Choosing a RTW ticket

There’s a wide choice of round-the-world tickets available, from just 3 or 4 stops on a single airline (available from around 700GBP) to 16-stop tickets of 39,000 miles or more on the major global airline alliances.

The main considerations for choosing our ticket were:

  • Cost! – obviously a big factor, for a big RTW trip the air ticket is usually the biggest single investment
  • Destination coverage – we need good coverage in SE Asia, South Pacific andSouth America

Given that we are planning on a mammoth 9-month trip of a lifetime, the choice was always between the major airline alliance tickets. The leading alliance tickets that cover our main destination areas are:

  • StarAllianceRound the World Fare
    • The biggest airline alliance – 28 airlines, covering over 162 countries and 975 destinations
    • Mileage based fare – 29,000, 34,000 and 39,000 mile versions – max 15 stops
    • Backtracking (allowed but not over oceans) and surface sectors count against the mileage total.
    • Great inMicronesiaand the South Pacific. South & Central America good sinceBrazil’s TAM joined Star Alliance.
    • Cost: Around 3,200 GBP plus taxes for 39,000 mile ticket
  • OneWorld Explorer
    • Based on the number of continents visited (from three to six) and has no maximum mileage limit, max 16 segments
    • Routings that require backtracking are more easily accommodated as the extra mileage incurred from doing that doesn’t cost extra. This is important for us because we want to visit places in an inefficient order so that we get the right season for each location (i.e. dry season in SE Asia, spring time inNepalandChina)
    • Has a great online booking tool to experiment with different itineraries (spent lots of time doing this!)
    • Critically, this ticket gives access to bothEaster Islandand Galapagos, for which we would otherwise have to budget another 700-1000GBP for if booked separately and are must-haves on our itinerary
    • Cost: 4-continent 2,131 GBP plus taxes (around 3200 GBP incl taxes)
    • There is also a mileage-based OneWorld Global Explorer, up to 39,000 miles. This allows access to a few extra airlines (useful in south pacific). However a 4-continent OneWorld Explorer is nearly 1000 GBP cheaper than the 39,000 mile Global Explorer fares, and I found that I was hitting at least this mileage on a 4-continent ticket anyway (currently it looks like 42,000 miles).
  • SkyTeam Around the World
    • Mileage-based ticket up to 39,000 miles, 16 stops max
    • Coverage in South America, South Pacific andAustraliais not good
    • Cost: Around 3,450 GBP plus taxes for 39,000 mile ticket
    • The poor coverage and high cost of this ticket rules this one out. Stef will soon be lamenting the loss of her Delta Gold Medallion Status. Last chance for us to enjoy the free lounge and exist row seats next month!

Decision: the combination of OneWorld Explorer being at least 1000GBP cheaper than other tickets for a long (39-42k mile) itinerary with access toEaster Islandand Galapagos included, makes this ticket choice a no-brainer. Extra flights will be needed to cover South Pacific islands, Indonesia, and perhaps within China– but there isn’t any ticket that could get us to everywhere we want to go – and this is the closest, best value option available to us.

We will book the ticket in the next couple of weeks and I’ll post again with some more info.

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