What is an Open Jaw Flight?

Open jaw flights are excellent for experienced travelers to maximize their trip by allowing more flexibility. There are several advantages to booking itineraries with open jaws instead of a traditional round trip option.

The reason why they’re affectionately named, “open jaw” is because if you draw the flight paths on a map it will usually resemble an alligator’s open jaw. At this point you may be wondering why someone would want to book tickets this way. Wouldn’t it just make sense to buy one way tickets if you need something this fancy? Typically the main driving force behind this type of itinerary is price, but there are other advantages that simply allow more freedom to maximize your travels at each destination. It also prevents paying unnecessary change fees should one leg of the trip get interrupted or cancelled.

“Open jaw” can describe one of three different types of itineraries:

Origin Open Jaw

This is flying from one city to another but return to a different airport. Here’s an example of an open jaw flight I just booked for my in-laws’ upcoming trip around the US: New York City (EWR) to Fort Myers, Florida (RSW) to Boston (BOS).This is described as an origin open jaw.

 

open jaw flight path

 

This itinerary saved them money versus purchasing two one way tickets. Plus, it allowed them to visit three different cities and more flexibility to fly on the same flights with my husband and me.

Destination Open Jaw

Another example is flying from one city to another and returning to the original departure city from a different destination. I booked this destination open jaw for my trip to Europe this summer. I planned to visit four different countries with my girlfriend. Based on a few music festivals, we knew we wanted to meet in Ibiza and end in Brussels. 

 

It’s very cheap to fly within Europe, but the biggest expense involves actually crossing the pond first. So buying two one way flights across the Atlantic simply isn’t economical. That’s when I used the multi-city search option on ITA Matrix to find the following American Airlines itinerary. It was almost too perfect. I got an open jaw flight to Europe that perfectly fit our schedule AND fly using my elite status with American? That, my friends, is a gift.

 

So I booked Detroit (DTW) to Ibiza (IBZ) and returning from Brussels (BRU) back to Detroit (DTW). This example isn’t as clean of an open jaw flight path due to the connections, but you get the idea.

open jaw flight europe

 

Double Open Jaw

Finally, the double open jaw is a bit more advanced to book and usually requires some type of phone call to the airline instead of searching on something like Kayak. However, your results may vary. These involve two totally separate departure and arrival cities. Example: flying from Chicago to Dallas and then continuing from Houston to Miami.

Although I didn’t plan it this way, my Europe itinerary I just detailed actually turned into a double open jaw due to my flight from PHL to DTW getting cancelled. So I asked American Airlines to re-route me to Buffalo, New York (BUF) where my husband was traveling on business (with a car) and we drove the four hours across Canada together to return to Detroit.

 

double open jaw flight europe

 

Essentially the easiest way to describe an open jaw itinerary is saying that an airline will take you from city A to city B but it’s your responsibility to get yourself to city C. At the end of the day open jaws are usually recommended for more experienced travelers. The point is to save money and maximize the number of destinations you can visit without sacrificing trip time. The best strategy is to first search a combination of round trip and one way itineraries to establish your baseline. Then see if you can improve with multi-city searches or open jaws. Finally, determine if the transportation to get between the different destinations is worth the savings of the open jaw. Hopefully this will help you the next time you need to book a more complicated trip.

 

 

I created all of the example maps in this post with the Great Circle Mapper.

  • I didn’t know this kind of travel was named thus. Makes sense though.
    Making a note of this for future.

  • This is really great info! I am definitely saving this for my next trip!

  • I never even thought of this! What great info. I’ll be booking this way when going to Amsterdam next year!

  • ParentingHealthy

    We did this for our honeymoon, I had no idea it was called Open Jaw flying though. It saved us a lot of money

  • Brianna Fleming

    I have never heard of this but it is very interesting. I’ll have to keep this in mind for our next travel plans.

  • Subhadrika Sen

    I had no idea of Open Jaw Flights but this looks likes a great way to save some money on the flights. I have not booked this way but your post has opened my mind to try it once.

  • This was an informative post! I always had a vague idea of what an open jaw was, but it sounds like I’ve been doing that without realizing it. Do you know if there is a way to book an open jaw without doing some combo of round trip and one way? I have found that one way in some cases can be practically the same price as round trip! But not always of course.

  • Vyjay Rao

    This is a useful concept and one which will help optimizing costs. We have done this sometimes, but were not aware of the nomenclature involved. Thanks for sharing some interesting and useful information

  • Great explanation. I’ve never done this. I’ve bought one way tickets and yeah, it is more expensive.

  • I had no idea these kinds of flight plans had a proper term! Its definitely a smart way to save on tickets.

  • Kevin Wagar

    Great breakdown! We’ve used these types of flights a few times and it’s a great way to travel if you have a complex trip ahead.

  • Mary Charie Ylagan

    Wow! This looks like a good way to plan a world trip! I’m not very organise, seems like this could help me!

  • Interesting. I did not know that it was called open jaw. I have done this quite a few times. Glad to know that it is quite helpful too.

  • Ray

    Thanks for writing this inciteful post about open jaw flights. I never knew about these before, but it might come in handy for me in the future for internal travel within Canada as Toronto is one of the most expensive airports to flight out of here in North America

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