A Quick Round the World Trip: How to Make it Possible

by Mike on March 9, 2012

Boeing 777 at JFK Terminal 1

JL Boeing 777 at JFK Terminal 1

In a few days, I’ll embark on a short jaunt around the world, which does sound impressive.  Now, I’m not wealthy nor do I come from a wealthy family.  When it comes to airfare, I think of it to be analogous with college tuition, where some students in the classroom are getting a free ride while others are paying full tuition.  And despite how much money each student ends up paying, each one arrives at the same destination – commencement.

Similarly with passengers on a flight, each passenger will arrive at the same destination, but each one of them paid a different fare.  Passenger booking last minute tickets for reasons out of their control may be booked into full priced tickets.  Some passengers could be getting a free ride using frequent flyer miles while other early planning passengers may have caught a good deal by booking deep discount tickets.

Like the student getting a free ride, you want to be that passenger getting the free ride.

The difference between the student and the passenger is that you don’t have to be anyone special to get a free ride.  You simply have to be acute in finding arbitrage opportunities in accumulating frequent flyer miles.

So by redeeming frequent flyer miles and the advantageous routing rules of the particular airline program, my jaunt around the world was easily obtainable on my measly income.

ROUTING RULES

Travelers redeeming their frequent flyer miles seldom take advantage of routing rules and instead book a simple round trip from point A to point B.

This is a no no. In fact, it’s a BIG no no.

Typically, airlines have routing rules where you’re allowed one stop over and/or open-jaw on international itineraries.  These terms are unfamiliar with unaccustomed travelers.  To elaborate:

  • A Stopover is exactly what it sounds like, a stop in the middle of your itinerary before continuing onward.  The duration of your stopover can be as long as you want, but you must complete your entire itinerary within a year.  This is not be confused with a connection or layover, where the duration is less than 24 hours.
  • An Open-Jaw is flying from city A to city B, but returning to city A from city C, where it’s up to you to get yourself to City C to continue your itinerary.

Essentially with an Open Jaw itinerary, you’re seeing two destinations on the same itinerary.  Routing rules such as these make it very possible to stretch the redemption value of your frequent flyer miles.

Airlines have partnerships with other airlines allowing you to redeem miles on their partner airlines.  It’s very possible that you can reach a destination on a partner airline not served by the main carrier.  An excellent example is Hawaiian airlines.  Though this airline doesn’t belong to any of the big three Alliances (Star Alliance, Sky Team, or One World), they partner with several different airlines in each of the alliances.

Take for example American Airlines, even though they fly to Maui directly, you can fly there on Hawaiian airlines via Honolulu because they partner with American Airlines.  It seems pretty trivial, but people forget about alternative routes on partner airlines.

AROUND THE WORLD ITINERARY

Getting back to my round the world ticket, I booked a trip to Singapore, but instead of booking a simple round trip, I took advantage of the frequent flyer mile program’s liberal routing rules to route myself over the Atlantic and return over the Pacific.

To most folks, this route seemingly involves a lot of unnecessary flying, but I’ve managed to build in a combination of stopovers and overnight connections in between my destination.  The overall objective of this itinerary is to see as much of the world as possible, thus stretching the most travel from my miles, which is something I tend to excel at.

Besides stopping at all these destinations, I’m traveling in premium cabins, meaning I’ll be sitting at the front of the airplane, i.e. turning left rather than right upon entering the aircraft.  This further increases the value of the redemption.

In short, the itinerary consists of 10 flight segments circumnavigating the world.  I’ll start my journey from Newark Liberty (EWR) and fly to the Middle East via Europe.  Then I’ll head to South East Asia, and then the Far East before making my way back home.  Though, this is typically not a true sense of an around the world itinerary because of the limited number of stopovers.  In the true round world itinerary, depending on which alliance you book, you’re allowed as many as 16 stopovers.

Nevertheless, I’m pretty excited for this jaunt around the World because I’ll get to:

  • Sample different premium cabin flights on foreign airlines
  • Explore new countries
  • Get Lost(probably more than once)
  • Work out at Crossfit affiliates in other countries
  • Try a variety of foods from Wiener schnitzel to sam-gup-sal

I’ll make updates from the road.

If you have questions about redeeming frequent flyer miles or how to get the most value from them, just send me an e-mail

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sheila Conroy March 15, 2012 at 4:12 pm

I read about your trip on BA related miles to Easter Island (?) in a recent Inside Flyer Magazine and wondered how on earth you managed to snag the flights. Were they last minute bookings? Or were your dates totally flexible? I’ve had horrible trouble redeeming miles with BA over the last couple of years in particular.

I’ve been planning a trip (from Denver) to Thailand in late April and I’m doing what I can to use partner miles from my BA account. I’m going American to Chicago, then JAL to Tokyo and JAL to Bangkok. The return so far is Finnair from Bangkok to Helsinki, Finnair to Heathrow and then BA back to Denver. I don’t mind the Pacific crossing, but I’m going to have to spend a couple of unwanted extra nights in hotels on the return journey.

So what’s your secret? What bugs me is that my husband and I are Gold and Silver Executive Club members, we have over 3,000,000 million miles in our household account and it doesn’t seem to mean a hill of beans to BA.

OK – rant over. I’d be interested to hear from you.

Regards….

Sheila

Reply

Mike March 15, 2012 at 10:00 pm

@Sheila, I didn’t book last minute. I booked months in advance knowing that BA would devalue their award chart with the influx of miles from CC’s bonuses. BA did have some spectacular redemptions such as Easter Island and South East Asia in Business class, but the catch was to keep them all with one airline parter of BA or else the amount of miles required would go up.

Here are some tips for searching award seats:
1. Always, always search segment by segment, Never put in your origin and destination and expect the search engine to return an itinerary, it could happen, but usually it’s better to search the routes the airline flies.
2. Book your trip when you know you plans are definite and always keep searching as award seats open up with

With BA utilizing a Distance based redemption chart, it can take some serious amount of miles to get to certain destinations where previously, they were a great value.

About having status with BA, it generally doesn’t mean that they’ll open up award space on partner airlines. Having status does help with the phone hold times(dedicated phone numbers) and upgrades on BA.

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