Booking a OneWorld Explorer RTW Ticket in the UK

After much planning, we finally booked and paid for our RTW tickets and parted with 6,388 GBP (10,200 USD)! For a 42,450 mile trip with 15 stopovers for 2 people this is pretty good value – works out at around 11.7 cents per mile – not as cheap per mile as many deep discounted single fares, but a great deal given the flexibility we should get from this ticket regarding date changes and the ability to complete the trip during a 12 month period.

Here are our experiences and advice for trying to book this in the UK, in case this helps anyone else out there on a similar mission:

  • Don’t get committed to a specific routing until you’re absolutely sure that the necessary seats are available on the required routes on or around your planned dates for each leg. We ran into issues that Japan Airlines hadn’t released their L-class inventory from 1st April onwards yet (and from reading online, it looks like this wouldn’t have happened until Jan or Feb) and so we couldn’t get seats on those flights any time after March – so we ended up re-jigging our itinerary to go to Japan earlier.
  • Whilst the rules say that you only have to book your first international leg on a specific date and the rest can be open-jawed, I couldn’t find anyway to actually buy the ticket like this. The online booking tool requires a seat reserved on every flight leg, and speaking to BA on the phone, they needed all reservations too.
  • Travel agencies are unlikely to be particularly helpful, as they rarely get involved in booking these sorts of tickets and lack the expertise regarding the complex rules. STA Travel in Reading said that they might book one of these a year and they don’t have any more useful tools than what is already available to the customer directly with the OneWorld Explorer online booking tool. So they couldn’t book itineraries with the extra 75GBP legs per continent (not exceeding 16 for the whole trip) either – which was the main reason I couldn’t continue to book the ticket with the online tool.
  • I started by trying to book via American Airlines – because we will be flying under AA frequent flyer program and also because I had read that they have a dedicated round the world desk (suggesting competence at doing this). The lady there seemed to know what she was talking about, but unfortunately AA cannot book your OneWorld Explorer ticket out of the UK unless you have an international AA segment in the itinerary. So we had to call BA.
  • The OneWorld Explorer online booking tool doesn’t necessarily let you book everything and pay without speaking to an airline anyway. The outcome after you hit the “Book Now” button is actually to hold your reservation for 96 hours until you call your local OneWorld airline to pay. I’m not sure if this is true for every itinerary (the guy at BA said “it looks like the itinerary was too long to be ticketed online”).
  • BA weren’t very helpful. When we ran into the Japan Airlines inventory problem, they refused to acknowledge that it was an inventory-release problem or that it may become available at some point in the future (it took me some online research to figure this out) and they couldn’t help with any suggestions on how to work around the problem. Basically all they are good at is taking a fully finalized/reserved itinerary booked through the online tool and running your credit card against it. After some frustrating calls with them I decided to ditch doing extra legs in South America in return for sacrificing legs in Australia(which was why I couldn’t book with the online tool). So I only worked within what the online booking tool could do, got everything finalized and reserved, then let BA take my money over the phone.
  • If you’re planning a really long trip, flight schedules may not even be available 10 or 11 months out. So the last 3 legs of our trip couldn’t be booked on the dates we want.. and of course as noone will book this ticket open-jawed, you have to work around this problem by booking them on dates much earlier – then in a few months we can move the flights back to the correct dates again (free of charge, the whole purpose of a RTW ticket is to have this flexibility).
  • It’s a really good idea to be a member of a OneWorld Frequent Flyer program as you will cover a lot of miles, but don’t expect to get full earning on every other OneWorld carrier. OneWorld explorers are booked into L-class which doesn’t earn miles with some airlines. Try to find the best FF programme for the airlines you are flying – I chose AA as I started using them this year and they have better earning on some airlines such as Qantas (50% vs 25%) and LAN (100% vs 25%) than our wonderful local airline, BA. These links are useful for checking this out:
  • Taxes and Fees: – just by way of example for anyone wondering, for our trip the base fare was 2131 GBP – and the taxes and fees came out at 1063 GBP for the 16 legs.
    • As a side note, this is exactly the same base fare as the 29,000 mile version of the OneWorld Global Explorer ticket – but our ticket is taking us 42,250 miles.

Overall, I’m satisfied right now with the RTW product we’ve purchased (but time will tell) – it’s good value for what we want to do and gets us to most of the places we want to go. But beware that due to the inventory availability issues and the seeming impossibility to book this ticket open-jawed, it is actually less flexible than it first seems. Expect to spend many hours with the online booking tool going over many iterations to finally get a valid and bookable itinerary if you want to get the most out of this ticket – and compromises will need to be made. In the end we were only able to stick with this product because we had planned and budgeted for extra flights to get to certain destinations (e.g. in the south pacific where the covered with the explorer ticket is not good anymore) and we were able to be flexible about which destinations we will cover with those additional flights (for example, we will now do a round trip from Hong Kong to Manila separately, and we will buy our Galapagos tickets separately from Quito. I haven’t calculated what our final total air mileage will be yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it approaches 60,000 miles.

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