers and “open jaws”. A layover is where you stop for a while at a city en route to your final destination. An open jaw is where you fly into one destination and home from another. For example, if you fly from your home airport to San Francisco, drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and fly back to your home airport from Los Angeles, you’ve flown an “open jaw”. The free one-way trick is accomplished by putting the layover and open jaw at the very beginning or end of your round trip flight. I don’t expect you to understand how it works from that brief overview. It took me months to fully grasp it. The important thing, really, is just to understand that it is possible.
Booking a free one-way
Booking free one-way flights is complicated and each airline has different rules that determine what is and what isn’t possible. Plus, the routing rules change frequently. The best way to take advantage of free one-way flights is to find a good award booking service and ask them to do it for you. The rules regarding free one-ways are changing all of the time. It can take time to research and study, however successfully redeeming a free one-way can save a lot of miles!
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