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Booking stopovers and selling unused miles

This week’s questions are both frequent flyer related: One concerns redeeming miles for a less-traditional itinerary while the second asks about unloading miles for money.


Let’s say you want to use your frequent flyer miles to visit more than one stop. A reader recently asked it this way:

“Can you generally use the same amount of frequent flyer miles for a trip including stops in two cities—for example, San Francisco-Hartford-Lexington, KY-San Francisco? Is there a way to do this for the same miles as a round-trip San Francisco-Hartford?”

The short answer: not always, but some lines do make provisions for stopovers.

Intercontinental flights

On frequent flyer awards, most of the big lines allow one stopover en route to your final destination on flights from the mainland to Europe, Asia, South America, and the South Pacific. Alternatively, you can take one open-jaw, where you fly from your origin to one destination and return from another.

Domestic flights

The issue of stopovers within the contiguous 48 states plus nearby Canadian and island points is one area in which the big lines differ, at least slightly. Here’s what I found on those lines’ websites:

  • American makes no mention of stopovers.
  • Continental publishes a separate one-stopover award table: 35,000 miles in coach, 60,000 in first of business class. Those are 10,000 miles over the regular round-trip requirements.
  • Delta says one stopover is permitted on award travel, but only if the stopover is along the most direct route.
  • Northwest allows one-stopover trips for 1.5 times the standard round-trip mileage.
  • United does not permit stopovers on domestic trips.
  • US Airways permits one stopover, but only at one of its hub cities and only along the most direct route to the more distant destination.

Although these seem to be the current rules, I suggest you check with the airlines on which you hold frequent flyer miles and ask about your specific itinerary.

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