Delta Air Lines has announced that free stopovers will not be part of the 2015 Skymiles program and it seems likely that the combined American and US Airways AAdvantage program will also not offer complimentary stopovers. That would leave United Airlines as the sole major legacy carrier in the USA to offer award stopovers. Based on United’s penchant to mimic Delta and refusal to distinguish itself from other loyalty programs in a good way, it seems all but inevitable that United will also eliminate complimentary stopovers on round-trip award travel.
Delta Eliminates Stopover on 01 January 2015
Delta has already eliminated the ability to book complimentary stopovers online and has announced that beginning next year, with the roll out of one-way awards at half the round-trip price, there will no longer be stopovers included in round-trip travel for no extra miles.
Delta stopovers are still bookable over the phone and the Delta stopover scheme is currently more generous than United’s — stopovers are even permitted on solely domestic awards. Delta’s tougher routing rules and fuel surcharges on many partners do not always make stopovers worthwhile, even when available, but Delta will be following AA in cutting stopovers.
US Airways Still Offers Stopovers…for now
US Airways award routing rules are still totally at the discretion of the telephone agent who books your trip, which can be a tremendous advantage if you get a supple agent to outsmart. US Airways’ process of manually calculating award prices will be gone when AA and US merge loyalty programs, as the new AA has already announced the use of Sabre for the combined loyalty program, the system currently used by American that strictly auto-prices awards.
American Airlines Has Eliminated All Stopovers
When AA introduced one-way awards at half the round-trip price, it eliminated its generous stopover policy, but still allowed stopovers at AA international gateways — even (perhaps unofficially) one one-way awards. Overnight, that option was eliminated earlier this year.
While it is not wholly inconceivable that AA could bring back stopovers as a “new” benefit showing its desire to win loyalty, I find it unlikely — there are far too many miles outstanding and US Airways continues to hawk them for below-market prices when used correctly (for international premium class travel).
> Read More: Dishonesty and Myopia at American Airlines
United Will Follow, Like It Always Does
United modified gutted its award chart earlier this year, citing rising costs for award travel on partner flights among other reasons for an incredible inflation of the award chart in premium cabins, especially on partner flights.
The beauty of stopovers are that they allow two vacations in one — a stop in Europe on the way to Asia or a stop in Asia on the way to Australia (for example) are a tremendous value-add to redeeming points and can turn ordinary vacations into true adventures.
But fuel is cheap, planes are full, the economy is roaring, and United has little incentive to offer this valuable extra when its primary competitors do not.
Book 2015 Travel Now
While there is a rush to book travel overnight, if you are thinking about a 2015 trip that includes a stopover, better to book now than later if you can find award space. International economy is almost always available with a little flexibility and our Award Expert team also seems to always be able to come up with business or first class options as well, so invest the time if you have travel coming up.
One Scenario Where We Might See Stopovers Remain
If AA surprises us and re-introduces stopovers on round-trip awards, then there is a better chance United will leave the stopover policy unchanged. Though we’ve seen United copy Delta with almost no regard for what competitors are doing, I hope that even United realizes it can only push customers so far when its competitors do not and if AA offers a litany of added perks over United, customers will respond (as they are now) by showing no loyalty to MileagePlus and its parent company.