Quite a few major cities around the world are served by more than one airport. When this happens, these airports are known as co-terminal airports or co-terminals for short.
In technical aviation terms, “co-terminals” refers to a set of one or more airports that are interchangeable when issuing tickets; meanwhile, in the world of award travel and redeeming your miles for flights, co-terminals open up several possibilities for your award redemptions that may not be obvious at first glance. This post will sum up everything you need to know about leveraging co-terminal airports to expand your range of possibilities when booking trips on points.
List of Co-Terminal Airports
First of all, here’s a list of co-terminal airports around the world with commercial air service. While the list isn’t exhaustive (and I’m not sure it could ever be, for reasons I’ll discuss below), it should cover the most significant co-terminal groupings worldwide. If I’ve missed any, feel free to let me know and I’ll add them.
People in the frequent flyer community often communicate in IATA airport codes, and you’ll notice that there are two types of IATA codes in this list: the individual airport codes for each airport, as well as metropolitan codes for a few major cities, which encompass all the airports in that city.
Chicago (CHI): Midway (MDW), O’Hare (ORD)
Dallas: Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Love Field (DAL)
Houston: Bush Intercontinental (IAH), Hobby (HOU)
New York (NYC): JFK (JFK), LaGuardia (LGA), Newark (EWR)
South Florida: Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Miami (MIA), West Palm Beach (PBI)
Toronto (YTO): Billy Bishop (YTZ), Hamilton (YHM), Pearson (YYZ)
Washington, DC (WAS): Dulles (IAD), Reagan National (DCA)
Buenos Aires (BUE): Aeroparque (AEP), Ezeiza (EZE)
Rio de Janeiro (RIO): Galeão (GIG), Santos Dumont (SDU)
São Paulo (SAO): Congonhas (CGH), Guarulhos (GRU), Viracopos/Campinas (VCP)
Berlin (BER): Schõnefeld (SXF), Tegel (TXL)
Istanbul: Istanbul (IST), Sabiha Gökçen (SAW)
London (LON): City (LCY), Gatwick (LGW), Heathrow (LHR), Luton (LTN), Stansted (STN)
Milan (MIL): Bergamo (BGY), Linate (LIN), Malpensa (MXP)
Moscow (MOW): Domodedovo (DME), Sheremetyevo (SVO), Vnukovo (VNO)
Paris (PAR): Charles de Gaulle (CDG), Orly (ORY)
Stockholm (STO): Arlanda (ARN), Bromma (BMA)
Beijing (BJS): Capital (PEK), Daxing (PKX) – opening soon
Jakarta (JKT): Soekarno-Hatta (CGK), Halim Perdanakusama (HLP)
Osaka (OSA): Itami (ITM), Kansai (KIX), Kobe (UKB)
Sapporo (SPK): New Chitose (CTS), Okadama (OKD)
Seoul (SEL): Gimpo (GMP), Incheon (ICN)
Shanghai: Hongqiao (SHA), Pudong (PVG)
Taipei: Songshan (TSA), Taoyuan (TPE)
Tokyo (TYO): Haneda (HND), Narita (NRT)
Note that this list is not simply a list of cities that have multiple airports. Specifically, the list excludes airports that are served only by low-cost or regional carriers, such as Rome’s Ciampino Airport (in addition to Fiumicino), Warsaw’s Modlin Airport (in addition to Chopin), Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport (in addition to Suvarnabhumi), or Johannesburg’s Lanseria Airport (in addition to O.R. Tambo).
After all, the term “co-terminals” applies to different airports that are treated as the same point on a single valid ticket, so the point-to-point ticketing structure of low-cost carriers renders the concept meaningless (for example, you’re never going to book a single ticket with flights on both British Airways and Ryanair, or both Thai Airways and AirAsia).
Also, note that the list is somewhat fluid, as not all airlines employ the same treatment of certain groupings of co-terminals. For example, while Air Canada’s ticketing system treats Miami and Fort Lauderdale as co-terminals, it excludes West Palm Beach (see this FlyerTalk post), whereas other airlines might decide to include it.
Similarly, Alaska Airlines considers additional co-terminal groupings as valid – you can see both a “Bay Area” co-terminal set (consisting of Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose) as well as a “Los Angeles” co-terminal set (consisting of LAX, Ontario, Burbank, and Santa Ana) when conducting searches on the Alaska website.
Since different airlines take different views of whether certain city groupings count as co-terminals, there’ll never be a comprehensive listing of co-terminal airports. However, the above list should encompass the most meaningful ones that you’re likely to encounter when booking your travels.
Using Co-Terminals to Your Advantage
The key characteristic of co-terminals is that they are treated as the same point when booked on a single ticket. What does this mean, exactly?
Well, normally when you fly into one airport and out of another on the same itinerary, that’s considered an open-jaw. But if the two airports involved are co-terminals, it does not count as an open-jaw and is simply treated as either a layover (if it’s under 24 hours in duration) or a stopover (if it’s over 24 hours).
Let’s look at a few ways that you might use this to your advantage when booking award travel.
Co-Terminals at a Destination or Stopover
One of my favourite ways of leveraging co-terminals is by flying to/from an airport that’s much closer to the city centre on a regional flight, before or after a long-haul flight out of the city’s main international airport.
For example, let’s say you were trying to book an Aeroplan award with a stopover in London on the way to Asia. On your way over to London, you’d like to fly Swiss business class to avoid fuel surcharges.
Once you’ve located space on your transatlantic flight over to Zurich, the next step is to add on a flight between Zurich and London at the end. Flying into London Heathrow might seem like the most natural choice, but why not pick one of Swiss’s many flights between Zurich and London City Airport instead?
London City is a much smaller airport than Heathrow, and you can make your way between the jet bridge and the departures hall in half an hour. Moreover, it’s a short ride on the Docklands Light Railway into town, and you also get some killer views of the City of London upon takeoff or landing. It’s by far my favourite airport to use when flying in and out of London.
Because all of London’s airports are considered co-terminals, you can fly into London City and out of London Heathrow on your long-haul departure to Asia, and it’ll all count as a valid stopover in London instead of an open-jaw.
Another instance when the power of co-terminals might come in handy is when your flight bookings are dictated by limited flight or award availability, as seen in the outbound portion of my Luxury Hotel World Tour late last year.
I had found space on TAP Air Portugal business class across the Atlantic, but my intention was to continue from Lisbon to Paris. However, TAP only flies to Paris Orly and not the main Charles de Gaulle airport, so if they weren’t considered co-terminals, then I would’ve been forced to continue the journey out of Paris Orly – a tall order at an airport dominated by low-cost carriers.
Since Orly and CDG are in fact co-terminals, though, I had no problem booking my departure from CDG on Turkish Airlines business class to Istanbul.
The same lesson applies when you’re working with limited award availability. For my current summer trip in Asia, I wanted to book Japan Airlines business class using Alaska miles, with a stopover in Tokyo.
No award space into and out of the same Tokyo airport? No problem. Narita and Haneda are co-terminals, so I’m able to fly into one and out of the other on the same ticket.
Whenever you’re running into limited award space when flying to/from major cities, ask yourself if there are any co-terminal airports you could use. I was recently struggling to find space between Tokyo and Taipei, with both HND–TPE and NRT–TPE searches turning up empty. After a while, I remembered that Taipei has a second airport as well – Songshan Airport (TSA) – and lo and behold, a search for HND–TSA did indeed bear fruit!
Co-Terminals on a Layover or Connection
Co-terminals can also be very useful to help you optimize a long layover. Consider the trip I took last year from Beijing back to Canada on Asiana Airlines First Class via Seoul. I had wanted to book a 24-hour layover in Seoul, but the challenge was that Seoul Incheon Airport is so far away from the city, that getting to and from the airport would eat into a significant chunk of my time in town.
The solution? I first booked an Air China flight from Beijing to Seoul Gimpo Airport, which is much closer to the city, with my next flight departing from Seoul Incheon the following day. This allowed me to shave off an hour of transit time between the airport and my hotel, which I could then allocate towards meaningful time spent exploring the city.
You could apply the same principle to other co-terminal groupings in which one airport is significantly closer to town than the other(s), such as London City (vs. Heathrow or Gatwick), Tokyo Haneda (vs. Narita), Toronto Billy Bishop (vs. Pearson), Washington Reagan National (vs. Dulles), or Buenos Aires Aeroparque (vs. Ezeiza). Flying into these smaller regional airports instead of the larger international ones whenever possible can give you some precious additional time on the ground at your chosen long layover point.
Meanwhile, if you’re merely connecting somewhere instead of spending a long layover, you might also encounter the need to use co-terminal airports.
The most prominent example of this is using New York JFK on Aeroplan awards: several Star Alliance long-haul flights depart from JFK, but if you’re connecting from Canada, it’s unfortunate that neither Air Canada nor United fly into JFK, so you have to fly into either Newark or LaGuardia and make the trip across town on your own.
Keep in mind that connections between co-terminals require a Minimum Connection Time (MCT) that’s different from the standard single-airport MCTs that you can look up on ExpertFlyer. I’m not familiar with a way to look up the MCTs between co-terminals; instead, I’d say it’s usually wise to build in at least four hours for crosstown journeys between airports – anything less and you’re at serious risk of missing your onward flight in case of heavy traffic or some other disruption to your journey.
Co-Terminals at the Origin
Lastly, you can also have co-terminals at the origin of your trip, allowing you to embark on the trip from one airport and return to another. I exercised this option on my Luxury Hotel World Tour: the long-haul TAP Air Portugal flight departed out of Toronto Pearson, but since I had flown Air China business class to Montreal on the return portion, I chose to fly back into Toronto Billy Bishop on one of Air Canada’s hourly services in order to get home quicker.
Since YYZ and YTZ are co-terminals, this was perfectly valid and didn’t count as an open-jaw, despite beginning and ending the trip in different airports.
Searching and Booking Co-Terminals
When searching for award flights between cities that have co-terminals, I always recommend using the metropolitan code instead of the specific airport code whenever possible, in order to cover all of the airports within a city in your search.
Alaska Mileage Plan is pretty great about this. For example, when I input TYO as the destination, I can hunt down Japan Airlines’s flights into both Haneda and Narita airports in one fell swoop.
Similarly, the British Airways Avios website works very well with co-terminals. Redeeming Avios on short-haul European flights is often great value, and a search for LON as the origin or destination allows me to capture all of British Airways’s services out of Heathrow, Gatwick, or City Airport.
Lastly, as you might expect, Aeroplan is the runt of the litter in this regard. To continue the example above, whenever I’m using the Aeroplan search engine, it’s hugely frustrating that I must search for EWR–NRT, JFK–NRT, and JFK–HND separately in order to hunt down all three daily flights.
It surely can’t be that difficult to program co-terminals into the search engine. Do better, Aeroplan!
As a result of Aeroplan being Aeroplan, any booking involving co-terminals cannot be booked online and requires you to contact the call centre – even if it’s a simple one-way trip with a co-terminal connection between LaGuardia and JFK.
When calling Aeroplan to book a trip involving co-terminals, I’ve found that some agents are unfamiliar with this type of booking and will say that you can’t book co-terminal airports without counting it as an open-jaw. If you run into a poorly trained agent like this, you should absolutely insist that co-terminals are bookable… because they are.
If you’re trying to book an extreme Aeroplan Mini-RTW redemption and maximize your allowance of 16 segments on a single itinerary, you should be aware that a trip between co-terminals will count as one segment (similar to open-jaws, even though they aren’t open-jaws). Therefore, if you’re planning to fly into Narita and out of Haneda as part of your itinerary, you’re in fact limited to 15 flight segments instead of 16.
Lastly, one more nuance about co-terminals is that you might get involuntarily re-routed to a different co-terminal airport in the event of IRROPS (i.e., flight delays or cancellations). This happened to me when travelling to Russia last year – as a result of a delayed Lufthansa flight, I had missed my connecting Adria Airways flights to Moscow Sheremetyevo, so Lufthansa “proactively” rebooked me on their own flight to Domodedovo Airport instead.
Not wanting to pay for a crosstown taxi to my airport hotel at Sheremetyevo, though, I had to visit the ticket counter and insist that they put me on Aeroflot’s Sheremetyevo flight instead.
Co-terminal airports open up a wider range of possibilities when you’re redeeming miles for travel. By taking advantage of the fact that co-terminals are treated as a single point when booked on the same itinerary, you can fly into smaller centrally-located airports for a smoother journey, maximize your long layovers, and get out of tight spots when award space is limited. They’re yet another useful tool to keep around as you seek to maximize your flight redemptions.