Taking a round-the-world trip is quite different to a typical return flight: you’re always jetting onward to the next place rather than backward along the same path, and the nature of the ticket allows you to visit many cities (or clients) on a single trip abroad.
I had the chance to fly round-the-world with Star Alliance in 2018, and despite having hundreds of other flights under my belt, this type of journey was far from an ordinary business trip!
Here are some of the things I learned along the way, and how my nine-country voyage came together.
1. Star Alliance Connection Centres keep things running smoothly
In an ideal world, every flight would run on time – but when journeys are delayed, Star Alliance’s Connection Service teams spring into action to either whisk passengers to their awaiting aircraft with bags in-tow, or to rebook them with minimal disruption, as I witnessed first-hand in Frankfurt.
While this concept certainly isn’t unique to Star Alliance, what takes things up a notch is the proactive monitoring of every connecting journey through ‘Connection Centre’ airports, even when flights are running on-time: such as if the computer detects there’s a long walk between departure gates and not enough time to do so without assistance, or when security lines are longer than usual.
During more impactful delays, the Connection Service can also work with airlines and airport authorities to improvise time-saving solutions: whether that’s parking two aircraft next to each other when a large volume of passengers are connecting onto a specific flight, or even arranging the switch to a larger aircraft to get more passengers to their destination sooner.
2. Having all Star Alliance airlines under one roof keeps things simple
When flying out of a major airport – London Heathrow, for example – I always appreciate it when airlines, and in this case, Star Alliance, do what they can to keep things simple for passengers: and having every Star Alliance airline departing from the same terminal takes some of the stress away from travel.
For instance, when flying with Oneworld airlines from Heathrow, the flight could be departing from Terminals 3, 4 or 5, which means checking the ticket closely before each flight: and of course, different terminals have different lounges, each of a different standard and with different access rules.
On the other hand, every single one of the 25 Star Alliance airlines serving Heathrow use Terminal 2 – so I know that wherever I’m headed and with whichever airline, I’m always going to the same terminal, and will have access to the same lounges, which all follow the alliance’s core access rules.
It also makes connecting between flights much easier, because you don’t need to navigate your way between terminals or worry about where you’re arriving and where your next flight is departing: you’re already where you need to be, which means a shorter connection or more lounge time.
3. Choose your round-the-world frequent flyer program carefully
Naturally, travellers can earn miles and build Star Alliance status on round-the-world tickets, but depending on which airlines you’re flying with, some frequent flyer programs may be more attractive than others.
That’s because the number of miles you can earn from the same flight will vary from program to program, sometimes quite dramatically, as I noticed with Air Canada when flying from Brisbane to Vancouver and onwards to New York.
Crediting those flights to United MileagePlus served up two United miles per one mile flown, whereas if I’d credited them to Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer scheme, I’d have only earned one KrisFlyer mile per mile flown, being literally half as many miles from the same flights.
On the other hand, some airlines are also less-generous with miles earning across the board, such as EVA Air, which provides fewer Star Alliance miles on its flights than many other airlines on journeys of similar distances.
The way that you earn and retain your Star Alliance status also varies from one program to the next, so while United was a good choice for earning spendable miles on the trip, qualifying for any tier of elite United status also requires taking four United flights, regardless of how much other Star Alliance travel has been completed.
Programs like Asiana Club make earning status a little easier, with the trade-off being fewer award miles being earned on many flights and that Asiana miles are otherwise difficult for Australian travellers to earn as a top-up, so the best frequent flyer program for a round-the-world trip naturally varies from one trip to the next.
4. Jet lag is surprisingly manageable on round-the-world trips
Jet lag can be tough to manage at the best of times, especially on flights that cross many time zones: but when you’re hopping from one time zone to the next – and doing so every couple of days for weeks on end – it’s not as hard to conquer as you might think.
I always do my best to adjust to the destination time zone before touching down, and found that by doing so again here, I didn’t have to do anything ‘special’ just because I was circling the planet: sleeping at the most optimal times was more than enough to keep me energised, and not only for business meetings during the day, but also to better-enjoy my downtime.
For example, after a full day of work and meetings in Frankfurt, I still had the energy to go exploring the city in the evening – fortunately during the European summer when the sun is up late, for better visibility – and notched up over 15,000 steps in one outing without dozing off.
On weekends, I also took the opportunity to discover more of the places nearby: taking day trips from New York to Boston, and from London to Brussels, to discover two cities I’d not previously visited while getting some very helpful exercise during what was otherwise long periods of sitting down.
5. Round-the-world tickets can still be altered when your plans change
With some airlines, it can be difficult or even impossible to amend a booking once travel has already commenced, but when the opportunity arose to visit Rome during the trip – for the opening of Star Alliance’s new airport lounge – tweaking the ticket wasn’t too tricky, switching a non-stop Frankfurt-Zurich flight for Frankfurt-Rome and Rome-Zurich on the same day.
That said, what was difficult was finding flights with business class fare availability, given the last-minute change: so the travel agent kept my confirmed Frankfurt-Zurich flight in place, while adding ‘waitlisted’ flights for the Rome connection, which were fortunately cleared prior to travel.
For business travellers whose schedules can often change, that’s something worth keeping in mind – obviously, the earlier you request a flight change, the better your chances of remaining in business class on the new flight, but the option of downgrading to economy for that leg only was also available, if there were no other options for getting to where I needed to be.
Flying Star Alliance round-the-world: the journey
Business travellers fly for all different reasons, and as an international journalist, the aim of my journey was to review a wide range of flights and airport lounges from around the world, that hadn’t previously been covered on Australian Business Traveller.
That saw me taking the following Star Alliance flights:
- Brisbane-Vancouver aboard Air Canada’s Boeing 787-8 Signature Class
- Vancouver-Newark (New York) in Air Canada’s Boeing 787-9 Signature Class
- New York-Frankfurt on Lufthansa’s Boeing 747-8 business class, with WiFi
- Frankfurt-Rome aboard Lufthansa’s new Airbus A320neo business class
- Rome-Zurich with SWISS, in Airbus A321 business class
- Zurich-London in SWISS’ similar Airbus A320 business class
- London-Bangkok-Taipei in EVA Air’s Boeing 777-300ER Royal Laurel business class, with WiFi
- Taipei-Brisbane again with EVA Air, in Airbus A330 Premium Laurel business class
The journey above also afforded access to the following airport lounges, which, with the helping hand of Star Alliance and its member airlines for access to a few of the higher-tier lounges, allowed us to bring you a long list of fresh reviews:
- Vancouver Airport: Your guide to connecting to the USA via Vancouver with Air Canada.
- New York JFK: Lufthansa Business Lounge review.
- Frankfurt Airport: Reviews of Lufthansa Business Lounge A13, Business Lounge A26 and Senator Lounge A50.
- Rome Airport: Star Alliance lounge review.
- Zurich Airport: Reviews of SWISS Business Lounge A, Business Lounge D and Business Lounge E.
- London Heathrow: Reviews of the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, Lufthansa Business Lounge, Lufthansa Senator Lounge, Singapore Airlines' SilverKris business class lounge, and United’s arrivals lounge, United Club and United Global First lounges.
- Taipei Taoyuan Airport: Reviews of EVA Air’s The Star, The Infinity and The Garden lounges, and of the Singapore Airlines SilverKris lounge.
To learn more about flying round-the-world with Star Alliance yourself, also read:
- How to plan a Star Alliance round-the-world trip
- How to book a Star Alliance round-the-world trip
- Star Alliance takes on Oneworld with two-stop round-the-world fares
Chris Chamberlin travelled as a guest of Star Alliance, Air Canada, EVA Air, Lufthansa and SWISS.