Round the world flights

Air New Zealand has flights to London in both directions - via HKG and LAX

Rather than buying separate flights from one destination to another, a flexible and sometimes cheaper way of international travel is via Round the world (RTW) tickets. A round the world ticket is a plane ticket allowing you to fly around the world, usually over a period of up to a year and with between three and twenty stops at different airports. Computerized e-tickets seem to have reduced this to a maximum of 16 segments.

Round the world tickets usually cost far less than the sum of the one-way tickets between each set of individual stops. (One-way tickets are generally a poor value compared to round-trip tickets, and also may be viewed with suspicion by security or immigration personnel.) These tickets are usually slightly more expensive than a return ticket between destinations on opposite sides of the world (London and Sydney for example), but if you were planning two or more stops then you may find that a round the world ticket is the cheapest option, and allows you at least a side trip. Many travelers plan entire holidays using a round the world itinerary.

As a much more time-consuming alternative, see also Round the world overland.

Ticket types

There are a number of ways to fly round the world. A "real" round the world ticket is issued as a single ticket, and comes with a host of conditions attached.

Airline alliance round the world deals

Because no individual airlines offer truly global service, round the world tickets are often associated with an airline alliance and allow you to travel with any airline that is part of the alliance. Note that the specialist travel agents mentioned below can book these flights and provide alternative deals.

The major alliance RTW offerings available worldwide are:

Discontinued tickets include Big Planet Tour and World Journey (Flying Dutchman).

Single/partner airline RTWs

Quite a few more sell two-airline RTWs, with some examples being:

These can be cheaper than full alliance RTWs, but your choice of routing is severely restricted and tickets can only be purchased in certain locations, not across the network. Inquire with the issuing airline for details.

Not quite round-the-world

If you want to do a long, circular itinerary that isn't quite all the way around the world, there are a number of interesting alternative options also available:

Circle Atlantic and Circle Pacific fares are also offered by some individual airlines, such as United and Malaysian.

If you book an intercontinental round trip flight on an alliance airline you are eligible for passes that give discount flights in the destination continent.

Specialist Travel Agencies

It is possible to put together a round-the-world route by combining one-way tickets on various airlines. This is more flexible than restricting yourself to what an alliance offers and, if you get good discounts on some hops, pricing can be competitive. The only practical way to do this since it requires both knowledge and contacts is to go to a travel agent who specializes in round-the-world itineraries. These can be found in major cities that are transit hubs San Francisco, AirTreks London, STA Travel or or Travel Nation, Bangkok, etc. and many of them also provide services online, such as BootsnAll or Go Fly World Inc...In the Nordic countries and the Netherlands KILROY travels does the job.

The booking process can take a few days or weeks depending on how fast you wish to expedite the process and your itinerary. These agents will get parts of your ticket issued by their contacts in other countries or in-house contracts. This can save a lot of money over the airlines, but at the cost of loss of flexibility: rerouting will generally be impossible and missed connections are now your sole responsibility.

Low-cost airlines

Main article: Air travel on a budget

It's now possible to fly entirely around the world on low-cost airlines (low cost carriers), although the routings possible are restricted. Your tickets will, in general, be completely inflexible, with steep fees for making any changes (if allowed at all), but for the frugal traveller this is still the cheapest option. See Air travel on a budget for some options and sample itineraries.


Conditions for round the world tickets often include:

Note that a RTW "stop" is usually defined as spending more than 24 hours in a place. Changing planes in transit does not count, and you can use this to squeeze in additional brief day visits. Depending on ticketing rules, in a few places with limited flights, it may even be possible to "transit" for several days while waiting for the next flight out.

Planning your trip

Planning for a RTW trip requires quite a bit of preparation.

Some ways to get the maximum value from your ticket are:

When choosing your destinations, consider whether an RTW is the best solution for visiting them. As a very rough rule of thumb for gauging costs, assuming a 29,000-mile ticket for $3000, one mile of an Economy RTW costs (on average) around $0.10.

Some tips to consider if you need to squeeze in a few more miles:

Southern Hemisphere

If you want to fly around the world completely in the Southern Hemisphere, the choice of flights and destinations is limited due to the lack of transoceanic routes. No airline alliance presently covers all three ocean crossings in the Southern Hemisphere (and SkyTeam covers none of the crossings). However, Star Alliance covers everything except the eastern South Pacific from Santiago de Chile to Tahiti, which is a LAN Oneworld flight. This flight not the only option if you want to skip the South Pacific and the west coast of South America. (see below)

If you're starting in North America, Air New Zealand (Star Alliance) has flights from Los Angeles to Tahiti (code share), the Cook Islands, Samoa/Tonga, and Auckland. For Star Alliance members in USA/Canada, getting in and out via Samoa or Tahiti may be the best route.

Your options for each ocean crossing are:

South Pacific

Indian Ocean

South Atlantic

On the road

Even for alliancewide RTWs, the ticket will be issued by one airline. If you need to change a flight leg, it is best to first contact the carrier you will be flying with, and if they can't help, then consult the issuing airline.

After your ticket has been issued, you are typically allowed to change the dates of your flights for free (except the first international leg), but changing the destinations will require a hefty reissuing fee (US$125 for Star Alliance). Flying the same route on another carrier covered by the pass may or may not be possible.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, March 14, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.