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Open Jaws? Circle Tickets? = Airfare Savings

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Image of shark to introduce discussion of open jaw tickets

Many airlines permit two types of airfares that can save you money and time if you book them using the tips I’ll give you here.

These airfares are “open jaw” tickets and “circle” tickets, also called open jaw and circle trips.

Never heard of them? Well, read on to learn what they are and how to use them.

Circle fares and open jaw fares become useful when you want to visit more than one city, but want to avoid expensive one-way tickets.

Open jaws


An open jaw trip is simply a three-city itinerary where the second and usually shortest segment is traveled on land (or by air if a separate ticket is cheaper than the circle trip ticket described below).

For example, a traveler from Los Angeles. could:

  • Fly to Calgary,
  • Drive through the Canadian Rockies to Vancouver, and then
  • Fly from Vancouver back to Los Angeles.

This takes less money than buying a roundtrip ticket from Los Angeles to Calgary and an expensive one-way ticket back from Vancouver to Calgary. It also takes less time than driving back to Calgary—and gives more time to enjoy Canada’s beautiful national parks.

How open jaw ticket prices are determined

Another shark image for open jaw airfare explained

The open jaw fare “averages out” two roundtrip fares.

Let’s pursue the same example—our traveler wants to book a flight from Los Angeles to Calgary and then another flight from Vancouver to Los Angeles.

If the roundtrip fare from Los Angeles to Calgary costs $500, and the roundtrip fare from Los Angeles to Vancouver costs $400, our traveler would pay approximately $450 for her open jaw ticket. In other words, the open jaw ticket gives you the price of half of two roundtrip tickets.
(We’ll discuss how you set up an open jaw ticket later in this post.)

Priceline Flights - Select your Exact Flight & time or Name Your Own Price!

All images this page (c) Fotolia

When you can use open jaw tickets

Three sharks image for open jaw tickets explained

Usually, open jaw tickets are permitted either solely within one country or from one country to one other country. For example, you could

  • Fly from Chicago to Cape Town, South Africa,
  • Drive to Johannesburg (via South Africa's spectacular coast and game reserves), and
  • Fly back to Chicago from Johannesburg.

An exception to the “one other country” rule treats Europe as one country.

You can fly into Berlin and out of Copenhagen, into Rome and out of Amsterdam, or many other combinations.

The least expensive open jaw tickets are usually available only when these 3 conditions are met:

  1. The flights must be on the same airline or its partners (e.g., Delta and KLM).
  2. The distance of the “open jaw,” or the segment traveled on land, often must be shorter than either of the two flown segments.
  3. The fares used for the two flown sections must conform to airline rules.



    They must be combinable. For example, many Canadian and U.S. fares are not combinable with each other. Our traveler from Los Angeles might find it significantly more expensive to fly into Calgary and out of Seattle, instead of flying into Calgary and out of Vancouver. 

Most discounted fares within one country are combinable.

    

Also, if fares rules differ, your ticket will follow the most restrictive one.

    For instance, if the roundtrip Los Angeles to Calgary fare allows a maximum stay of 30 days, but the roundtrip Los Angeles to Vancouver fare allows just 21 days, then the maximum stay permitted on your open jaw trip will usually be 21 days.

Knowing these rules can help you set up your itinerary in the least expensive way.

Circle trips

 

Circle design for circle trip airfare lesson

Circle fare tickets can also save you time and money. A circle trip is a multi-destination itinerary that involves flying between three cities, rather than traveling to any of them on land.

For example, you might fly out of Philadelphia to San Diego, then fly from San Diego to Seattle, and finally fly back to Philadelphia from Seattle.

To get the cheapest circle trip fare, your trip must follow the same conditions outlined for the open jaw ticket:

1) All flights must use the same airline or its partners,
2) The second flight of the three needs to be the shortest (with some exceptions), and
3) The fares must be conform to the airline’s rules (see Open Jaw above for details).

Priceline Flights - Select your Exact Flight & time or Name Your Own Price!

Combining open jaw and circle trips

Shark image for open jaw airfare lesson

You may be wondering by now if these two types of trips can be combined. Yes, they can.

For example, you could fly from Boston to Phoenix, drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas, fly from Las Vegas to San Jose, and then fly back to Boston from San Jose.

One-way fare option

If an airline like Southwest offers cheap one-way tickets on several of your intended routes, you can book even more creative and complex itineraries at low fares. Cheap one-way fares on airlines like Southwest are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to using open jaw or circle trip tickets in Europe, the UK, and USA.

Booking the least expensive circle or open jaw trip

Most online discount airfare sites offer an easy way to set up a circle and/or open jaw ticket. On most sites such as Travelocity, you’ll choose the multi-destination or multi-city option. Some sites may use different phasing.

TIP: Look up each roundtrip fare individual roundtrip fare separately--as check for the fare calculation above.

SO, bite into the open jaw fares or orbit with the circle fares—even combine the two—and SAVE TIME AND MONEY!

Priceline Flights - Select your Exact Flight & time or Name Your Own Price!

Comments

rollan
December 23, 2015

If driving from arrival airport to another return airport,  the drop charges of a car rental usually makes this a costly move. How to beat these high charges. The open jaw plan sounds great except for the car drop charges Thank you

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Don Nadeau
December 24, 2015

Thank you for your comment and for visiting the blog!

Drop off charges at times can be very high, but also at other times can be extraordinarily low. Why the latter? Rental car companies may need more vehicles at the other destination.

For example, last October, I drove an Avis (a good company) compact car from San Diego to Tucson for $6 per day, with no drop off charge. In addition to stopping along the way, I used the vehicle for a week in Tucson.

How could this be? Well, Avis seemed to be preparing for its peak winter season in Tucson. Better that I drive cheaply than to pay one of its employees to move the vehicle to Tucson.

When thinking of one-way charges, you also have to compare them to the time wasted and cost of taking your vehicle back to the car pickup location. In the post, I am advocating open jaws when people want to sightsee between airports.

For instance, a very popular trip is to drive between Los Angeles and San Franciso via Santa Barbara, Big Sur, Carmel, etc. and possibly even Yosemite National Park.

In this type of situation, do you really want to drive back to LA in order drop off the vehicle with no one-way charge, when you can fly out of San Francisco?

Again, thank you.

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