Last week I wrote a post abut flying to South America for only 15,000 AAdvantage miles more than a MileSAAver economy reward flight costs. That is possible because of the power of the American Airlines stopover rule aka the North American Gateway City rule on one way award travel.
This rule is widely known across the reward travel community as the North American Gateway City rule. It is often used as a way to crank up the value on your AAdvantage miles reward flights for international trips.
The exact rule is as follows:
Q: Do one-way awards include any stopovers?
A: Awards between North America and Europe, India, Asia, and Central / South America allow a stopover at the North American gateway. However, other one-way awards do not allow stopovers.
You only get a free stopover on international itineraries and the free flight has to be to/from the airport you leave North America from on said international trip. When you fly from New York to Lima with a connecting flight from Miami to Lima then Miami is your North American gateway city that you have to route to/from on your free flight.
Think of it as the gatekeeper for international travel, your first point of entry in North America becomes the gateway city. Your last point of exit from North America to one of the international destinations listed above becomes the gateway city.
(Side note: The sole exception to the above stated rules applies when a flight continues to a second North American airport without changing the flight number.)
One Way Award Travel Guide to Stopovers
Watch this short video to see how you can book two free flights with a roundtrip reward flight to Milan all on AA.com:
There is also the fact that if the airline you are flying with does not have published fare allowing such routing as you wish to do with your free flight you could get it priced into two separate awards. The only way to know is to read the fare rules for your international flights to see what types of stopovers they allow or to use AA.com and trust what they are telling you. through-fare rules of the over-water carrier determine whether a particular routing will be permitted on a single award
Even if you are unsure about if you can fly the free stopover segments there is no harm in finding a “dummy” date – just booking any day- and change the date later on. The date change should be free, unless you are changing carriers when you change the date of the post-stopover travel. But by changing origin/destination of flights American Airlines will hit you with an award change fee that is only waived for AAdvantage EXP.
The free stopover is valid for travel within one year of the award ticket issuance date regardless of the date of your other segments. you can always change the date for free.
Another rule that many people don’t know about is that the stopover has to be valid according to the fare’s routing language. Usually you don’t need to worry too much about finding this language because the AA.com will let you know when your stopover is invalid. The same goes for flights where you are allowed 125 percent of maximum permitted mileage on routes with mileage routing language.
You might run into those last two issues but if you do AA.com will not let you get the stopovers for free and you should just try a different free stopover. It is not the end of the world but if you need to you can read the fare rules to see what would be considered a valid routing.
The 10% AAdvantage Credit Card Discount
Free stopovers with American Airlines are pretty easy to book because of how good their online reward flight booking system is and the big discounts you can get on a lot of destinations. The best value proposition for your free stopover is going to be flights to Hawaii because those are more expensive than any other destination you can get a free stopover in and are pretty close to a lot of international destination’s Off-Peak MileSAAver price.
The best example is adding a free stopover onto a Business or First class reward flight to northern South America:
That means your award flight to norther South America is 7,500 AAdvantage miles cheaper, 15,000 Roundtrip, than the free flights you get to Hawaii. If you also hold a AAdvantage Credit Card you can get an additional 10% of your miles back on this flight which would only add further savings to an already incredible deal.
Some of the other big savings are from MileSAAver off-peak awards to Europe or deep South America for 20,000 in economy each way. Both of which would cost less than even a MileSAAver peak reward to Hawaii at 22,500 miles each way for economy class but the business cabins don’t see the same type of positive savings like northern South America rewards do.
To Your Frequent Flyer Miles Success!