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Round the World, NZ, Australia, Thailand, Singapore, Ams

posts: 153
Round the World, NZ, Australia, Thailand, Singapore, Ams

Dear Friends,

I'm considering two business class rtw tickets for travel beginning in late August and ending in early December. I've done some preliminary checking on the alliance websites, but wanted to get expert help before continuing. I'm guessing that some of these stops might be better planned with separate purchases. Any thoughts would be really helpful. Also, would it be better to buy coach tickets and upgrade. Note: I'd like business class on flights over 5 hours but can do coach otherwise. Thanks so much for your help. The destinations in order are shown below:

Start Philadelphia ( but could leave from NY if nec)

Auckland, NZ

Wellington, NZ

Melbourne, Australia

Ayers Rock and the Great Barrier Reef in either order

Sydney, Australia

Perth, Australia,

Bangkok, Thailand


Either one of the Thai islands or Bali for vacation


Philadelphia or Tampa or Portland Maine

Thanks again for the help,

Skis and Songs

Nannup, Australia
posts: 3,605
reviews: 23
1. Re: Round the World, NZ, Australia, Thailand, Singapore, Ams

Can't comment on fares, but your Australia/Asia itinerary would be more geographically logical as follows:

Wellington-Melbourne-Sydney-Cairns-Ayers Rock-Perth-Bali-Singapore-Bangkok

I appreciate that actual flights might not necessarily fit in with that.

Seattle, Washington
Destination Expert
for Seattle
posts: 3,752
2. Re: Round the World, NZ, Australia, Thailand, Singapore, Ams

With as much travel in Australia and NZ as you're planning, you pretty much have to look at the Oneworld RTWs. Qantas is a Oneworld member, while the only Star Alliance member in the southwest Pacific is Air New Zealand, which doesn't offer service intra-Australia.

Oneworld has two RTW products, the Oneworld Explorer, sold on the basis of how many continents you touch, and the Global Explorer, which is priced according to how many miles you fly (and which also allows using some non-Oneworld Alliance members, but not very relevant in your case.) Of the two, the Oneworld Explorer is the better product overall – no mileage limitations, important for your itinerary.

However, both products have a lot of rules that need to be followed, one of which is that you're only allowed so many flights within specific regions (e.g. North America, Europe/Middle East, Asia, "Southwest Pacific" and so on.) The tickets allow a maximum of 16 segments including “surface” or “open jaw” segments (i.e. fly into Auckland, fly out of Wellington.) Within each continent, you’re allowed 4 flights, except in the case of North America, where you’re allowed 6.

Thus in the case of the SW Pacific region (Oz/NZ and some islands) you'd be allowed four flights within that area, and if you want more you'd have to pay for them out of pocket. But that might be for the best anyway - why burn expensive RTW segments on flights that could be purchased very cheaply?

So while your desired Australian/NZ itinerary might read like (USA) - AKL-WLG-MEL-AYQ-SYD-CNS-PER, that would be six segments, two too many, and in fact since there are no longer any direct flights between the USA and New Zealand operated by a Oneworld partner (Qantas dropped LAX-AKL a couple of years ago) to you'd need to land in Oz and cross the Tasman to get to NZ, using more segments.

Instead, you might do something like (USA) - MEL-AKL-BNE-SYD-PER, and visit Uluru (AYQ) from SYD and Cairns (CNS) from Brisbane (BNE) on separate tickets. You’d visit Wellington (WLG) as a side trip from Auckland. I know it's convoluted, but the rules of the RTW tickets are what they are, and if you're talking business class, the savings are simply too great to compare with over-the-counter purchases.

Now about prices. RTW tickets are priced VERY differently depending on where you buy the ticket and start/end the RTW. For example, a business class 4-continent Oneworld Explorer ticket purchased in the USA will be $10,799 plus taxes, fuel surcharges, and airport fees. The same ticket - with the same stops (except in a slightly different order) will be $6014 (plus taxes/fees) if purchased and commenced in Egypt, or $7900++ if purchased and commenced/ended in Copenhagen. HUGE difference.

RTW tickets are issued as e-tickets, so for example in the case of Cairo, all you would need to do is land at Cairo airport, go through immigration and customs, then head back to the departure desks, check in and fly off on the RTW. At the end of the RTW, you could end up in any Middle Eastern country - Jordan, Israel, Dubai... and fly home from there. (One of the many wrinkles in the rules is that RTWs commenced anywhere in the Middle East can end anywhere else in the Middle East, and RTWs commenced anywhere in Africa can end anywhere in Africa. Otherwise you have to end in the same country – not necessarily the same city – as where you started.)

Now obviously when doing the math, you need to factor in the "access" or "positioning" costs – the ticket needed to get to Copenhagen or Cairo, wherever – so it's not like you're saving all of that four grand in price difference. But can you fly to Europe or the Middle East for less than $4k round trip? Duh. Or, if you have FF miles, use those either before or after. Don't forget that you'll be earning a ton of FF miles in the course of the RTW, so the return trip home can easily be "on the house" using the FF miles you earned on the paid trip, so it's a twofer.

You mentioned possibly using FF miles to upgrade on long segments. You can only use FF miles to upgrade on flights actually operated by the airline with which you have your miles, and not in every case then. For paid RTW trips, it's really not practical - you buy a business class RTW and fly in business class on all the segments where it's offered. I know, hardship, but...

One other (big) advantage of buying Oneworld RTW tickets overseas rather than in North America (aside from price) is that the OW Explorer (continent-based) allows six flights within North America, so if you start somewhere overseas you can travel around and then fly “home” and use the six permitted flights, before returning to your starting point. Remember the tickets are good for a year, even if you want to do the bulk of your flying in a shorter timeframe.

For example, in your case, you could fly to someplace in Europe or the Middle East (where prices are way less than in the US) and start the RTW there. Then fly EAST to Australia/NZ and do your touring in the SW Pacific, followed by doing the Asia bits. Then you fly to the US and stop for however long you want. Use the North America segments to fly to anywhere you want – Central America (counted as part of North America) or the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada, Alaska… whatever you want. Use the flights for business or leisure. Note that business class RTWs book into first class on 2-class domestic flights.

Then, before the year is up, cross the Atlantic and finish the RTW in Europe or the Middle East. Use the miles you’ve earned to fly home, done.

Here’s a possible “backbone” RTW starting in Cairo that would meet most of your itinerary’s targets: CAI-LHR-SYD-AKL-MEL-BNE-PER-KUL-DPS-HKG-JFK-BGI-MIA-PHL-LHR-AMS-AMM. You start in Cairo, visit Uluru from Sydney, Wellington from Auckland, Cairns from Brisbane, and Singapore and Bangkok from Kuala Lumpur. You’d then cross the Pacific via Hong Kong (in Cathay Pacific’s amazing business class) back to the New York (then train back to Philly - don't burn an extra ticket.) Later you'd maybe take a trip to the Caribbean or the west coast (I picked Barbados but YMMV) and back, before crossing the Atlantic to visit Amsterdam, then ending the trip in Jordan.

You need to choose flights that are in Oneworld’s available routes. For example, to get from Perth to Bangkok you’d have to change planes in either Singapore or KL; if you pick KL you can visit Singapore as a very short (land based if you want) side trip and not “burn” the segments out of the RTW. Likewise, there are many low-cost carriers in SE Asia that can get you from KL or SIN to Bangkok cheaply, but save the longer trip (Bali - DPS) for one of the “scarce” RTW segments, in this case on Malaysian Airlines. Hope this makes sense.

It can all be quite dizzying, but if, after taxes, you’re spending something like $7500 for the ticket (ex-CAI) that works out to something like $470 per segment, including long, long segments on BA or Qantas or Cathay or Malaysian - all with incredible service. Believe me, as one who does one of these roughly every other year, it’s a blast.

I should also mention that you’ll easily attain high elite status with any Oneworld airline’s FF programs with just one of these trips. The route above would yield something like 100,000 miles in American’s AAdvantage program (if you know what you’re doing) – enough for another business class round trip from the US to Europe, South America, or Asia. Lots of bang for the buck.

Nannup, Australia
posts: 3,605
reviews: 23
3. Re: Round the World, NZ, Australia, Thailand, Singapore, Ams

ibgaryloo - amazing work! A couple of quibbles though. OP hasn't mentioned going to BNE, so not sure why you suggest CNS as a side-trip from there? SYD-CNS is a direct flight.

Also if OP does take a oneworld option, then they should reconsider what they do in SE Asia. I would suggest forgetting Bali and taking Malaysia Airlines from Perth to Kuala Lumpur and using somewhere like Penang or Langkawi as their island holiday stop. As you suggest, Singapore and/or Bangkok is a short side-trip away. MH has several flights from KUL to Europe to connect on to the US.

Seattle, Washington
Destination Expert
for Seattle
posts: 3,752
4. Re: Round the World, NZ, Australia, Thailand, Singapore, Ams

I suggested BNE because the flights to/from Cairns will be cheaper from there than from SYD. There isn't any CNS-PER service with Qantas, so the idea was to minimize the cost of "extra" flights outside the RTW while still conserving RTW coupons.

Edited: 11:06 pm, March 27, 2013
posts: 2,445
reviews: 620
5. Re: Round the World, NZ, Australia, Thailand, Singapore, Ams

Can't comment on fares, or on an alliance-based RTW package. But I might suggest a couple of strategies on extending the reach of best-priced RTW tickets to visit additional destinations. Also, it probably won't help you, but RTW tickets are often priced differently based on where you buy your ticket and/or start your trip. For example, a Star Alliance or Emirates-United RTW fare is often cheaper starting from Bangkok than from New York.

1. Check with a couple of RTW specialist agencies, to see if one could get you a better routing & price than a pure airline alliance package. I tried NYC-AKL-SYD-PER-SIN-BKK-AMS-NYC on Air Treks and got an estimate of about $3100 if you are flexible with airlines and dates. Discussing with such a specialty agency could let you splurge on one leg in business class (or economize with one leg in cattle class on an otherwise all business class trip). You could also take Skytrax 5-star airlines, or fit in key open-jaws and save money - in ways that standard One World or Star Alliance schemes may not do so well.

2. You might also try leveraging sectors on low cost carriers to extend your reach. For example, you could make side trips from Sydney and/or Perth by rental car, air, bus, or rail - or work with the RTW agency to see what could be added in at little or no cost. Similarly, you could look at Tiger Airways between Perth and Singapore, as an alternative to what the RTW broker wants for that leg. You could take low cost carriers such as Air Asia, Nok Air, Tiger, JetStar, etc around Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand to get far on relatively little cost - as side trips from strategically placed nodes on your RTW itinerary.

I have been RTW in each decade since 1974 - each time done very differently to go with the deals (and my plans for each individual trip). None of those was bought, in traditional fashion, from a traditional airline alliance. The 1970s was mostly by scheduled passenger ship (not freighters or cruise lines) with land segments usually by rail. The 1980s was all PanAm - with side trips by rail or other airlines. The 1990s was a partnership between Malaysia Airlines and TWA (with a side trip on Singapore Airlines). The 2000s was a partnership of Emirates and United (with side trips using ground transport). One last year used Star Alliance frequent flier miles, taking United and Singapore Airlines (with side trips on Tiger, Bangkok Airways, and Air Asia, plus rail, bus, and car). Each was done looking at the typical way of doing things in those days, then looking for something perhaps better. My next one might cross the Atlantic by cruise line repositioning cruise, take rail and air in several hops between Europe and SE Asia, and perhaps take another repositioning cruise trans-Pacific.

That's perhaps a long way of suggesting that Airline alliance packages aren't the only way to go.

On your particular route, I'd look to see what the RTW folks can do (as drafted in point #1 above), then see what other options you have to extend your reach to interesting stops. For example, from Auckland, you could take an excursion to Samoa or the Cook Islands (or other Pacific islands) at reasonable cost with Air New Zealand or the airline of a pacific country. Within Australia, you could check side trips by rail, or by Tiger Airways Australia (which gets lots of grouchy comments, but can take you places cheaply - and which may trigger promotions on other airlines to compete with Tiger's pricing). Singapore and Thailand are "ground zero" for budget travel options by low cost airlines or rail. Indonesia has some options, as well. Likewise, you can get far for little by advance purchases by rail (see seat61.com for ideas) and low cost airlines.

A hint. Look at the Wikipedia articles on major airports along your proposed itinerary. Those articles list airlines operating from those airports, and destinations served by direct flights by those airlines. This may cause you to change your "hub" cities that you ticket on your RTW itinerary, to leverage bargain fares to attractive destinations. For example - if your RTW ticket included Bangkok OR Singapore, you could reach the other easily and interestingly by rail or budget airline - and carry on much farther from BKK, DMK, or SIN airports by budget airlines (including to Bali if you wished).

posts: 153
6. Re: Round the World, NZ, Australia, Thailand, Singapore, Ams

Dear Friends,

These are amazingly detailed comments. Thank you.

ibgardyloo - you hail from one of my favorite cities. Your insights will be invaluable. I have a question - how do the open jawed legs work. That is, (to make up an example) can I fly into Auckland and then out of Melbourne? How do they count for the open jaw?

Numbat - I'm not sold on Bali. A friend suggested it might dominate Thai beaches. Keep in mind that we like simple authenticity rather than more crowded tourist stops. We'd also consider spending the free period after Singapore (about ten days) in Africa or Europe before heading to Amsterdam. But unless the skiing is great, warmer is preferred to cold.

Earthling Online - very interesting. When you use agents, don't you lose frequent flier miles. Also, we typically find that we are willing to spend far more time on our own trips than it would pay for an agent to do. In other words, we're kind of obsessive. What fees do they charge and are you committed to using them if you get a quote? I want to be fair about this. Your thoughts on side trips are awesome.

Thanks to all.

Skis and Songs

posts: 379
reviews: 26
7. Re: Round the World, NZ, Australia, Thailand, Singapore, Ams

What about LAN, maybe a short stay in Santiago then direct to Auckland.

Seattle, Washington
Destination Expert
for Seattle
posts: 3,752
8. Re: Round the World, NZ, Australia, Thailand, Singapore, Ams

>> ibgardyloo - you hail from one of my favorite cities. Your insights will be invaluable. I have a question - how do the open jawed legs work. That is, (to make up an example) can I fly into Auckland and then out of Melbourne? How do they count for the open jaw? <<

Back at ya - our son, DIL and grandson live in the Fairmount District of Philly, and we love visiting them there. Great city.

E-tickets (as opposed to paper tickets, which typically used to be issued for RTWs, but no longer) have to contain an entry in each of the (max of) 16 "from" entries that match the "to" entries directly before. So for example if you use the RTW to fly to Auckland, but want to fly back to Oz from Wellington, the ticket will still carry an Auckland - Wellington segment, but will show a "null" value for the flight detail boxes. So your 16-flight RTW has become a 15-flight RTW, i.e. you've paid for a flight you're not taking.

With the Oneworld RTWs you're allowed so many flights within each region/continent (4 per, except 6 in North America). If you have "surface" segments (e.g. AKL-WLG) it does NOT count against the per-continent limit, but DOES against the total of 16.

Regarding the use of travel agents and booking services, I can't make general comments because there are too many different players with different focuses. In my personal experience (as a former TA myself and frequent RTW user) I've found that North American TAs know basically nothing about these products and even less about "off the beaten path" destinations. The structure of the industry really mitigates against this knowledge - if you don't sell cruises or high-end packages to resorts, you're out of business pronto.

There are a few (mainly European or Australian) travel firms - STA, Trailfinders, etc. - that have some expertise in RTWs. In the US you'll tend to find branches of these firms in university towns or other places where bargain travel - gap years, for example - comprise the bulk of the traffic. Sometimes these agencies will have access to consolidator tickets, which can yield very cheap prices, but are extremely inflexible and if something goes wrong, watch out. One of the benefits of the alliance-based RTWs is that they are very flexible, with minimal charges (or none at all) for change of schedules or revamping of itineraries ($125 for a re-issue fee buys you a whole change of itinerary if you want, less than just one change in conventional low-cost tickets.) In North America, most TAs won't know about this, and don't care, since they don't receive commissions from airlines, unlike TAs in many other countries (reference motivation.)

Regarding your route, all I'd recommend is that you look closely at local conditions in the places WHEN you'd be there. Watch out for jellyfish in Queensland and monsoons in SE Asia, depending on when you're there. One of our standard RTW routes - just us, not you - is to visit Australia in August - no flies at Uluru, no stingers in Queensland - then cross to South Africa (Qantas SYD-JNB) and go on safari in the Kruger complex around the first of September - warm but not humid, no bugs yet, great wildlife viewing... then out to KwaZulu Natal for beaches and elephants in daisies, then down the Garden Route in warm almost-spring conditions, and end up in the Western Cape for wildflowers beyond imagining. Then up to Europe for early autumn conditions and reduced crowds thronging the streets.

That's just us, but maybe you get my meaning - use the RTW ticket to get you places that would be horrendously expensive to do using "conventional" means, but pick the places when the local conditions are best for you. Use the 16 segments of the RTW as a "backbone" and travel on land or rail or boat - whatever - as supplementary or "loop" trips within the RTW.

Edited: 10:51 am, March 29, 2013
posts: 153
9. Re: Round the World, NZ, Australia, Thailand, Singapore, Ams

Dear ibgardyloo,

Once again - this is fantastic! I sincerely appreciate your efforts. We will continue our analysis. I now realize that I should have thought more about the RTW before planning the sabbatical. We could have combined some trips for the entire year. I will think harder about how to get the most out of this but except for Ayers Rock and the Great Barrier Reef and our ending times, our dates are set. I must be in certain places at certain time. This limits my flexibility. Still, you've opened my eyes and I will continue the analysis.

All the best,

Skis and Songs

Seattle, Washington
Destination Expert
for Seattle
posts: 3,752
10. Re: Round the World, NZ, Australia, Thailand, Singapore, Ams

>> We could have combined some trips for the entire year. <<

You still can. Just start in Europe or the Middle East and head EAST, not west, like I described above.

You can get to Australia/NZ just as quickly from a start on the other side of the Atlantic as you can from the east coast, and that way you can return to the US from Asia later in the year, use six months or whatever to travel around the US or other parts of North America, then simply return to Europe/ME at the 11+ month mark to end the ticket.

You've leveraged 4 vacations (Europe/ME before the RTW begins, then Oz/NZ/Asia, then N. America, and finally Europe/ME again) all for the price of one RTW and one round trip to/from Europe or the Middle East.