American Airlines Stopover Loophole – Change Your Flights Later

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Photo by wong.  Used with creative commons license.
Photo by hsckcwong. Used under Creative Commons License.

As some may know, on an award ticket, usually an American Airlines stopover is only allowed in a gateway city. Last month I wrote about how I used a loophole in the American Airlines schedule to get a stopover in a non-gateway city.  As I explained in that post, American Airlines defines a “Gateway City” as the one where you depart or arrive to/from North America. For example, when flying from Los Angeles to London via New York (LAX-JFK-LHR), New York is the gateway city.

The loophole comes with the fact that American publishes certain non-direct fares as direct flights in their system.  I posted a few examples in that article if you want to take a look.  For us, the important one was LAS-NRT.  American Airlines publishes a direct fare from Las Vegas to Tokyo, despite the fact that it has a stopover in Los Angeles.


We can see on the AA route map, that they file a direct fare between LAS-NRT.
We can see on the AA route map, that they file a direct fare between LAS-NRT.


Since the fare is a direct one in their system, American allows Las Vegas to be the gateway city, despite it not being the international arrival or departure city.  In our case, we used the free one-way trick to book HNL-LAX-LAS (4 month stopover) -LAX-NRT for 25,000 miles.

The way American Airlines sees this award is HNL-NRT with a stopover in Las Vegas.  As you can see, LAX is clearly the gateway city, but that doesn’t matter. All of this was covered in greater detail in my previous post and highly suggest you read it if you haven’t already.

Now lets get to the real point of this follow up.  Since the only flight that is published between LAS-NRT is flight 169, I can’t use other flights to/from Las Vegas or to/from Tokyo if I want to keep the booking from splitting into two awards.  As you can see below, AA publishes flight 169 from LAS-LAX and then from LAX-NRT.  It looks like the same flight, but in reality it uses different planes and has a near two hour layover.


AA flight 169


One of the interesting things about the LAX-NRT route is that both Japan Airlines and Malaysia Airlines fly it as well.  Both of those airlines are also members of the OneWorld alliance which means I can use American Airlines miles to fly with them.  If only I could get out of that flight 169!  Well I can!

While I have to book the original award on flight 169 from LAS-LAX-NRT, once it is in the system, I can then turn around and call an American Airlines agent to change the flight if available. The reason this works is because American will let you change flights for free as long as the origin and destination do not change.

The best way to find availability for those other flights is to use the British Airways website.  When I originally booked, neither of the other carriers flights were available, but after about a week, suddenly four seats opened up on Japan Airlines.  I only needed three!


British Airways   Choose your flights
The British Airways website shows space for a lot more of American’s partners that the AA website.  In this case, the JAL flight has 4 economy tickets available!


After calling in and asking to be switched to the Japan Airlines flight which leaves just over an hour later, I was also switched to a later flight from LAS-LAX so I wouldn’t have a long layover. My new itinerary is below and doesn’t have any mention of the original flight 169.




As you can see, the key to getting this to work is getting the published flight (In this case flight 169) to ticket.  Once the ticket is in, American will let you change flights or even dates as long as the origin and destination do not change.  In my opinion Japan Airlines is far superior to American Airlines especially considering we will be flying on one of their new 777-300ERs instead of the tired American 777-200.

Changing the flights was easy and simple.  Personally, this is one of my favorite redemptions in awhile since we got both a one-way ticket to our home airport from Hawaii and a one-way ticket from our home airport to Tokyo.  If booked separately these awards would have cost 47,500 miles each!

Let me know if you have any questions!


  1. Love your blog and look forward to reading them. I recently started churning and am learning something from each of you posts.

    • You are right Brian. I was more trying to show how to find award space on partners via British Airways, but Malaysia Airlines does end that flight on April 30. There is an MH flight from LAX-NRT on the date of our flight though. Thanks for the feedback!


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