How to plan and book a Star Alliance round-the-world trip

By Chris Chamberlin, June 5 2014

Round-the-world (RTW) fares provide exceptional value when visiting multiple destinations, and are often cheaper than return trips to three or four cities.

That said, the level of complexity can get a little confusing, but Star Alliance’s Book and Fly tool makes the process simple and easy to understand.

We’ll get you off to a flying start in planning your very own RTW itinerary, whether it's to visit clients, or simply the holiday of a lifetime.

Better yet, we’re also giving away two RTW tickets to one lucky reader, so prepare for your victory now by planning your dream journey!

Choosing your cities

To kick things off, gather a list of places that you’d like to visit on your RTW trip.

On our sample trip, let’s visit New York, Paris, Auckland, London, Singapore, Johannesburg, Shanghai, Los Angeles, Taipei, Chicago, Bangkok, Frankfurt and Istanbul.

RTW tickets allow for travel in just one direction, and while there’s some zigzagging allowed in smaller regions like Europe and Asia to make planning a little easier, the major oceans can be crossed only once on the entire trip.

To book the fare, we’ll need to arrange these cities into a more practical flying order – which is where an atlas or globe comes in handy. Starting in Sydney, this becomes:

  • Auckland
  • Los Angeles
  • Chicago
  • New York
  • London
  • Paris
  • Istanbul
  • Frankfurt
  • Johannesburg
  • Singapore
  • Bangkok
  • Taipei
  • Shanghai
  • Home to Sydney

Placed end-on-end, our travel plans now look something like this:

Entering your trip into the Book and Fly tool

Once you’ve loaded up the Book and Fly tool and have entered the basics like your home country and travel class, you’ll get to this screen:

We’re starting from Sydney and will fly in business class, so begin by entering ‘Sydney’, followed by the other destinations on your list in order of travel.

RTW fares allow you to fly between each city, but you can also opt for a ‘surface segment’ by clicking the car icon.

That’s particularly useful in Europe, where you might like to fly into London, catch the Eurostar to Paris and then jet onwards from there.

If that's you, simply click the car icon next to the city you won’t be flying out of, and you’re all set...

... or, click the aircraft icon if you have a change of heart.

Choosing your flights

Once your dream itinerary is registered, click ‘next’ to generate a price estimate. The final cost takes into account any government taxes and airline surcharges, but the quote gives you a good idea before you've invested too much time.

If you’re happy with that, proceed to the next page to see your travel plans taking shape.

Click ‘choose flights’ to get started. As you work through your itinerary, you’ll be given the option of both direct and connecting flights.

When the ‘via’ column is empty, you know you’re on a direct flight.

There are five direct flights available, while the rest are connections
There are five direct flights available, while the rest are connections

These appear at the top by default, but if you’d like to spend some time in Wellington before flying onwards to Auckland, you can.

Not every aircraft has business class or has a seat available when you're looking to travel – so when you see a downward-facing arrow, it means you’ll be downgraded to economy if you choose that flight…

Naturally, we’d suggest opting for another flight where your schedule permits, even if it means browsing flights on slightly different dates.

For our example itinerary, we’ll keep things simple by flying direct whenever possible, but sometimes, it just can’t be done:

There aren't any direct Star Alliance flights between Paris and London
There aren't any direct Star Alliance flights between Paris and London

Here, the shortest connection is flying from London to Paris via Brussels, so we’ll settle for that.

Repeat the process until all of your flights have been selected, but do keep your eyes peeled for any upward-facing arrows:

Unlike the downward arrow, these beauties are your 'free upgrade' from business to first class.

They only appear on Air China and United flights where business class isn't offered, so don't go hunting for them on other flights – you'll only be disappointed.


After locking in these final flights, it’s time to check that the itinerary meets the fare rules.

In this case and with connecting flights, we’ve booked too many sectors and can’t proceed:

The actual problem isn't highlighted here, so for more information, click the blue ‘previous’ button, and then the ‘!’ icon at the bottom of the city list.

Looking at the counter towards the bottom, we’ll need to trim two ‘segments’ – starting by replacing the London-Brussels-Paris connection with a direct journey on the high-speed Eurostar, for which you'd make a separate booking.

While surface sectors count as one segment, we’ve eliminated the connection, which means we’re half way there.

Also on the chopping block is Taiwan, so after selecting a (now) direct flight between Bangkok and Shanghai, we've got our full RTW itinerary, including our travel dates and specific flight numbers:

By clicking ‘proceed’, you’ll get the final asking price before completing the booking – and in this case, it’s less than $20 out from the original estimate.

With the hard work now over, all that’s left is to aim for Star Alliance Gold!

Also read: Star Alliance’s hidden gem: the Circle Pacific fare

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Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!


27 May 2014

Total posts 8

Chris, brilliant work mate, really good info.

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