Updated: Jan 14, 2019
Surprisingly affordable, great value, and, for some reason, still somewhat obscure!
Perhaps the multitude of so-called Ultra-Low Cost Carriers has somewhat diminished the market, but the term itself is still synonymous with long voyages of exploration, both personal and geopolitical.
Why should I care this product still exists?
Anyone with internet access can book a flight, it's true.
But what you still can't do is secure a series of flights that will allow you to circumnavigate the globe on one ticket, all the while preserving the flexibility for change and ensuring you don't have any budget surprises 9 months into an epic of your own design.
Not to mention the limitations of booking flights well in advance of travel - keep reading!
What do we mean by one ticket and why is that important?
Let's say you live near an international airport. Great. You have access to a large number of outbound flights taking you to a huge multitude of destinations directly and an even larger number indirectly.
No one airport services every destination on the planet, so at some point during your life as an adventurer, you're going to have to make a connection somewhere.
Now let's say that you are travelling to Southeast Asia for a little exploration and you later wish to book a regional carrier to get you from your arrival point in Bangkok all the way over to Singapore but at a perceived lower cost...
Here's the catch.
If you haven't booked the regional ticket to Singapore on the same ticket, you are completely excluded from any responsibilities of any one airline assisting you in your connection.
They're two tickets.
So, while it may seem like you're saving money by flying into Bangkok on a nice and comfortable Air Canada, Cathay Pacific, or Delta flight to then save a bit of cash suffering through the multitude of quirky regional carriers, such as Nok Airlines; you are at the whim of technical delays, weather, and whatever the Chinese government decides to do to the airspace around your connection via Beijing, which sees you land 8 hours late...
What if you booked your regional flight for the same day?
Well, you'd be out of luck if you were delayed long enough to miss the check-in for your separately ticketed flight.
The flights are two separate tickets and the two airlines owe no obligation to the each other in terms of your individual circumstance. If your Bangkok Airways flight departs Bangkok at 4PM, you were presumed to have been in Bangkok already and not inbound from Vancouver.
You may have travel insurance to help you out, but I'd caution that this is not a very good plan for your stress-free travel success, nor the preservation of your budget. Even if you do somehow find compensation, if you're out of country for months on end and have to wait 6 weeks for the investigation and processing of payment, you cash budget is going to feel the pain until payment has been processed.
Now, in order to minimize any opportunity for such disaster, you would ideally arrive the day before / depart the day after any major leg of international travel by plane.
But then you're paying for hotels and tranportation to and from the airport, not to mention food. Plus, aren't you travelling to see the world - why would you want to spend two days accommodating a flight that could be substituted with a simple connection?
Back to the single ticket
By booking your entire journey on a single ticket, you then have some stress relief in knowing that airlines will typically accommodate delays because they have responsibility for their passengers. This responsibility works both ways, if you recall my post on the validity of your passport.
There are other benefits, such as the onward travel of your baggage and the increased flexibility for changes.
An Around the World Ticket is just that, one giant ticket
As mentioned, an Around the World flight is no longer an ultra-high cost luxury item. Airlines work together and form consortia (or other business-like name for a sort of partnership).
That means you can code share / flight share among a given consortia and administer your travel through one point of contact and one ticket.
Star Alliance, for example, includes Air Canada, Lufthansa, Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, even Eva Air and Turkish Airlines among some 20+ other international carriers - all part of the same consortia, working together on a single ticket to see you around the planet!
What does it mean for my flexibility
You'll have up to a year to complete your travel, in most instances.
What most people don't know, is that flights can only be purchased up to 331 days in advance. So, if you are hoping to enjoy a couple of months in Europe, a bit of safari in Africa, and then meander through Southeast Asia down to Australia - you'd not be able to book your legs of travel if they're 10 or 11 months from now.
You will be required to state your route during the purchase, but you will be able to make changes later to accommodate a new itinerary or a prolonged stay. That means you can price out the bulk of your travel now and rely on a somewhat discounted future change.
Each ticket has different rules, but, for our example with Star Alliance today - the entry tier allows one change without fees.
That means you can decide to stay longer in the last destination and just call up (or contact your travel professional!) and make the request. You will still be subject to availability, but you won't be fighting for a better price.
The catch here is tax
Further changes are possible for a very reasonable rate and typically at a cost lower than that of a single change for a regular ticket. Although you'll pay slightly more for a change in route.
This is administered as a small fee for the time and effort it takes a ticketing agent to make the change, it cannot be administered for free every time because indecisive travellers will inadvertently consume the resources of a given airline (or your favourite travel professional...).
You will may also be subject to the difference in taxes.
If you haven't noticed, flight taxes can be a volatile matter - security taxes, fuel taxes, destination taxes, etc. - The thing they have in common is that they change. While they may not swing wildly for one individual ticket, the aggregate cost of swings for an airline can become costly, so your Around the World ticket will look to mitigate this and keep flight costs down for everyone.
Again, if you've ever changed the date on a flight you'll know that paying the difference in taxes is far less expensive than paying the difference in fare, which includes not only taxes, but is subject to the laws of supply and demand.
Each ticket is unique and there will be some minimum requirements
Each consortia will have their own rules for a ticket and its administration. For example, a minimum number of qualifying flights (legs of the journey), a maximum of 26,000 miles total journey for most basic tier categories - that's about the circumference of the planet!
You will probably also have a requirement to cross a number of oceans and you will be disallowed from backtracking.
Although there can be some small exceptions, such as connecting via known international hubs that are positioned in a convenient path toward your eventual home-bound goal.
There are seemingly limitless permutations of itineraries and each ticket is as unique as its possessor. The world is literally your oyster, why wait to see it all?
I'd love to hear from you, share your experiences with an Around the World Flight of your own or make an online inquiry to start your planning now or give us a call at 1 888 GO NOW 88!