A layover of more than a few hours can be annoying. But what about a layover that lasts six months? Sounds nuts, but it may be something you want to do – on purpose.
Here's why: Last summer, Conor Knighton flew from his home in Los Angeles to Berlin. A week later he flew home. He booked the entire ticket using his American Airline miles - 30,000 each way.
In a few months, he’s going to fly to Hawaii. For zero dollars. And zero miles. How’s he doing it? He took advantage of a rarely used, but very valuable benefit of American's frequent flier program.
You see, it's 30,000 miles to fly from Europe to Los Angeles. It's also 30,000 miles to fly from Europe to Hawaii - with a stopover in Los Angeles. When you're traveling on an award ticket, American allows you a free stopover in the city you use to enter or leave the United States. That stopover can be for a few days, or up to a year.
In Conor’s example, he flew from Berlin to Los Angeles. He’s using LA as his stopover and then going onto Hawaii months later.
Did he know when he’ll be going to Hawaii. Not exactly. He simply picked an arbitrary date in the future and as long as there's space, he can change his Hawaiian departure date.
A ticket from Los Angeles to Hawaii usually costs 20,000 miles each way. So while he’ll have a free trip to Hawaii, he’s going to have to use points or cash to get back to home when he’s done is vacation. Still it works out cheaper than having to pay both ways.
There are ways to take advantage of free stopovers and one-ways on international trips using miles from many other programs as well. Make sure you do some research before you book, and read up on the fine print. It definitely helps if you live near an airline's hub, but there are still ways to use stopovers to your benefit.