When I originally made a list of Round The World tickets on miles back in 2014, I mistakenly wrote off all the deals as too expensive. Best I guess I just overlooked the best deals!
I also got sidetracked with trying to find value in unknown programs (at the time) in my “hidden gem” series, and some of those were distance based and allowed multiple stopovers. Those became my defacto RTW tickets.
Now looking again, and making a more exhaustive list of mileage programs with RTW tickets, I’ve changed my mind on the value of round-the-world tickets.
Take a look at the chart below and the deals I’ll highlight in the post and see if you agree!
Master List of Round The World Tickets with Miles:
|AeroMexico||224k (140k Amex)||
352k (220k Amex)
|Singapore KrisFlyer Miles||180k||240k||360k||7|
5 stops + 1 open-jaw
|AirChina Phoenix Miles||230k||299k||345k||5|
[see chart below]
|Asia Miles||[see chart below]||“||“||5|
|JAL||[see chart below]||“||“||7|
To see if you have transferable points that go to these airlines, check out FM’s List of Transfer Partners.
General rules (YMMV based on program):
- You have to travel in one direction (all tickets must go east or west the entire time).
- You often have to return to the same region or city.
- You have to cross both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
- You sometimes are limited in the miles you can travel.
- You sometimes are limited in the stops you can have in a region or segments overall.
For all of these, you’ll have to find award availability.
This could be tedious, or more tedious, you’ll have to be on the phone with an agent for an hour to put it together. So I’d definitely recommend being on the partner with the best award booking engine to search for availability ahead of time.
Impression after first glance:
Ya know, all the way up to Singapore, it isn’t as bad as I thought. Especially if you have a bunch of Amex or Cap1 points to kill, there are decent options, and then the obvious great options.
But people are already dropping 250k+ on first class flights without stopovers, this allows you to do it with way more distance traveled and multiple stopovers.
So honestly 140k for economy, or 230k for business isn’t that bad.
Fuel Surcharge warning: These deals can go from great to bad real quick with an additional $1,000 in fuel surcharges. Airport taxes are already going to be killer if you’re going to Rio, London, and Sydney on the same ticket, so you don’t want to avoid partners that will incur fuel surcharges. Look into the airline
AeroMexico Miles Is The Winner?
AeroMexico Miles transfer partners:
- Amex MR (1000:1600)
- Marriott (3:1)
- CapitalOne (1000:750)
- Barclay Arrival Premier (1.4:1)
Now a friend has had some annoying luck with trying to use his AeroMexico miles for regular SkyTeam Alliance redemptions, but my guess is that none of the real routing rules apply to a Round The World ticket.
My guess is they manually issue the ticket and deduct the miles to some degree, knowing a lot of these programs!
But here is an extraordinary value above and beyond the others for two reasons:
1) It’s the cheapest on the list.
2) It by far has the most stopovers at 15!
Also, 3) If you hit an Amex transfer bonus it could be even cheaper. And what else are you going to do with AeroMexico Miles anyways? It seems by far the best value.
Rules (listed here):
- A minimum of three stopovers is required, with a maximum of 15 stopovers permitted during a trip, with a maximum of five stopovers per continent.
- Flights “must” be booked in the same class.
- Same direction.
Surprisingly short amount of rules.
(Given that it doesn’t mention ending in the same region, sometimes I wonder if any of these programs would let you stopover at your home, maybe near the airport you started in and then keep going at a much later date. Head right back to Europe. I don’t think you can but you’ve gotta wonder. Maybe if you picked small towns and avoided routing through “New York” or recognizable places).
Most importantly it didn’t give a distance cap. How far could I take this 15 stops?
It seems so.
I’d hate to be on the phone call, but well worth it to travel the entire globe for a low number of Amex points.
Comparing Distance Based Programs ANA and JAL
The other great program here is ANA, but I wanted to compare it to the other very similar programs. Of the 3, ANA is the cheapest and has the most stopovers, but the others may have more earning opportunities or fewer fuel surcharges
I wanted to the 3 distance-based programs at the bottom, ANA Miles, Asia Miles, and JAL Miles.
The con with these is that you don’t get 15 stopovers, and the more you fly the more you pay.
The best value is using all 5 to 8 stops on a relatively straight shot around the world.
If you were to shoot straight down to South America, and then back up to Europe and then down to Africa… Well that would be an inefficient routing and not really maximizing the sweet spot of the program.
The sweet spot is adding many stops on a RTW route that doesn’t add a ton of extra distance.
Here’s an example of a route that would work with all programs, with minor variations.
Again, I’m comparing all programs with a mileage price just under 20,000 miles of distance traveled, to determine the award price for each program.
First the results and then the deep dive.
Chart for the 3 programs under 20k miles (in distance):
Transfer partners (courtesy of FM’s Master List of Transfer Partners):
- ANA Miles: Amex MR, Marriott (3:1)
- JAL Miles: Marriott (3:1), Barclay Arrival Preferred (1.7:1)
- Asia Miles: Amex MR (3:1), Marriott, Citi ThankYou, CapitalOne (1000:750)
ANA Miles RTW
This is the obvious winner here. A RTW ticket with 8 stops for 75k/115k/180k is incredible.
It would be an incredible deal with 2 stops! It’s a better deal flying all over the world with Star Alliance.
If you go here and then go down to Round The World, you’ll see:
Notice that the price point above is only 10k to 20k more.
Also amazing, the price point below is 10k to 20k less. So I wondered if I could cross both oceans for less. So the best I could do to cross both oceans and stay under 18,000 traveled miles, was the following:
Chicago – Iceland – Oslo -Istanbul – Beijing – Tokyo – Chicago
Although, at that point, I think it’s definitely worth it to just go wherever you want for extra miles. You’re already shelling out miles, why not do the entire thing your way.
As I said, it may not be worth the tons of extra miles to tack on South Africa, but the route above – next to the comparison chart – is a sweet route.
- 8 stopovers.
- “You can book maximum of 12 flight segments and 4 ground transfer segments on one ticket”.
- Up to 3 stopovers are permitted within Europe and up to 4 stopovers are permitted within Japan.
- Must cross both oceans in one direction.
The downside here is fuel surcharges. Depends what airline you fly, but I believe ANA passes on many of it’s Asian partners’ fuel surcharges, so pick flights carefully!
JAL Miles RTW
I think very few people would have more access to JAL miles than they would ANA Miles or Amex MR points, so I’ll keep this short.
It’s just a slightly more expensive version of ANA, but instead of searching Star Alliance, you’d be searching OneWorld Alliance partners.
The big difference is that this award chart isn’t technically a “Round The World” award chart, it’s just a distance-based program that has lots of stopovers.
The big advantage of Cathay’s Asia Miles over ANA here is that you have additional transfer partners (beyond Amex and Marriott), an additional Citi ThankYou and CapitalOne (1000:750) points options. A little higher price and a little bit fewer stopovers, but a ton of earning opportunities.
Also, you’d be searching OneWorld Alliance instead.
Check out the Asia Miles OneWorld Award Chart here.
Rules: “maximum of five stopovers. In addition, two transfers and two open-jaws are permitted”.
It’s a pretty limited rule book because the more you fly the more you pay. You can fly all over earth, but you’ll pay for it!
In my mind, there are two clear huge winners…
AeroMexico for those wanting to do a ton of flying and see as much of the world as possible.
And ANA for those who want to see Europe and Asia and maybe a little in between, all for cheap! At least if you can avoid fuel surcharges.
As I’ve said about these programs for the last 6 years, they’re great if you can avoid fuel surcharges.
Has anyone booked a RTW ticket? Anyone tempted by it?
Also, has anyone had any experiences with booking partner flights with AeroMexico?
Ha you are having a laugh with AeroMexico. I had been accumulating miles on them due to many flights to Mexico for work. I tried more than 10 times to book RTW, even the most straightforward itineraries they could never book. Forget about doing it on the phone. I went in person to their NYC office and was given all sorts of reasons for not even doing the simplest RTW trip. Their FFP is a scam, read FT about it as well
My friend has been telling me this with trying to book a wide open Delta flight. I asked if he tried other offices, and he said no, but perhaps that’s the answer.
Have you tried calling another office?
What is up with this?
I’m going to look into this a little further. If you really can’t book partners, and nothing works I’ll try pushing this all the way to Amex or StarAlliance to the best of my individual abilities.
I’m curious to see how what would pan out. Please keep us updated.
I dont think calling a different office will do any good. I speak spanish and have called at least 3 other numbers, its all the same. Its like LM but much worse.
We’re doing our RTW starting in July and we booked ANA. All biz, total 105k miles each! Fees were a little steep at $2,000 total but still a great deal and we were stuck on the direction and first flight (had to do east coast to Europe). BOS-LIS // TLV-IST-DXB-BKK-SIN-TPE-PEK-HNL We’ve got tons of side trips in there, total is going to be about 4 months. We’re doing Australia / Nz as a side RT from BKK, 18 days in China will include Xi’An, Chengdu, Beijing, we’re doing Iceland, Faroe, and a road trip from MUC-FCO, Petra, man I’m PUMPED. This seemed like such a great value, esp. with MR being so easy to rack up (Gold at grocery). The open jaw setup was great and backtracking is allowed to a hub, I’m doing it on TLV-IST (Turkish) and TPE-PEK (Air China). We still need to get back from HNL (7 days in Kauai), but I was looking at your AS stopover article for that, think we’ll try to tack on another flight somewhere for “later”
To my knowledge AeroMexico is part of skyteam, not star alliance. Glad to see you’re back blogging.
I’ve got JFK-VIE-BKK-HKG-HND-SFO booked for June and July through ANA for 105k each. Having already written down the flight info and found availability, probably took 15 minutes to book over the phone.
I can’t speak for other programs, but ANA seems to be a little flexible as far as the traveling in the same direction rule within a region. For instance, for me when researching routes from Europe to SE Asia I found that JFK-VIE-BKK was valid and JFK-VIE-ZRH-BKK was fine as well.
By the way, I would appreciate a Mexico city trip report.
Very interested in this route. Would you provide your detail itinerary for the entire trip so I can book thru ANA? Much appreciated!
I’ve got the points, just don’t have the time or money to go on a 3 months trip RTW. Got to say, ANA should be the only one worth your time looking into.
I only have Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Have been saving for a long time to be able to do a RTW trip with my daughter, but was disappointed to not see UR mentioned in this article. Is there a way to transfer points from UR somehow?
What cc do you have with that earns UR? See the link to FM for all transfer partners of UR…but the answer is yes, UR can transfer to airlines.
One big benefit for Asia Miles is you get to book 20 days or so earlier than AA miles would allow you. So availability can be better. Also BA surcharges are less on Asia Miles for some reason I can’t fathom.
ANA has a great RTW award chart with *A availability to boot. Booked family of 4 in Biz for 125k + ~$500 per person. SEA-TPE(BR); SIN-MEL(SQ); JNB-GRU-EZE(SA/TK); EZE-BOG-LAX(AV). Easy booking process and date changes over the phone. Wonderful helpful phone agents.
I have an ANA RTW booking for September. The nice thing is that they allow ‘ground transfers’ on the itinerary. Each end of that transfer counts as its own stopover, but it allows you to take a large chunk of distance off of the itinerary to keep it at the cheap end of the chart and allow more creativity in the rest of the itinerary. Itinerary ended up costing 110k+$600 for business class. FLL-IAH//AKL-SIN-BKK-KTM-IST-VIE-AMS-WAW-EWR
No award availability from EWR-FLL, but that was a cheap flight home booked separately. IAH-DEN-GEG-OAK-HNL-AKL was booked separately with a combination of dollars and miles and pulled 9200 miles out of the RTW itinerary to keep it cheap. I had 130k Hawaiian miles from a shopping portal mistake that I hit hard about a year ago, and that was exactly what I needed for the HNL-AKL leg in first class for my wife and I, so that ended up being a big win as well.
Any update on this? How is everything looking?
I just completed an ANA RTW last week. The best thing about ANA is their agents. They have some of the friendliest, calmest and most professional agents. I’m really interested in the AM RTW, but I can’t find evidence that anyone has ever booked it. The comments above are interesting. I’m willing to try but I’m working on accumulating the miles. Ivan’s comment is disheartening.
P.S. Drew – I am thrilled you are back to blogging. Thank you!
Great article. I was looking at a trip for 2 in Biz to Bali and Singapore from ATL for next year and realized that it would likely be fewer miles to just book ANA RTW – something like ORD or SFO-TPE-DPS(stop)-SIN(stop)//SIN/KUL-IST/FRA-ATL with a side trip to KUL/PEN from SIN. We only can ever take a couple of weeks so we probably wouldn’t have time to stop in Europe but we spent 160k Skymiles and 155k Aeroplan miles to fly ATL-SEA-HKG//USM-BKK-IST-ATL in Biz last summer (seemed like a good deal at the time) and it would be many fewer miles using ANA RTW (220k or 250k total) if the flights are available.