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Recently, I was looking for a flight from A to B and then a flight back from C to A. Using my English dictionary, I found that this is called an open-jaw flight. However, several native English speaker stated, that they never heard the term. Others mentioned that it is only an open-jaw flight if BC is shorter than AB and/or CA.

Therefore I would like to see a canonical definition of an open-jaw flight. I'm also interested in a term that describes the flight legs described above. In German it is called Gabelflug, but what is the English term?

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There's an answer in another question that does a pretty good job explaining the term. –  Jonik Jun 11 '12 at 9:57
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Digging for an answer in another question is not going to help future people wondering what this term means. I'm sure whoever is voting to close this question has never read any of Jeff's or Joel's blog posts or listened to any of their podcasts )-: –  hippietrail Jun 11 '12 at 12:19
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The technical term for Open-Jaw flights which will be understood by all airlines/ticket sales offices staff is ARNK (arrival unknown), pronounced 'Arunk'. –  user1712 Jun 11 '12 at 12:46
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Almost every blog and podcast post related to all questions on all SE sites. They go into things like the rules, the thinking behind the rules, whether the rules are working well or not, whether a rule is being acted upon too literally, among lots of other stuff. There are lots of key concepts for identifying good posts such as "the long tail" and "making the internet better". I recommend all contributors have a read and/or listen to some of the posts from time to time to get much deeper insights into how SE works and why than just asking, answering, and voting will give you. –  hippietrail Jun 11 '12 at 12:55
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No we should definitely mention it. But we shouldn't close this as a duplicate of that, we shouldn't close this one at all. I guess I shouldn't've assumed those voting to close were doing so for the same reasons that were mentioned in the comments. If they're voting to close for other reasons I'd like to hear. –  hippietrail Jun 11 '12 at 19:06
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2 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

"Open jaw" is very much a common travel industry term, and in fact you'll find it specifically mentioned in the fare rules for many fares. Any travel agent you talk to will also be familiar with this term.

There's three different types of "open jaw" itineraries.

The first is where your trip starts and ends at the same airport, but the destination on the outbound is different to the start of the return. eg, SFO-JFK, IAD-SFO would be an example of this - the start and end is SFO for both legs, but the return starts from a different location to the initial destination.

The second type of open-jaw is when your trip starts at a different airport to where it ends, but via a single destination. eg, SFO-JFK-LAX

The third type is a combination of both of the above. eg, SFO-JFK, followed by IAD-LAX. This is referred to as a "Double Open Jaw", as in effect there's an open jaw on both ends of the trip.

The rules for open-jaws vary between airlines and even between specific fares. Normally the rule is that the "non flown" part of the journey has to be shorter than BOTH of the flown sectors. eg, given SFO-JFK-LAX, the non flown part of the journey is LAX-SFO.

eg, SFO-STL (1735 miles) and ORD-SFO (1846 miles) is a valid open jaw as the distance between the two cities is 258 miles, which is less than both of the flown legs.

SFO-LAS (414 miles) and DEN-SFO (967 miles) is NOT a valid open jaw routing, as the distance between LAS and DEN is 628 miles, which is greater than one of the flown legs.

Recently I've seen a few fares where the rules were that the non-flown sector had to be shorter than the LONGEST of the flown journeys. eg, the following is from the fares rules for a United Airline international flight :

OPEN JAWS FARES MAY BE COMBINED ON A HALF ROUND TRIP BASIS -TO FORM SINGLE OR DOUBLE OPEN JAWS. MILEAGE OF THE OPEN SEGMENT MUST BE EQUAL/LESS THAN MILEAGE OF THE LONGEST FLOWN FARE COMPONENT.

To understand why open-jaw matters, you need to understand a little of how airlines price flights.

Many airlines will price fares differently for one-way v's return journeys, with return trips generally being far cheaper than two one-way trips. This isn't always the case - especially for domestic flights - but for international flights it's extremely common.

Without a concept of open-jaw, a trip like SFO-SIN, BKK-SFO would have to be booked as two one-way trips, which would increase the price significantly. Booking as an open-jaw allows this to be priced as a much cheaper return trip.

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A great answer proving the question was not so trivial after all! –  hippietrail Jun 12 '12 at 9:46
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It's basically a ticket where outbound flight is to one city and return flight is from another city.

Wikipedia has article explaining this.

Also this answer that @Jonik mentioned in comment is great explanation.

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