the World Airfares part 2
Helpful information including when you
should spend more money and fly greater distances to get
While the airlines have
made RTW fares less universally appealing than they formerly
were, there can still be great value and benefit in a RTW
fare, depending on where you want to go and what you wish to
Part 2 of a multi-part series. Click for
Sometimes RTW fares are not as
good a value as are normal roundtrip and other published fares.
But sometimes they are better value.
In addition to being better
value, sometimes it is possible to use other features of RTW
fares to your advantage, and sometimes it is a good idea to
spend more on a RTW fare than regular fares.
In part two of this series we
consider some of these issues, and also look at where and how
you can find and buy RTW tickets.
Consider Upgrading to Business
If you're on your world trip
journey of a lifetime, and if you're countenancing several very
long flights as part of the itinerary, consider spending the
extra money to upgrade to business class.
Normally the extra cost of
flying business class is enormously more than a good value coach
class fare, but many of these RTW fares will allow you to
upgrade to business class for little more than a 50% premium.
Sure, this is several thousand dollars more to spend, but with
the amount of travel you'll be doing, it might be a good idea.
Bonus - Frequent Flier Miles
and Membership Upgrades
Needless to say, you're
flying a lot of miles on a RTW ticket - probably more than
30,000. A single RTW ticket can sometimes be enough to
ensure you qualify for a higher status of frequent flier
membership with your preferred airline's frequent flier program.
The benefit of flying a lot
of miles for not much money (compared to buying a simple
roundtrip somewhere) and qualifying for upgraded frequent flier
privileges may be a sufficient reason in itself to switch from a
simple international roundtrip somewhere to a RTW ticket.
In What Country Should You Buy Your RTW Ticket
and Start Your Travels
You might think the answer
to this is obvious - you'll buy a ticket somewhere in your home
country and the first flight will be the flight from your home
airport to your first destination.
This makes perfectly good
sense, and so it is often wrong!
Sometimes there are much
cheaper RTW fares from other countries, such as to make it
better for you to buy a one way ticket to that other country,
then have a RTW fare from there around most of the world, but
ending your travels when you get back home and 'throwing away'
the unused final ticket back to the place you started your
And because sometimes a
roundtrip ticket is cheaper than a oneway ticket, you might fly
to the other place on half of a roundtrip ticket and throw away
the other half of that fare, too.
On other occasions, it makes
sense to buy a roundtrip ticket somewhere else, do the complete
RTW travel from and back to that other place, then fly back home
on the other half of your roundtrip ticket to that place.
Some places in Asia, and
sometimes London, often have very low RTW fares and might make a
better place to start your travels.
There's one more case when
you might need to start and/or end your travels other than at
your home airport, and that is when the rules of the RTW fare
are such that if you were to do all the travel from and back to
your home airport, you'd be breaking one of the rules and either
not be able to plan your itinerary as you wish, or compelled to
pay a substantial extra fee on top of the base RTW fare.
Extending the Validity of a RTW
RTW tickets are offered for
various lengths of time, and sometimes they also have a minimum
stay as well as a maximum stay associated with them, so as to
make them more difficult for business travelers to use.
The maximum validity of any
airline ticket, including RTW tickets, is one year. But if
you're really planning for a very extended international
journey, you can in effect extend the validity of your RTW
ticket by making the first or last leg of your journey on a
Say, for example, you first
plan to travel to Australia for three months, and then from
Australia you'll travel on to other places around the world, and
in total, you plan to be away for more than 12 months. If
you arrange your flight to Australia on a separate ticket, your
RTW fare doesn't start until the flight out of Australia, three
The same thing works at the
other end of your travels too, of course. If perhaps you
planned to spend some months in Europe before returning home,
maybe your RTW ticket includes a 'fake' flight from Europe back
home within the 12 month validity period which you never use.
When you're ready to return back to the US, you travel back on
whatever oneway or cheap roundtrip ticket you can buy at that
Adding Extra Flights to a RTW
Sometimes you'll want to go
somewhere that is either not possible or which carries a
substantial cost penalty to include into your itinerary.
In such a case, you may be
better advised to add a 'side trip' to your itinerary, and buy
an additional ticket, unrelated to the RTW ticket, to go to this
Your RTW fare probably
allows for 'multiple open jaws' as part of the itinerary
construction - in other words, you don't have to fly
consecutively from point A to B, then from B to C, then from D
to D, and so on. Instead you could possibly fly from A to
B, then get to point C in some other way unrelated to the RTW
ticket, then fly from C to D to E on the RTW ticket, then again
make your way to F a different way, and so on.
If this is possible, then
plan your side trips to maximize the remaining value in your RTW
fare and to cost the least. Sometimes RTW tickets are
costed based on how many miles you fly in total; in such a case,
you'd want a side trip to go from one city to the side
destination and then to take you on to the next destination
rather than back to where you last officially were on your RTW
ticket, so as to get more miles of travel 'for free' - well, not
for free, but at least not at extra unnecessary cost as part of
your RTW fare.
Most Travel Agents and Airlines
hate RTW Fares
Are you starting to get a
feeling for how creative you can be - and sometimes need to be -
so as to get the best value out of an RTW fare when applying it
to a complex itinerary?
Most 'regular' fares have
all their rules neatly entered in a standardized format in
travel agent computer systems, making it easy for travel agents
to understand the fare, and to book the fare, and then to get
their booking system to automatically confirm and price the
reservation. But, almost always, Round the World fares
have very little rule information online, and almost never can
be automatically confirmed and priced.
Booking a RTW type fare can
take a travel agent an enormous amount of time, and it is
necessary to understand the commercial realism of this time/cost
equation. Why would a travel agent want to spend another
hour or two of frustrating research, possibly with the net
result being to save you $50 or $100 on your fare, but in return
for which, the agent gets nothing at all, or possibly even a
Just like any other person
who makes money through selling their time and service, travel
agents have to be reasonably efficient and match the time they
spend with the money they will make, and RTW fares usually
involve them in a great deal more time than normal fares.
I say this not to accuse or
condemn travel agents. Quite the opposite. I say
this to explain to you that if you're seeking to book a RTW type
fare, you need to do several things - you need to have realistic
expectations as to the level of support to expect, you need to
consider going to specialist agencies that concentrate on these
types of fares, and/or you need to do most of the research
It is a similar situation
when you approach an airline. Chances are the person you
speak to on the phone is not familiar with the often
labyrinthine rules of their RTW fares, and chances also are they
will have to send anything they do off to their 'Rate Desk' to
get it manually checked and quoted (this can take a day or two),
and unless you strike it lucky and get a friendly expert agent,
your experience with the airline will be difficult. And,
even if it is positive, you're only going to get information on
the RTW fares that the airline you're talking to offers, of
course you won't get any competitive information on similar
fares offered by other airlines.
Indeed, sometimes you'll
have an airline tell you 'yes, it is true we participate in the
RTW fare offered by (a different airline) but you'll have to
speak to them about the rules and requirements, not us'.
And if you can get a person
to talk to you about RTW fares at an airline, typically there
strategy is to ask you to tell them where you wish to travel,
and then they'll cost it out for you. That makes sense
from their perspective, but it may not make so much sense from
your perspective. You want to know, up front, where you
can go, and what the cost implications of choosing different
destinations will be. It is very hard to get that type of
information from an airline.
Many airlines don't even
have RTW fare information on their websites, or, if they do, it
is sketchy and incomplete.
RTW Fares Compared and
Here is a
table of current
Round the World fares offered by various carriers and alliances.
Information is sometimes sketchy and incomplete, and you should
use this only as an initial guide to the differences, and check
everything direct with the airlines before making any decisions
based on the information presented.?
Where to Buy a RTW Fare
Okay, so if travel agents
and airlines all hate RTW fares, where do you go to get helpful
friendly positive service?
Your best bet is to go to
one of the limited number of travel agencies that specialize in
RTW type fares, and then to supplement the information they give
you with such information as may be in this article series, and
what you can find elsewhere.
Perhaps the best known of
the specialty agencies is
www.airtreks.com, located in San Francisco. On their
staff is well known travel writer Edward Hasbrouck, if you get
him working with you, then you're getting gold plated travel
Two more helpful agencies
www.justfares.com in Seattle and
www.airbrokers.com in San Francisco.
These types of agencies will
look at the cost of your travel from several different
perspectives, and will cost out your itinerary with the best
combination of regular fares, discount fares, air passes, and
RTW type fares. You may end up with something that isn't
actually a true RTW ticket, but which gives you a lower price
for the travel you wish.
Read more in the rest of this
Click the links in the
related article box at the top of this article
to visit other parts of this series, or click here to move to
part three, or here to move back to
Related Articles, etc
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7 Mar 2008, last update
30 May 2021
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