Although the name sounds more like an amusement park adventure ride, “open jaw” flights are nothing to be scared of and can actually save you a lot of time and money (the name “open jaw” originates from the appearance of the diagram illustrating the flight paths). Here are some insight into what you need to know about these flights for the next time you plan a multi-city adventure.
Types of Open Jaw Flights
There are three types of open jaw flights:
- Destination: Where you fly from one city to another, but return to the original city from a third location. For example, you fly Chicago to Atlanta, but on the return, you fly Savannah back to Chicago.
- Origin: Where you fly from one city to another but end in a city different from the origin. For example, you fly Chicago to Atlanta but return from Atlanta to Milwaukee.
- Double: Where all departure and arrival cities are different. For example, you fly Chicago to Atlanta, but on the return trip, you fly Savannah to Cleveland.
Of the three types of open jaw flights, perhaps the most common is the Destination version. Let’s say you fly from Chicago to London and plan to tour many stops on your way to Paris. Once you arrive in Paris, with a destination open jaw ticket, there would be no need to backtrack to London for your return flight because your open jaw departure city back to Chicago, would be Paris.
Can You Save Money with an Open Jaw Flight?
Standard practice for the price of flight deals is that round trip tickets cost less than two one-way tickets for the same route (an exception to this rule might exist with budget airlines). Even though the open jaw ticket doesn’t square precisely with the common definition of a round trip flight, several airlines will treat it similarly and only charge half of the round trip fare for each leg. In other words, they will treat your one-way ticket like a round trip ticket and charge you half.
It’s worth noting that open jaw and circle itinerary flights are not the same. The circle itinerary flight begins and ends in the same city, but includes at least three separate flights to two or more cities. For example, a circle itinerary would be Chicago to Atlanta, Atlanta to St. Louis, then St. Louis to Chicago (you start and end in the origin city — in this case, Chicago). Circle flights typically cost more than OJ, but in many cases, they do qualify for a discounted fare.
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How to Book Open Jaw Flights
It may sound complicated, but you’ll find that booking open jaw flights really isn’t that difficult. Most online booking websites can spot an open jaw (or circle) itinerary and price them accordingly. Just make sure you’re searching with the “multi-city” search option.
As for routing restriction on open jaw tickets, some may apply. The most common restriction applies to the flying length of the segments. In short, the open jaw segments must be shorter in distance than the flown segment distance. For example, if you fly from Atlanta to Seattle, then drive cross-country to New York, and then flew back to Atlanta, you wouldn’t qualify for the open-jaw discount because the distance from Seattle is greater than that of New York to Atlanta. Also, in some circumstances, the destination and return origin must be in the same International Air Transport Association (IATA) region or it may be restricted to the same country.
It’s also important to remember: using different airports in the same city is not considered an open jaw.
An open jaw itinerary can be a great way to experience new locations, but depending on your budget and how much time you have at your disposal, it may or may not be ideal for you. But now that you understand open jaw flights and how they work, you can make the best decision that fits your travel plans.