It’s a Round the World plane ticket and it’s a wonderful thing.
While preparing for this trip I was asked many questions, but the most common question (other than, “are you excited” – which I will cover in a future post) was about the Round the World (RTW) plane ticket and how it works.
A Round the World ticket allows a maximum number of stops and a maximum number of flight segments within a year, going more or less in one direction. Your first step is to chose with which of the major airline alliances to travel (Star Alliance, One World, etc.). Each alliance has its own rules and restrictions. I will detail the Star Alliance RTW as it is the one I chose and includes Air Canada and its alliance partners.
Let’s first deal with the awkward question of money, as it is the most common asked – and unasked – question.
On Star Alliance there are three mileage levels (29,000, 34,000, 39,000). An economy RTW ticket under 29,000 miles costs $5,393 plus $1,325 taxes and fees for a total of $6,718. A sample itinerary might be:
Charlottetown – Toronto – Los Angeles – Honolulu – Rarotonga – Sydney – Singapore – Bangkok – Delhi – Cairo – Istanbul – London – Charlottetown (via Halifax).
This example is 26,838 miles, 15 segments and 12 stopovers. The Star Alliance RTW allows 16 flight segments and 15 stopovers so you could add another flight segment for no cost (providing it doesn’t add more than 2,162 miles)…or rent a car in Halifax or get picked up there and add a second flight segment. Note that all the destinations are direct flights except for London to Charlottetown which is via Halifax and, therefore, uses two flight segments. Star Alliance’s Book and Fly planning map shows which cities are direct flights from your last selected city.
There are an infinite number of possibilities and routings and planning is made ridiculously and temptingly easy on the Star Alliance and Fly website using their Trip Planner tool with handy map where you can click and dream and get a price. Next storm day, check it out.
There are many tips and tricks to maximizing the value of your ticket – using direct flights between cities so you don’t burn flight segments is one. Also, using the RTW to get to out-of-the-way places (read: expensive) is another. Note Rarotonga on the above itinerary. My out of the way destination was Bora Bora. Well, Tahiti, as Star Alliance doesn’t fly to Bora Bora. I purchased a round trip ticket from Tahiti to Bora Bora outside my RTW ticket.
Your entire ticket, routing and fights (which can all be done on-line) must be booked before you depart. However, you can change any date on your ticket up to and including the departure date for that city at no cost. So, if I am in Sydney and due to fly out today, I can change the date with a quick phone call for no added charge. I have already done this once, and will change every departure date from Delhi onward. I can change a destination city for $125USD. The airline alliances know that planning up to a year or more out is challenging and plans change, so the RTW is much more flexible than a regular ticket.
There is some flexibility in the ‘fly in one direction’ rule. This really applies to the three zones or ‘traffic conferences’ as defined by IATA. More or less, you cannot cross back over the Atlantic or Pacific, but I was able to fly from Auckland, New Zealand to Papeete, Tahiti and then back to Auckland and onward to Sydney and still be on a valid RTW ticket as I was still within the Pacific region. I would not have been able to fly back to North America. Don’t worry – if it is not valid, the trip planner will tell you.
There is an interesting loophole in all of this. Starting your journey in a few select countries can cut the cost significantly. For example, starting the above itinerary in Bangkok reduces the total price to $4,915, saving almost $2,000 – but you still have to get to Bangkok.
I consider a Round the World ticket to be tremendous value if it fits with your travel plans. On a $6700 ticket with 16 flight segments each segment is about $425. Not bad when you price 16 one way tickets with little or no flexibility.The minimum price I could find for a one way ticket to Tahiti from Charlottetown was $2200. Also, one way tickets can raise suspicion with security and immigration officials, but you should be OK if you show your next outbound one-way ticket.
This isn’t a complete article on everything you need to know about Round the World tickets. Everyone’s circumstances, goals, and destinations are different. It has certainly help me realize my dream. What’s yours?
We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open. — Jawaharal Nehru