Cheaper Flights to Europe with Open Jaws and Stopovers

I’ve been putting together a few loosely related posts around getting to Europe by getting the best price and routing you can. This is a bit of Travel Hacking 101 and takes advantage of two features of loyalty programs — open jaws and stopovers — that can save you a ton if you’re booking a trip to Europe.

Previous Installments:

  • Coach Getting Too Pricey? Check out Business Class to Europe
  • Pick the Best Days to Fly to Europe This Summer

What Are Open Jaws and Stopovers?

An open jaw is the name for an itinerary that beings from city A to city B on the outbound but returns from city C to City A, making a “jaw” flight path. This can also work with the jaw on the departure side, like the itineraries below. YYZ-DUB//CDG-YYZ has an open jaw on the destination in Europe, while EWR-LIS-MIA has an open jaw at the origin in North America.

Both of these routings are valid examples of open jaws. Note how the "empty leg" between the teeth of the jaw has to be shorter than the flown legs.

Both of these routings are valid examples of open jaws. Note how the “empty leg” between the teeth of the jaw has to be shorter than the flown legs.

The second tool in your arsenal is the stopover. This entails flying from your origin city A, onward to an intermediary city B and staying more than 24 hours, then continuing to your destination C at a later date. It’s like an ordinary connection except you spend much longer and leave the airport. You’re effectively “stopping over” in city B en route to your destination, visiting two cities for the price of one.

Going to Munich? Why not add a stopover in Lisbon?

Going to Munich? Why not add a stopover in Lisbon?

Easily Book Flights into One City and Departing Another

This idea is relatively beginner-level, but you don’t have to arrive and depart Europe from the same city. Flying into Rome and back from Paris is perfectly possible on the same ticket with no other flight connecting them. In fact, adding an intra-Europe segment would make one of those cities a “stopover” and could dramatically inflate the cost of the ticket, particularly in premium cabins on some carriers like American and Delta. An open jaw is often the better approach.

In many cases — particularly if you’re going to visit multiple cities that are well-connected by trains — consider booking a open-jaw flight into one city and back from another. Use the “multi-city” search feature on most airline websites to specify those cities. Search twice for those cities in both orders (NYC-Rome//Paris-NYC and NYC-Paris//Rome-NYC) to see if you can knock off extra fees and taxes that are typically assessed when departing more expensive cities like London or Paris (and cheaper ones in southern Europe).

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See the “Multiple Destinations” link at the top, next to the “One Way” button? Use that to book open jaw and stopover itineraries.

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Similarly, also has a “Multi-City” option. Use it to find open jaws and stopovers, but be careful that Delta doesn’t jack up the price by charging separately for international and domestic segments.

Pro Tip: Be flexible with the order of cities you visit; maybe it’s cheaper to fly into London and depart Paris instead of vice versa. Search using the multi-city tool on airline websites to see if you can avoid heavy departure taxes levied by the UK, France, and Germany.

United, Alaska, and Singapore Airlines Allow Stopovers on Their Award Tickets

If you’re redeeming miles, it’s important to remember that a few programs allow stopovers, which means you can stop in a city that isn’t your origin or destination and stay there longer than 24 hours.

United Airlines still allows a stopover on roundtrip itineraries. So if you want to fly from New York to Paris and back, you can also add Berlin or Vienna or almost any other European city on the same trip for no extra charge (aside from airport taxes). Not enough miles? United is a partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Rewards, and the points transfer 1:1.

Alaska Airlines goes one further and allows stopovers on one way awards, so you can can stop in one city on the way to your destination (in the U.S. or Europe) and another one on the way back. Keep in mind that Alaska only allows one partner and itself on awards, so you can’t mix and match, but you can get almost anywhere you to ge to in Europe by flying British Airways, Air France/KLM, or Emirates. Scott previously explained the rules for Alaska’s award program in more detail.

Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer award redemptions also allow for stopovers. The first one is free, and each additional one costs an additional $100 SGD (~$75 USD; up to three are permitted). This can be a great value if you want to take an extended trip across Europe because you can hop between a number of Star Alliance destinations for relatively few miles. Just watch out for fuel surcharges. Singapore also partners with Virgin Atlantic, so you have more options to cross the Atlantic Ocean. If you need more points you can transfer them from SPG, American Express, Chase, and Citi, making them among the easiest to accumulate.

Use Your Stopover at Home to Cover Half of Your Next Trip

If you only plan to fly to one city this summer in Europe, that doesn’t mean you need to waste your stopover. Stop in your home city and add a “free” one-way to your next destination in the U.S. (even Hawaii or the Caribbean are available for a modest up-charge). It can save you quite a bit in mileage and fees the next time you want to take a vacation since you’ll only need to pay for the return trip.

Have a roundtrip to Munich? Make your stopover your hometown and add a one-way to Hawaii.

Have a roundtrip from Newark to Munich? Plan your stopover in your hometown and add a one-way to Hawaii.


If you’re just getting started in this hobby, these tricks can help you structure your tickets to see more places without necessarily spending more money or miles. Remember to consider using open jaws and stopovers on your next trip. The multi-city tools on Delta and United’s websites can help you find them using Alaska, Singapore and United miles. Stopovers are often available on paid tickets, too, either for free or for a reasonable surcharge.

Stay tuned for more tips and tricks to get to Europe this summer!

Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper – © Karl L. Swartz

12 Responses to “Cheaper Flights to Europe with Open Jaws and Stopovers”

  1. I wonder if that MUC>JFK(stop)>HNL is something you can book with AS miles?

    • Scott Mackenzie June 3, 2023 at 6:19 am Reply

      I think that example is on United Airlines.

    • Yes that could work if your NYC>HNL routing is done on all AS flights. It can be done, but you’ll need to fly JFK>SEA>HNL. This is because MUC>JFK will certainly be on a partner airline and you cannot use more than one partner on AS awards, so you won’t be able to route to HNL on DL or AA out of JFK.

      • Scott Mackenzie June 3, 2023 at 6:52 am Reply

        Alaska doesn’t yet operate JFK-SEA until later this fall. Also, I’m not sure if they have a parter who flies non-stop JFK-MUC. A connection might be required in Europe, too, but it can probably be done.

        • You would have to get fancy and route via ATL on DL or PHL on AA then to JFK, then to the west coast, then to HNL on Alaska. It’s not impossible, but good luck finding space. AS adding the SEA-JFK flight will simplify if you’re coming in on AF or KLM

  2. Hi Eric,
    Enjoyed the article but “United is a partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Rewards, and the points transfer 1:1.” is correct only regarding Ultimate Rewards and not Marriott Rewards.

  3. Hey Eric,
    I have started putting together a 2 for 1 vacation list of fares & routes available for my “community”.

    This is not as simple as making trial and error queries in search engines.
    I start by reading the rules from City A to City B and see if I can make a cheap stopover in City C (the location for the 2 for 1 vacation).
    Then I have to create REAL itineraries, price them, and see if they make sense in terms of flight comfort.
    I think we can make a list like this: From City A to City B, Stopover City C, Airline.
    Note: hopefully that City C is in another continent to make travel more exciting.

    We can keep the list at the forum if you don’t mind.

  4. Only UA, not good on AA or DL I assume.

    Also do the rules go by the mileage program you’re using or the airline?


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