Airline Fare School # 10 – Secret stopovers, Part 3

This is the last installment of Secret Stopovers .

US Airways – San Francisco to Paris (free stopover in Philadelphia)

US Airways allows a stopover in Philadelphia (PHL) or Charlotte (CLT) on pretty much any fare I’ve looked at between the U.S. and Europe. PHL is both a domestic hub for US Airways as well as its primary hub for service between the U.S. and Europe. Currently served European cities from PHL include Dublin, London, Madrid, Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Amsterdam, plus Tel Aviv in the Middle East. From CLT the airline operates nonstop to London, Paris, and Frankfurt.

Fares to PHL tend to be on the high side so if a business trip (or leisure trip) comes up on short notice you might be able to add Europe on. You may actually save money over just buying a round-trip ticket to Philly, or at least be able to fly to Europe for not too much more.

Check out this example: SFO-PHL leaving 24 November returning 28 November vs. the same flight to PHL, with a flight to Paris (CDG) on the 28th returning to SFO on 2 December. $2009 just to PHL, or $858 to go all the way to Paris.

Why? Because the fare used between SFO and CDG allows a free stopover in PHL. (Examples are from Expedia.)

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Now there’s a curious thing about this trip. If you were to plan exactly the same trips using instead of Expedia, it wouldn’t get it right. US Airways would present the same price for the simple SFO-PHL round-trip, but would fail to accurately price the Paris trip with the free stopover.

Moral of that anecdote? If you like to use an airline’s proprietary site, it still may be useful to get a second or even third opinion for the same itinerary from one of the Big Four (Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, Priceline). Or use a bricks-and-mortar travel agent and pay the planning fee if you feel he or she has the necessary expertise.

About Philadelphia. PHL is a convenient jumping off point to other east coast destinations. SEPTA, the regional rail system has frequent and fast service from the airport directly to Amtrak’s downtown Philadelphia station. From there by train many cities are a short ride away including New York (1.5 hours or less), Washington, D.C. (about 2 hours), Newark, Baltimore, Wilmington, and elsewhere.

American Airlines – Sacramento to Cabo San Lucas (free stopover in Dallas)

This isn’t an example where the fare is actually lower than what you’d pay to get to DFW, but it sure is close. Pay your employer the difference in fare (a whopping $40 in this instance) and enjoy a weekend in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico (SJD). Notice in the second itinerary that it’s a nonstop between SJD and SMF – Mexicana flies this nonstop and is a code-share partner of American’s. You could also return on an American connection via DFW. (Examples are from

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Delta Airlines – Sacramento to Buenos Aires (free stopover in Atlanta)

Current fares between Sacramento (SMF) and Atlanta (ATL) on Delta are expensive if you don’t plan at least 14 days in advance.

So if a work trip comes up on fairly short notice, why not take a few days of vacation after the business part of the trip and head south – way south – to Buenos Aires (EZE)? Heck, in this case you’ll even save your company money.

Here’s a round-trip on Delta from SMF to ATL (2-4 December) at $1115.20, followed by an SMF-ATL (2 December), ATL-EZE (4 December), and EZE-SMF (9 December) at $1059.80. Price savings comes to about $45, and you get to practice your tango. (Examples from

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Free London stopover on British Airways and free Paris stopover on Air France

British Airways and Air France both allow free stopovers at their respective hub airports in London (LHR – Heathrow) and Paris (CDG – Charles de Gaulle) even on their lowest round-trip fares.

For example, you could buy a ticket from San Francisco to Rome on BA with a break in travel – not just a connection – in London and then continue on to Rome. It would not increase your fare except for some additional tax.

Or buy a ticket from Seattle to Prague on Air France breaking the trip in Paris.

London and Paris are two of the top cities in the world to visit. These free stopover allowances present you the opportunity to visit them in conjunction with another European destination at almost no additional transportation cost.

Some other points about each carrier’s stopover provisions:
– Air France actually allows you to stop over in Paris both directions if you wish
– British Airways will allow a second stopover in London for $50
– Air France also allows you to have an open jaw trip plus the Paris stopover(s)
– British Airways allows you the rare privilege of a double open-jaw (flying into and out of different cities in Europe as well as originating and terminating travel in two different U.S. cities

Let’s look at an example from British Airways website. In this case, we’re really milking all of the rules: San Francisco to London on 21 January. Stopping over for a few days then continuing to Rome on the 24th. Open-jaw (not flying) between Rome and Milan. Flying back from Milan to Los Angeles (double open-jaw) on 3 February.

1505-AFS10 - SFOFCO - BA.jpg

All of that including taxes and fees for $756.55.

Come back for Airline Fare School # 11 where we’ll look at some of the differences between domestic fares and international fares.

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4 Responses to Airline Fare School # 10 – Secret stopovers, Part 3

  1. Mirek says:

    Re: Free London stopover on British Airways and free Paris stopover on Air France

    This worked beautifully. Thank you so much Greg for the great recommendation!!! You are a true travel GURU.

  2. Romelle Castle says:

    Your link from # 10 to # 11 appears to be broken.

    Otherwise I’m loving this, and will find my way by going back to your original index.


    (Note from Greg. I went ahead and added a link from Chapter 10 to 11, and also from 11 to 12. Thanks, Romelle!)

  3. Georgia says:

    I see the info in this blog is from 2009. Do you know if free stopovers are still allowed in PHI, London and Paris. Thank you and great info

  4. Greg Fischer says:

    Hi, Georgia.

    Thank you for your question.

    In the Apollo system I use I checked rules for some sample fares from the U.S. to Europe..

    For British Airways it appears that the free London stopover remains in place. I priced a trip from San Francisco to Berlin with a 4 day stopover in London on the outbound vs. simply connecting in London, and it priced the free stopover. The only difference was $28 in additional tax that was charged.

    I checked rules for several fares for Air France and the results were spotty. In some markets no stopovers were allowed, in others it was allowed for a $100 flat fee.

    For US Airways the free stopover in either Philadelphia or Charlotte is still in place, but the same warning I wrote about in ’09 applies. does not seem to be able to apply the free stopover rule.

    I booked a trip in Apollo from Sacramento (SMF) to Philadelphia on 10 August on US 376, then US Airways 754 on 15 August to Paris (CDG), then back from Paris to Sacramento connecting in Philadelphia (flights 755 and 375) and the price with all tax and fees came to $1128.08 (inventory code “V”, fare basis code VHXEQ4EU).

    However the very same itinerary booked using US Airways website priced at $1549 with a mish-mash of inventory codes and fare basis codes. It appears that US Airways website does not have the ability to recalculate multi-stop itineraries. (I emailed them about this problem back when I wrote the Airline Fare School series and never received a reply.)

    My advice for booking a trip like this on US Airways is to check with a bricks-and-mortar travel agent or an all-purpose website or call the airline directly. If you are quoted the lower fare by a US Airways call-center agent ask them to waive the “live-person” fee, because their website is unable to price the itinerary correctly.

    — Greg

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