Trotting the Globe
Source: Business Traveler International, September 96
Around-the-world fares can be a cheap alternative to traditional long-haul
by Mary Hunt.
Traditionally, around-the-world fares (RTWs) were something backpackers
saved up for to see the world, but if you are traveling business or first
class and have even a few stops planned, you might want to consider an RTW.
Dozens of airlines - mostly in groups of two or three - do offer fares that
allow a wide range of stops for one fixed price, the only major requirement
being that you continue your journey around the globe in one direction,
either eastbound or westbound. RTWs are also often competitive with the
cost of point-to-point travel to a single destination. Typical RTW prices
are $2,600 to $3,600 in economy, $3,600 to $5,200 in business class and
$5,000 to $6,800 in first class. Although economy class travelers would
need to make multiple stops to get their money's worth, first- and
business-class passengers can save when considering that it costs $6,026
just to fly first class round-trip between New York and Kuala Lumpur,
$4,432 to fly business class Los Angeles to Bombay and $7,842 to fly first
class Los Angeles to Paris.
Flying thousands of miles out of your way just to save a few hundred
dollars may not make sense, so the first determination of whether to pursue
an RTW fare is distance. See if you need to make a stop near your global
midway point. For example, if you are traveling from New York, it takes
about equal time to get to Singapore or Thailand flying eastbound or
westbound. For the Los Angeles traveler, the midway point would be in the
vicinity of India.
If you are planning multiple stops with at least one close to the midway
point, or if you have some vacation time that you can use on the side of
the globe opposite your business destination, an RTW may be for you. In
that case, first find out which RTWs best suit your needs. Many RTWs are
only for " North Pacific" travel, allowing for stops in Europe and much of
Asia but not in Australia, New Zealand or South Pacific islands. Or you can
buy a South Pacific routing, which may not allow travel to China, Japan,
Korea or the Philippines, but will still probably allow Hong Kong,
Singapore and Thailand. The most expensive option allows both North and
South Pacific options.
Only a few RTW partnerships offer stops in South America, Africa, Eastern
Europe and the Middle East.
However, because most involve U.S. partners, it is possible to combine one
or two international stops with a domestic stop on your way out or on your
way home. To unwind, keep in mind that well over half the available
routings allow stopovers in Hawaii.
Next, look at the restrictions on the RTW fares. Few are onerous. More than
half the available RTW fares have no minimum stay requirement (for those
that do, it ranges from eight to 14 days); maximum allowable stay is
generally six months to a year. Advance purchase of seven to 21 days is
generally required, along with an advance reservation for the first flight.
Many allow you to make additional reservations as you go. Some impose a
maximum number of stops - as low as four - and some have a minimum number -
two, three and four stops are popular minimums. There is generally no
penalty for canceling a fare before departure, but beware canceling once en
route. You will generally be assessed based on the normal fares for the
routes you have traveled, although not more than you paid for the RTW
unless you attempt to cut short your trip by returning from the same
direction you came.
The first step in narrowing your RTW choices is to pick a partnership that
offers the cities you want. This is as simple as looking at the airlines'
timetables. The only thing to check is that the city you are interested in
is "on-loop" - in other words, that the participating airlines come into
the city from the east and leave to the west or vice versa. This will
generally be a given if the city is in the home country of one of the
sponsoring airlines. For the most part, you will not be allowed to repeat
cities. However, with some codeshare agreements, you will be allowed to
return to a hub city after visiting a smaller city within a country if it
is the only way to reasonably continue your journey.
If you feel you have found a great RTW deal but it doesn't go quite
everywhere you want, remember you are free to add on side trips. Sometimes
these are offered for a special rate, but other times you will need to shop
for a round-trip fare. You can even, if pressed, buy a round-trip ticket
home and pick up your RTW later where you left off.
RTW fares also qualify for frequent flier mileage. Some airlines award a
flat number of miles while others credit for the actual number of miles flown.
Putting together a multiple-stop RTW itinerary while finding the best deals
and routes can be hard work, but that is what airline rate desks and travel
agents are for. Trying to do it yourself is neither advisable nor
necessary. An exception is the relatively simple RTW offered by United. You
can travel either eastbound or westbound with no advance purchase
requirement, no minimum stay and no minimum number of stops. The only
allowable international stops are London, Delhi, Hong Kong and Tokyo, but
you can also make up to four stops on the mainland U.S. en route. The fare
is $2,570 in economy, $3,618 in business and $5,019 in first class.
[Add +$500 to those fares... sigh]
Other simplified RTWs are sold by discounters, often prepackaged. You'll
see the ads in the travel sections of newspapers. Consolidators can also
customize RTW fares for you, given a specific itinerary.
The Major Around-the-World Partnerships
Air Canada with: Air Pacific, Air Seychelles, All Nippon Airways, Cathay
Pacific, JAL, Kenya, Korean, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Silk Air, Singapore
Airlines, Virgin Atlantic
American with: Singapore Airlines
Canadian Airlines International with: Air Pacific, Alitalia, Cathay
Pacific, KLM, Philippine, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways
Continental with: Air-India, Alitalia, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines,
Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways
Delta with: Cathay Pacific, Korean Air, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, South
Africa Airways, Swissair, Thai Airways
Northwest with: Air France, Air-India, Alitalia, Canadian Airlines
International, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Garuda Indonesia, Gulf Air, KLM,
Malaysia Airlines, Pakistan International Airlines, Saudia, Singapore
Airlines, South African Airways, Swissair, Thai Airways
TWA with: All Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, JAL, Korean
Air, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Singapore Airlines
United with: Air France, Air-India, British Airways, Cathay Pacific,
Emirates, Gulf Air, Lufthansa, Saudia, SAS, South African Airways,
Swissair, Thai Airways
USAir with: Air New Zealand, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates,
Kuwait Airways, Qantas
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