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They may not be in the same country, but…

Following the rules doesn’t often sound too exciting, but when it comes to points and miles – it really can be. Each airline or loyalty program has a different set of rules for when you set out to use your points, and if you read the fine print, or even just do a little bit of cursory digging, you may find that you’re entitled to more than you bargained for. Here’s how to use airline region rules to your advantage, to stretch your credit card points or airline miles even further…

a group of tuk parked on a street23:59 vs Stopover

The first thing to know is that any international connection under 24 hours isn’t considered a stopover. Any connection over 24 hours is. Basically, if it’s under 24 hours, it’s always allowed. Some airlines allow stopovers of more than 24 hours when using points, even on one way tickets, but even if yours doesn’t – you may be able to add in some additional travel and take in some new cities, without paying any extra points…

Region Rules

No, Bangkok is not in Singapore, and Bali is not in Vietnam, but according to many airline region rules, they’re all the same thing. These places are all considered Southeast Asia, and for airlines that define the number of points you need by region, rather than distance – this can work to your advantage. Basically, if you’re flying from one region to another, you can add in flights within that departure region, destination region or both for no additional miles. Why would you just go from Bali to Sydney when you could go from Bangkok to Bali, to Sydney to Melbourne all for the same amount of miles?

Actual Regions

This works in regions all over the world. The same goes for Western Europe, Australia – and even places as large as the USA. The simplest example is starting in Cleveland, even though your long haul flight leaves from New York. While people naturally consider this when leaving from home, they forget it elsewhere. When booking a ticket from B to C, why not add an A to B and C to D for free? It’s like a buy one get two free. By only thinking about the big picture flights, like a Pacific or Atlantic crossing, travelers sell themselves short on onward flights that don’t require additional miles. When a free stopover is involved, this is truly ideal.

Think of it as a multi city booking, rather than a one way, even though the price in miles will remain the same…

a close-up of a planeWhy This Matters

Even when you’ve saved big on the “big flights”, connecting the dots on small flights can quickly add up, and anyway – why pay if you don’t need to? By using region rules you can add segments within regions onto a bigger trip for free on both ends, which means less time and money spent booking other tickets to connect the dots. This is a brilliant way to add additional cities to a trip, especially when airline hub cities are involved, which leave you with “no other choice”. Even just 23 hours in a city can be a blast. With some cities – 12 hours is plenty, but you’ll be glad you saw them. If your specific points or miles allow stopovers over 24 hours, even better.

Recent Example

Live and Let’s Fly took advantage of a recent blip where Singapore Airlines Suites tickets were available using United Points. He booked a ticket using United MileagePlus miles from Singapore to Auckland, which is simple enough. But rather than settle for just that single trip one way flight, he used multi city to add a flight in front of it, from Bangkok to Singapore, and also after it, from Auckland to Queenstown – for no additional mileage. Bangkok and Singapore are the same region, and so are Auckland and Queenstown, so Matthew was able to get three flights for the price of one.

More Everything

The essence of this is that you can see more of a region, without using more points on quite a few airlines if you use your noggin. Using miles from airlines such as United, American, Aeroplan and Alaska, it’s all about the region, not really the distance. There are examples where distance based tickets can be even better, such as on JAL or ANA, but this can be equally excellent. A famous example of this is using Alaska Miles for Japan Airlines, taking advantage of the fact that all JAL flights go via Tokyo. All of Asia is considered as one region, so you could fly from Singapore to Tokyo, stopover in Tokyo and then carry on to Delhi, for the same 25,000 mile business class price you’d pay just going from Singapore to Tokyo.

kyoto sakura seasonTrip Savvy

This is simply an overlooked way to stretch the value of your miles into something even better. Think big, think extras and see what you can do to save yourself money on your trip. The first step is learning about what your airline miles allow. The next thing is figuring out if there are any juicy region rules, such as Southeast Asia to India via Tokyo. The next thing to do is actually remember to add them. Even if you’ve forgotten, additional flights in the origin or destination can often be added for no additional mileage cost, and just a minimal change fee. Enjoy.

Have you taken advantage of region rules to improve your points bookings?


Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Nice post. Scott Grimmer used to write about sweet spots like these before he vanished. I know that I’d love to see more on the topic. For example, one of the best uses of AA miles is on Qatar to the ME/India region for 70,000 miles. I’ve wondered if there is some way to find a sweet spot from Bali to the US with AA miles. That’s 110,000 miles in J on Qatar, but that same mileage would get you in F on JAL, albeit without the potential stopover in the mideast.

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