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Over the Christmas / New Year break, Australian Business Traveller will be revisiting some of our most popular articles of 2017. We’re still around to report on any breaking news during this time, otherwise our regular publishing schedule will resume on Monday January 8, 2018.
A round-the-world trip in business class or even first class is the dream of many travellers, yet it's surprisingly within reach.
Not only can you book a round-the-world journey with Qantas frequent flyer points, but it costs only a few thousand points more than a straightforward return trip to Europe.
For instance, you could fly Cathay Pacific business class from Australia to London and back for 278,000 Qantas Points; or set out on a round-the-world business class journey for only 2,000 points more, at 280,000 Qantas Points.
Similarly in first class, using your Qantas Points to book a return British Airways trip from Sydney to London requires 406,000 Qantas Points – yet a round-the-world sojourn in first class is just 14,000 points extra, at 420,000 Qantas Points.
Here’s how you can book a multi-city trip of your very own, including the rules you need to follow, the airlines you can travel with and how to secure your booking.
Flying round-the-world with Qantas Points: the basics
These types of bookings are known as a ‘Oneworld Classic Flight Reward’ in the Qantas Frequent Flyer program – they’re not your typical one-way or return ticket, nor are they as simple.
For starters, you can only book a Oneworld Classic Flight Reward when all of the airlines you’ll be flying with on that journey are members of the Oneworld airline alliance.
You can’t mix and match Oneworld flights with those on non-Oneworld airlines like China Eastern, Emirates, Fiji Airways or Jetstar. Even though these airlines are Qantas partners, they’re not part of Oneworld – and this is a ‘Oneworld’ booking, after all.
That means you’re able to fly with Qantas, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific (and Cathay Dragon), Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LATAM (formerly LAN and TAM), Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines and SriLankan Airlines.
In fact, your ticket must include travel with at least two of these Oneworld airlines other than Qantas.
You can certainly include Qantas among the mix, so long as you also fly with at least two other Oneworld airlines as part of the trip.
Flying round-the-world with Qantas Points: how far you can fly
Your round-the-world journey can cover a maximum distance of 35,000 miles from the time you begin your trip until you return back home.
That tally obviously includes the distance of the flights you take, but it also factors in the distance of any ‘surface sectors’ – so if you fly into London, catch the train to Paris and board your next flight from there instead, the distance between London and Paris is added to that tally as well.
If your trip finishes in a different city than where it started, the distance from that city to your first departure point is also factored in. Begin in Sydney but conclude in Melbourne, for example, and the distance between Melbourne and Sydney is assessed too.
Provided the total distance of your trip is 35,000 miles or less – including flights taken, ‘surface sectors’ not flown and any distance from the end point to your origin – your itinerary passes the ‘distance test’.
Within that distance cap, you’re allowed a maximum of five ‘stopovers’, being where you remain in one place for more than 24 hours, including for several days or weeks, but can't enjoy a 'stopover' more than once in the same city.
You're also allowed up to two 'transfers' per city, which are shorter stays of under 24 hours – whether you leave the airport for a look around or just jump straight onto your next flight.
Flying round-the-world with Qantas Points: a sample itinerary
The rules for these bookings are far more complicated than your average frequent flyer ticket, but once you get your head around it all, putting an itinerary together isn’t too stressful.
Being mindful of the ‘two airlines other than Qantas’ rule, the maximum travel distance of 35,000 miles and the limit of five stopovers in total and two transfers per city, we’ve put together the following sample itinerary for a Sydney-based flyer keen to visit the Middle East, Europe/UK, North America, South America and New Zealand.
- Sydney-Dubai flying with Qantas (remember, Emirates is not an option)
- Dubai-London with Qantas or British Airways
- London-Madrid on British Airways or Iberia
- Madrid-New York aboard American Airlines or Iberia
- New York-Sao Paulo with American Airlines or LATAM
- Sao Paulo-Santiago on LATAM
- Santiago-Sydney with Qantas or Santiago-Auckland-Sydney with LATAM
All up, that measures at 28,890 miles with the non-stop flight home from Santiago or a still-acceptable 29,186 miles with the Auckland detour: both well within the 35,000-mile limit.
We’ve used our five ‘stopovers’ as London, Madrid, New York, Sao Paulo and Santiago, with ‘transfers’ in Dubai, and in Auckland if flying home with LATAM.
(When the map was drawn above, we'd used Berlin as a stopover being Airberlin's hub, but our new Madrid routing on Iberia follows the same concept.)
Transiting Dubai or any other destination doesn’t mean you have to rush from one flight to the next: you could arrive on QF1 at 12:25am, head to an in-town hotel, catch some sleep, spend the morning touring in the city and return to the airport in time for a British Airways flight at 1:15pm later that day.
Provided the total time spent in one place is less than 24 hours from the time your first flight touches down until the next flight takes off, you can use that as an opportunity to 'transfer' through a destination without burning one of your five precious ‘stopovers’, which are the destinations you'll want to spend some time in.
Booking a round-the-world flight with Qantas Points: key numbers
To recap, these bookings cost 280,000 Qantas Points per person for a round-the-world trip in business class and 420,000 Qantas Points per person for the same in first class. Premium economy is also an option at 210,000 Qantas Points while regular economy is 140,000 Qantas Points.
Be aware that the number of points required is based on the highest class of service flown as part of your trip: so if you book a first class ticket but have to take a few flights in business class because first class isn’t available, the first class rate still applies to the entire booking.
Similarly, if you’re taking a premium economy journey and have to choose between a flight in economy or business class because premium economy isn’t offered or available for booking, choosing economy keeps the price the same while opting for business class increases the points price from 210,000 to 280,000 points.
(At which point, you may as well fly business class all the way because the cost is the same!)
We should also flag that simply having enough points in your account doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to book the exact flights you want at the most suitable times – like all bookings made using frequent flyer points, whether or not you can use points on a particular flight is at the discretion of the airline.
That’s why you should plan and then book these trips well in advance to give yourself the best chances of securing your desired flights. It also helps to be flexible, particularly with your dates and destinations.
A payment on the side of at least $767.50 is also required to cover any relevant taxes, fees and airline surcharges – although the exact amount varies based on your chosen route, airlines and class of service, but is made known during the booking process.
Booking a round-the-world flight with Qantas Points: securing your seat
You can either reserve your round-the-world ticket via the Qantas website by using the multi-city tool, or by calling Qantas on 13 13 13 and asking the agent to help you with a Oneworld Classic Flight Reward.
Because reward flights on some Oneworld airlines can only be secured over the phone – including with Japan Airlines, among others – we’d suggest calling is the better option, particularly if you haven’t booked a round-the-world trip before.
The agent may also be able to help with finding reward availability to the destinations you want to visit or might even suggest other options if there’s nothing available, although Qantas’ usual Reward Assistance Fee of 6,000 Qantas Points or $70 still applies per passenger to all bookings made over the phone.
Still, when flying round-the-world only costs a few thousand points more than a return trip to Europe, that amount on top is a relatively small price to pay to circle the globe!