When I originally made a list of Round The World tickets on miles back in 2014, I mistakenly wrote off all the deals as too expensive.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?