Traveling around the world, a dream for many travelers … and a travel routing I have never done in more than 4.5 days, but one day I’d like to do it at a slightly slower pace … but I digress …
… this week’s reader mail comes from Ronnie, a photographer down in Houston. Ronnie asks, “I understand that some of the airline alliances offer around-the-world airfares. Do you have any advice on which ones offer the best trade-offs and where to get pricing information?”
Ronnie, this is a fun topic, one I can spend probably 4 to 5 hours discussing at length, but I’ll try and pack the basics into a single blog post.
Each of the three major airline alliances offers Round-The-World fares, generally referred to as “RTW.” In general each RTW trip required a minimum of 10 days travel and a maximum of one year. Some allow for backtracking, others do not, some allow multiple same city stops, others do not … but all the alliance block out their RTW fares by miles flown, with RTW fares generally blocked between 26,000 miles to 39,000 for OneWorld and SkyTeam and 29,000 miles to 39,000 miles with Star Alliance.
Fares also obviously depend on class of service, Economy, Business or First. You also need to be aware that you have to book an RTW with an airline, or a travel agent on the phone or in person. Presently these fares can’t be booked online, as the fares are complicated to calculate, based on taxes and fees, which vary by each airport and destination chosen. Some routes may not be available for a RTW fare, such as British Airways’ JFK-LCY flight, and seats may be limited on RTW fares, such as Singapore Airlines’ A380 service from SYD to SIN.
Quite honestly, the alliance that offers the best options and trade offs depends on where you intend to visit. Not all alliances are created equal. Some alliances are lacking in some regions of the world, such as SkyTeam‘s noticeable gap in the South Pacific or OneWorld‘s lack of network options in Africa, and others have massive coverage in some areas of the globe, like Star Alliance‘s domination of Europe.
There are few trade offs in a RTW fare, unless you want to travel for less than 10 days, or you choose to travel in an area with limited network coverage within a chosen alliance.
I think RTW fares offer significant benefits for travel, with minimal downside. Flying a RTW flight gets you a good fare, frequent flyer miles based on your class of service and an adventure around the world.
One thing to keep in mind … something someone else had asked about RTW travel a month ago … if you are checking baggage you need to check the regulations for size and weight, as well as possible checked fees, for each airline and leg you’ll be flying. As a photog you’re likely to have an over weight backpack, check not only the carry-on limits of each airline, but also their strictness in enforcing carry on policies. You don’t want to get stuck with no options and no way home … this is the same as flying any other trip.
You can check out each alliance’s RTW fares, restrictions, route maps and detailed information here: