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.
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.
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.
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.