When I first started researching options for round-the-world travel and came across the OneWorld alliance Explorer Award chart, I thought it was too good to be true. Up until the minute that I saw our status turn to ‘ticketed’ online, I still didn’t have 100% faith that everything would work out. In the end, it did! We traded in 120,000 miles and just under $250 each for approximatly 25,000 miles through OneWorld partner airlines. We are now just a few short weeks away from hoping on a plane for a three month round-the-world journey.
There are many great resources online (some of our favorites are listed below) giving the details of these complicated fares. Despite our endless research, there were still 5 things that we didn’t have advance knowledge of that in hindsight would have been very helpful.
1. You may start and end your trip in different cities, BUT this is considered an open jaw. An open jaw is any leg of your flight where you are arriving and departing from different cities (i.e. you wish to fly into Kathmandu but travel by land to Dehli and depart from Dehli). This fare only allows only one open jaw which initially didn’t seem problematic but we didn’t realize that starting and ending in a different city would count.
2. Any layover longer than 6 hours is considered a stopover. You are allowed 2 ‘pass throughs’ and one ‘stop over’ in each city. We ran into an issue trying to book BOM(Mumbai)-DOH(Doha)-NBO(Nairobi) with a return flight of NBO(Nairobi)-DOH(Doha)-AMM(Amman). We had no intention of staying in Doha and were simply trying to pass through to get to the next destination. Unfortunately flights between these cities were limited and each had a 6+ hour layover. We finally were able to get around this by adding a stop in Dubai which enabled us to get out of DOH with less that a 6 hour layover and minimal extra miles. Our second leg ended up being NBO(Nairobi)-DOH(Doha)-DXB(Dubai)-AMM(Amman). Problem solved!
3. Finding awards availability online is next to impossible but for the most part, American Airlines phone agents were shockingly helpful, knowledgable, and actually excited to help check availability on various flights. We read online about many people who were not able to get much assistance with their fares via phone but this was absolutely not the case for us. Reserving the flight and checking availability was a very long process (we probably had 5 1.5+ hour calls before booking) but most of the agents were very helpful and great about looking into every possible option for you. Don’t stress about trying to find awards seats online, just pick up the phone and call. We did however notice that we received much better help during normal business hours. After hours agents were not nearly as knowledgable or friendly.
4. If you’re flexible with dates and actual cities, finding awards seats isn’t as hard as you might expect. We only booked our flight about 4 weeks out and I was panicked about whether or not there would be ANY seats. We only had to make three small compromises in order to make it work: flying into Kuala Lumpur vs. Bangkok, Mumbai vs. New Delhi, and adding a stop in Dubai to get out of Doha in under 6 hours.
5. If you’re planning on sharing AAdvantage miles in order to secure your flight, know that American Airlines charges a hefty fee in order to transfer miles from one account to another. Maybe this is a no brainer for those more familiar with using airline miles, but we were in for a last minute shock when we realized we couldn’t transfer miles for free. We ended up spending more money on transferring miles at the last minute than we did for a single RTW ticket.
Despite not knowing these things going in, we were still able to secure our round-the-world ticket for under $250 per person. SCORE! If you’re planning on booking one of these fares, keep these items in mind and also check out the other great resources online:
Here are some other helpful resources to read before booking: