This may come as a surprise to some, and be common sense to others, but I thought I’d share a brief post about the benefits of one-way awards.
You see, the benefit of one-way awards is that you can change the outbound without changing the inbound and vice versa. Sometimes, when you try to change one direction of a round trip, you have to release your seat on the direction you aren’t changing, which incurs risk that said seat / award availability may in fact either get scooped up or not go back into inventory in time for you to scoop it back up.
There are some airlines that only allow round trip awards, and for those, you really don’t have a choice. But for airlines like American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, the price is the same whether you book it as two one-way awards or a round trip award (other than perhaps any ticketing fees that American Airlines wants to throw at you).
There are also some airlines that give you additional benefits if you do a round trip, like United on their awards. If you plan to leverage those benefits (like stopovers), then by all means, book a round trip, but beware of the risks, if you plan to tweak your reservation in the future.
The Bottom Line
If you think you might make changes to an award trip, then try to book your trip as one-way awards, unless you’re leveraging something only available for round trip awards. Reason being, is that you can tweak one direction without putting the other direction at risk. It keeps things simple.