Air Travel

Round the World Air Travel Ticket Options

One of the areas which took the longest to research was our round the world air travel options.  There are many different ways to get from point A to Z, and each approach has it’s pros and cons.  We expect our airline tickets to account for up to 30% of our total travel budget.

In researching our options, we scoured the internet, read travel magazines, and spent countless hours at the library reviewing different resources.

There are a couple of ways you can approach this: purchase a multi-stop, round the world ticket; or purchase individual tickets as you go.  Both have their pros and cons.

Buying a single “Round the World” Ticket

The largest players in this space are Star Alliance and One World.  Each have a number of airlines affiliated with them, and promote travel through the use of their member airlines.  There is no cross-over of airlines between the two organizations: a member airline on Star Alliance is not also a member of One World.  The interesting thing about these two organizations is that when you fly on partner airlines, you are able to accumulate travel points if you are a member of one of the alliance points plans.  For instance, Aeroplan is primarily an Air Canada travel rewards program, however, if you travel on any of the Star Alliance affiliated airlines you will accumulate points on your Aeroplan account.

Both Star Alliance and One World have different rules for their round the world tickets.

round the world air travel


The rules for Star Alliance can be found here, but to summarize:

  • You are allowed 16 segments of travel.  Each flight you take is one segment, so if for instance you take a flight from Toronto to London via Iceland, that’s two segments gone.
  • Overland segments count as one segment.  Fly to London then drive/train to Paris – that’s a segment gone.
  •  Pricing is based upon certain mileage thresholds. “Normal” RTW fare thresholds are 29000, 34000, or 39000 miles.  Special Economy RTW fare is available under 26000 miles.
  • You can book in economy, business or first class (where available)
  • There are discounts for children aged 2-11.
  • Your travel must start and end in the same country, though it need not be the same city
  • You need to travel in one direction (all east or all west)
  • You can and must cross both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans – and only once (you can’t circle back)
  • You must include at least 3 stop-overs (staying in a city for more than 24 hours), with a maximum of 15.
  • Once you have selected your segments and purchased your tickets, your cities are fixed, however you can change your dates as many times as you like for free.
  • If you need to change your routing to go through different cities, there is a fee of $125USD per ticket and you may need to pay the difference if the revised ticket cost is greater than your originally booked flights.
  • You can cancel your ticket prior to departure for a full refund, at a cost of $150USD.  The exception is if there is a death of the traveler, an accompanying traveler, or family member then the trip can be canceled free of charge.
  • You can cancel after departure for a fee of $150USD, and will receive the difference between what was paid originally and the remaining segments.

Round the world air travel network


There are a few different options for the One World RTW fares.

Oneworld Explorer:  The One World team has divided the world up into 6 continents.  Using the Explorer pass, you select the number of continents you will pass through on your travels – 3, 4, or 6 continents.  For instance, if you are going to hit North America, Asia, Europe and back to North America, you can use a ‘3-continent’ pass.

The fewer continents you choose, the lower your cost.

There are limits to the number of carriers available under this type of pass, so you don’t get access to all of the “One World” affiliates.

Here are the terms and conditions for the Oneworld Explorer pass.

One World Global Explorer: this pass is similar to the Star Alliance pass, in that it is based upon the number of miles you travel.  The tiers are the same – 26000, 29000, 34000, and 39000.  You can only book economy class in the first two tiers – business/first class is only available beyond 34000 miles.

While you cannot reverse your global direction, once you have reached a continent, you are able to do ‘loops’ within the region.  For instance, you could fly Toronto – Frankfurt – Paris (gone backwards) – London – Istanbul…  You just couldn’t fly back to Toronto by heading west.

The key is the number of miles.  If you fly ‘loops’ within a region, you are eating up valuable miles and your risk crossing to the next price threshold.

Most of the same rules as Star Alliance apply.  However, the tricky one is with your flight changes.  If you change your dates for example, you need to contact the carrier who issued your eticket for the particular segment.  For Star Alliance you phone or email their contact centre to make the changes.

Here are the full Terms and Conditions for the Global Explorer ticket.

Coming up…Purchasing your tickets ‘on the fly’ (no pun intended!)

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