Here are two different opinions about buying an around-the-world ticket compared to piecing together a trip with individual tickets. I’ve asked for the opinion of Richard Price who owns Executive Tours International to get his take on which option is better, and I’ll give my opinion, too.
One Vote for Around-the-World Tickets (ATW) From Richard Price of Executive Tours International
ATW tickets are great if you’re doing a multi-stop journey with long-haul flights, and it’s an exceptional bargain if your in Business or First Class. But, as the name implies, an Around the World ticket means just that — you must fly around the world. ATW tickets are usually sold using the airlines of one the airline alliance groups, such as One World, Star Alliance or Skyteam, and travel is restricted to only the airlines within that alliance. Each alliance has set ATW fares for Coach, Business Class and First Class. In some cases, there are tiers of ATW tickets based on total number of miles flown or the hemispheres in which travel takes place. So, based on your itinerary look at the airlines that best serve those destinations in order to decide on which airline alliance to use. For example, if you’re traveling to Hong Kong, you’d probably want to fly on Cathay Pacific Airways, which is part of the OneWorld alliance. If your trip is going to take you to Germany, you’d probably want to fly on Lufthansa, which is part of the Star Alliance. This can eliminate or reduce the need for connecting flights.
Once you’ve chosen your itinerary and your airline alliance, contact the airline on which you will begin your trip or the airline on which you will fly most of your segments. The reason for this is that if something goes wrong on your trip, the airline that issued your ticket is who you’re going to have to turn to for help. The airline that issues the ticket will have limited control or ability to help if something were to go wrong when you’re flying on a segment operated by one of their partner airlines. You can choose your own flights online, or call the airline and choose your flights with the help of an agent. Most airlines have special departments that specialize in ATW tickets.
Pros & Cons about ATW tickets:
- You have to keep going in the same direction. Backtracking is not permitted. For example, if you’re flying eastward on an ATW ticket, and you were to fly from New York to Moscow, you could not then fly from Moscow back to London and then continue on from there. Travel must be in the same direction.
You can connect no more than twice in the same city. For example, if you were to fly from New York to London and connect in London to Edinburgh, you could then connect one more time through London, but after that, you could not connect again through London.
- There is a limit to the number of stops you can make on an ATW ticket, but the limit is quite generous. And herein lies the beauty of an ATW ticket assuming you have the vacation time to get the most out of it. Say you have an upcoming trip that will take you from New York to Moscow, then to Tokyo and back to New York. You could do just those cities on an ATW ticket and probably save money over a multi-stop ticket. However, with the ATW ticket you can add numerous stops you want in between–more fun for your money! You could, at no additional cost, book your trip as New York – London – Paris – Munich – Rome – Moscow – Dubai – Delhi – Mumbai – Singapore – Bangkok – Hong Kong – Beijing – Tokyo – Honolulu – San Francisco – New York. Imagine being able to visit all those cities for the same price as the New York-Moscow-Tokyo ticket! Of course, you’re going to spend money on the ground in any destinations that you add on, but with an ATW ticket the cost of getting to those destinations is zero.
- When you book these flights in First or Business Class with lounge access in each airport and all the other perks incurred, it is a relative bargain compared to Coach ATW tickets, which have no perks whatsoever. I have done ATW trips four times; three times in First Class and once in Business Class, and I don’t regret spending the extra money for the premium classes so I could arrive fresh and ready to get to work or sight-see in each city.
One Vote for Separate Tickets From Moderator of Cheaptrickstotravel
Back in 2010 I priced out a Coach ATW ticket for a big trip stopping in several continents. I got quotes from two companies specializing in ATW tickets and I was surprised they were not nearly as expensive as I expected and the quotes were cheaper than buying individual coach tickets on those alliance airlines, particularly since they were one-way segments. However, I didn’t buy an ATW ticket for several reasons:
- My biggest frustration was it was difficult for me to be 100% certain of the continents I wanted to travel in. The ticket prices are based on the number of continents or hemispheres and adding a continent or region significantly increases the cost.
- Except for needing to purchase tickets far in advance for a few countries that required specific dates for visas and proof of onward travel, I wanted to travel very spontaneously so I could change plans easily along the way. This is difficult to do with an ATW ticket especially if it’s not in the direction you started travel. As it happened, before my trip I really wanted to go to Laos but when I got to Vietnam it was so hot that I decided to skip Laos and cut Asia short. And later on the trip, I had planned to go to Egypt but then decided to go to some Greek islands instead. I met plenty of people along my trip who had ATW tickets and they knew exactly where and when they were going to be in each city of their trip. It worked for them but not for me.
- I was able to take advantage of discount airlines like AirAsia, Jet Star and EasyJet for some routes that dramatically reduced the price of my overall travel costs compared to an ATW ticket on full-service airlines. I’m the type of person who can deal with discomfort flying coach on a no-frills discount airline as long as it’s significantly less money.
My recommendation is to price out ATW tickets and individual tickets (including discount airlines), and consider your travel style to decide what will work best for you.
Richard Price is CEO of Executive Tours International, a small corporation based in Southern California that develops customized international group tours for its clients. Programs range in size from 10 people to 200 people, and our areas of expertise include Europe, Asia, South America and Africa. We specialize in international trade missions, student study tours, incentives, seminars and meetings. You can reach Richard at firstname.lastname@example.org.