Reader Mail : Round-The-World Airfares

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:

Star Alliance Round-The-World

One World Round-The-World

SkyTeam Round-The-World

OneWorld and Star Alliance both have RTW trip building on their sites, including pricing. SkyTeam does not yet offer this on their site.

Happy Flying!

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Comments

  1. I think you should mention The Great Escapade (www.thegreatescapade.com) — I find this RTW offered by Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic to be the best in terms of value, after Star Alliance increased their prices earlier this year.

  2. Roberto

    Thanks for chiming in here …

    The Great Escapade, last time I looked, limits departures to those leaving from either London Heathrow (LHR) or Manchester (MAN). This obviously significantly limits departure possibilities for travellers … especially when the person who submitted the reader mail is in Texas.

    While I think The Great Escapade is an interesting concept for SQ, VS and NZ to have partnered up to create, travel is limited to these three airlines and limits destinations that can be visited, such as virtually no travel in Europe, Africa, South America, etc. Yes, you can fly from London to Hong Kong to Singapore to Auckland to Sydney back to Auckland to Los Angeles back to London … but you can’t from around the cities within Europe or Australia or the United States … so it is a limiting experience.

    It should also be noted that (SQ owns a significant portion of VS and used to own a stake in Air New Zealand).

    Happy Flying!

    -Fish

  3. Hi Fish- Thanks for the information. In my experience I have found much cheaper routings by simply booking individual one-way flights from city to city, although the planning process can be cumbersome and it is certainly a less conventional way to do it. Something else to keep in mind, like you say, is how much time will be spent in each city. I, like you, have never taken more than 5 days to do it and don’t check bags if I can avoid it.

  4. Chris,

    If you’re flying certain routings, spaced out over more than 4 weeks I think there are benefits to booking individual sectors, however if a traveller if looking at 10-15 day trip or flying 10-15 sectors, I have found the RTW fares tend to be more beneficial.

    I know there are ups and downs to every possibility, but this has been my experience in pricing out RTW fares. For many there is also the mileage earning benefit as well.

    Each time I have flown RTW, the RTW fares didn’t apply, having flown it now five times, never less than 3.5 days, never longer than 4.5 days … so my fares tend to be well above what an RTW fare might be.

    Happy Flying!

    -Fish

  5. I would be concerned with delays and cancellations with such a long time frame of scheduling, but then I personally don’t make multiple destination plans often.How would re-routing work with fairs like that? Would you be limited in your options?
    I would absolutely be relying on the @eSkyGuide app in that situation, for comfort and peace of mind.

    Michelle
    @eSkyGuide

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  7. Oneworld also has a continent based around the world fare called Oneworld Explorer, which allows considerably more distance to be flown (subject to routing rules and maximum number of 16 segments).

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