Why booking a Round The World(RTW) ticket might make sense.

A Tam, October 10, 2009
Fares from Washington DC:

    Are you planning a trip around the world? Maybe you need to visit a client in London, Hong Kong, and a few other places. If one of these is true, you might want to take a look at booking a Round The World ticket. While at first glance it might seem fairly expensive, but if you do the math and break it down you will understand why they are typically a very good value when planning a trip to multiple continents and countries. It will yield significant savings especially when traveling to places where Round Trip tickets are expensive. Some examples include:  Africa, Islands in the middle of an ocean (Easter Island, Mauritius), and places in central Asia like Nepal. For the most adventurous travelers, there are travelers who have used RTW tickets to go to Arbil Iraq in the Kurdistan region of the country.

    Types of RTW tickets.

    All 3 major airline alliances offer a RTW product. Star Alliance and Skyteam both offer mileage based RTW tickets.This means you can fly up to 26,000, 29,000, 34,000 or 39,000 miles. The price of the ticket will depend on not only on which class of travel you fly but also which level you decide to buy with 26,000 being the lowest. To get the most out of the ticket, you'll likely want to get as close as you can to the maximum mileage limit.

    The other option is offered by the OneWorld Alliance. Their product is based on segments. You can fly up to 16 segments on your trip. Any connections you need to make will also count toward the 16 flights. If you want to maximize using a OneWorld ticket, you'll probably want to consider taking non-stop flights and longer flights. Remember mileage flown doesn't matter here, you just can't fly more than 16 flights.

    Cost

    This is probably the one most important question. Tickets like this can start as low as around $3,000 for coach class and go up to nearly $18,000 for First Class. The cost really depends on which class you are traveling on, how many miles flown (For Skyteam & Star Alliance), and where you start. Where you start can be a big determinate of how much you pay. If you start in certain countries it will be significantly cheaper than starting lets say in the United States, which is one of the most expensive places to start a RTW trip. You can save $2,000 or more!  A 6 continent trip on OneWorld starting in the United Kingdom costs around $3,000 (at current exchange rates) compared to $5,400 if started from the United States. Do your research, as it might still be cheaper to buy a Round Trip ticket to and from your starting point.

    If you're thinking about a RTW trip and have a slightly more flexible budget, you might want to consider flying in premium classes (Business, First). Not only is it more comfortable (especially on long flights), but also the savings are pretty steep. A roundtrip business class ticket from San Francisco to London starts at about $3500. Compare this to flying around the world in Business starting at just $5000-$6000. Again, while the price seems high you have to think about it in terms of value per flight and number of places you are able to visit.

    RTW Sample Itinerary's Including Taxes & Fees.

    Routing.

    Class of Service

    Cost.

    LON-ZRH-MAD-JNB-HKG-NRT-SYD-CAI-AKL-SCL-DFW-ORD-NYC-LON

    COACH

    $3900USD

    LON-ZRH-MAD-JNB-HKG-NRT-SYD-CAI-AKL-SCL-DFW-ORD-NYC-LON

    Business

    $9198USD

    Sample RTW Purchased by segment.

    Routing.

    Class of Service

    Cost.

    LON-HKG-SYD-SFO-JFK-LHR

    COACH

    $3900USD

    LON-HKG-SYD-SFO-JFK-LHR

    Business

    $11,022USD

    How to Book.

    Booking a RTW ticket is easier now than it has been in the past. You can book directly from the alliance you plan on traveling with. Star Alliance and OneWorld both have booking tools online where you can plan and book your trip all online.  Sky Team has yet to launch an online booking tool, but given that the other 2 alliances have done so already it would not be surprising to see one in the near future. If you don't feel comfortable doing the booking all on your own there are agencies like Air Treks that specialize in RTW bookings who can help you plan your trip.

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