To many travellers, jetting round-the-world could just be The Trip of a Lifetime – but for savvy high flyers, these itineraries can be both a time- and cost-efficient way to conduct business or attend to meetings around the globe.
Well-planned trips can slash thousands of dollars off the price you’d otherwise pay for two return airfares, not to mention trimming up to 40 hours of travel time from your journey by flying from one place to the next, instead of forward and backward like a typical return ticket.
Earlier this week, Australian Business Traveller looked at the planning process behind taking a round-the-world trip with Star Alliance – the world’s largest airline alliance – and today, we’ll show how to secure your booking, whether online or with a travel agent.
Read first: How to plan a Star Alliance round-the-world trip
Booking your Star Alliance round-the-world trip: getting started
Having already chosen which cities you need to visit, get things moving by calling up the Book and Fly tool on the Star Alliance website.
Even if you’ll ultimately make your reservation via a travel agent, this service will still save you time, as you can confirm that the flights you want are indeed bookable and can then tell your travel agent exactly how your journey should look: or can click through and complete your reservation online.
Before you get too far, you’ll need to enter a couple of basic details like your country of residence, how you’d like to fly (first class, business class, premium economy or economy), and how many passengers there’ll be.
As would describe much local business travel, we’ll book for one Australian adult passenger flying business class – after which, the following screen pops up.
Begin by entering your departure city (where you live or will begin the journey), the other cities you’d like to visit, and then the city you’d like to return to, which must be in the same country as where you began.
Here, we’ll fly into and out of Sydney, visiting London and New York – but if you want to start in Sydney and finish in Melbourne, that’s just fine:
Click on “choose flights” and you’ll get a rough price quote, which is more of a ballpark figure, but gives you some idea of what the journey could cost.
Ultimately, the final price depends on the exact flights you take, the taxes and fees applicable to the countries and airports you travel to, and whether any of the flights you select have “aircraft type surcharges” attached, but more on that later.
Booking your Star Alliance round-the-world trip: choosing your flights
Next comes the fun part – selecting which airlines you’ll fly on each leg of your journey, and by extension, where you’ll transit through on those longer legs between Australia and London/New York: just click “choose flight” next to each portion of your journey
You’ll then encounter a screen like this with results sorted by travel time, but there are a couple of things to look out for.
Firstly, as hinted above, some airlines apply “aircraft type surcharges” which can significantly add to the cost of your trip. Singapore Airlines, for example, levies these on Airbus A380 and Boeing 777-300ER flights, adding over $1,200 to the ticket price just between Sydney and London:
You can reduce these costs by selecting flights on other aircraft types where possible, such as Singapore Airlines’ Airbus A350s between Australia and Singapore which aren’t subject to the surcharge, even if you do take a ‘surcharged’ flight onward from The Lion City…
… or, you can avoid them entirely by selecting a different airline, such as ANA from Sydney to London via Tokyo instead:
Interestingly, some Qantas domestic flights appear as options as well when covered by an Air New Zealand codeshare, so depending on where you’re heading and your travel dates, you may be able to include a domestic connection within Australia if there’s a different airline or route that takes your fancy, or to help avoid those “aircraft type surcharges”:
The process is repeated for each leg of your trip until everything has been completed, and as mentioned in our earlier article, many Star Alliance airlines offer ‘fifth freedom’ flights that can be booked as part of these tickets – Air India from London to New York being just one example…
… giving you even more choice, alongside the expected London-New York routes of Star Alliance member United Airlines, which we’ll select for brevity: but if you have a strong preference for another airline, plenty of one-stop options through Air Canada, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, SAS, Swiss and TAP Portugal are available too.
In our example, that just leaves the journey home to Australia, with travellers free to choose their transit point if flying United Airlines, with options of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston…
… alongside Air Canada via Vancouver:
There are a couple of basic rules you’ll need to keep in mind – namely, that on round-the-world tickets, you’ll need to fly in one general direction (east or west), and that you can only cross the Pacific Ocean once, and the Atlantic Ocean once.
That’s not to say that some zigzagging isn’t permitted within each region, but you can’t fly from Australia to the USA, back to Asia, onward to Europe and around to South America, for example: your journey must be logical.
Booking your Star Alliance round-the-world trip: checking your flights
Once your preferences have been entered, you’ll have an opportunity to confirm your flight selections and amend them if necessary…
… and if everything is okay, the website will give you an accurate price for your specific trip. Here, the overall price is a few hundred dollars less than the initial ‘ballpark’ quote, but if you choose any of those “aircraft type surcharge” routes, expect the figure to be more:
From this point, you can either click through and complete your booking using a credit card, or take note of all the flights you selected and contact your preferred travel agent. If that’s your plan, Star Alliance’s website allows you to make an easy PDF of your journey to bring along, to make the booking process easier.
Booking through a travel agent has some advantages: namely, that it’s easier to make changes to your booking even after your trip has begun, because the booking can be ‘ticketed’ by the last airline you’ll be flying with, and thus kept ‘open’ for changes in the system.
Otherwise, by making the booking online yourself, your reservation will often be ticketed by the first airline you’re travelling with, which makes changes harder.
However, some travel agents may apply booking fees, credit card surcharges and their own in-house fees for making flight changes, so before making your booking, it’s a good idea to ask your travel agent about the fees they charge, and weigh-up the added cost of these versus the added flexibility of having a travel agent helping you with such a complex reservation.
Flying round-the-world versus two return trips
The example we’ve used in this article highlights a typical ‘round-the-world’ journey for a business traveller visiting both London and New York, and while this business class itinerary costs over $12,000, compared to taking separate return trips to both of those cities, there’s time and money to be saved.
For instance, on comparable dates as our sample round-the-world booking, ANA was selling return business class fares from Sydney to London for $8,012, and United was selling return business class fares from Sydney to New York for $7,817.
Take both those return trips and you’re looking at almost $16,000 in airfares and easily 100 hours of travel time – but flying round-the-world, as lavish as it sounds, clocks in at $12,314: representing a saving of thousands of dollars, and almost halving the time spent travelling to visit the same destinations, giving you more time on the ground, or at home, during the same time period.
However, smart business travellers may also be able to piece together two separate tickets – Sydney to London return and London to New York return, for instance – which could save even more money during heavy airfare sale periods, but without the convenience and protection of travelling on a single ticket: we’ll leave the choice up to you!