Booking Around-the-World Tickets With Miles: Step 1, Plan

Sunset at the UAE Presidential Palace, Abu Dhabi

We’ve all dreamed about flying around the world, although few have actually achieved it.  I met a guy who, along with his friend, quit their jobs and bought a $5,000 per-person around-the-world Delta ticket (economy) through Groupon.  Amazing, right?   Ten stopovers is great compared to what you can get today on an around-the-world award ticket (up to 7).  I created a sample Singapore Airlines around-the-world itinerary to illustrate how the process works and to calculate fuel surcharges.  It is worth noting that Korea Air also offers an around-the-world award ticket that I will write about in a later post.  I recommend the following approach to booking around-the-world award tickets:

  • Step 1:  Plan the Itinerary and Pick Your Carrier
  • Step 2:  Hunt and Gather Miles
  • Step 3:  Search for Availability
  • Step 4:  Book the Ticket

Singapore Airlines Around-the-World Award Ticket (Business Class)

Singapore Airlines offers sparse details on its around-the-world award ticket:

Travel around the world with award flights to seven cities of your dreams. All you need is 180,000 KrisFlyer miles in Economy Class, 240,000 KrisFlyer miles in Business Class and 360,000 KrisFlyer miles in First Class.

Booking the trip is a two-step process.  First, call Singapore Airlines to redeem the miles for the applicable ticket.  Second, you must begin the around-the-world trip within one year.

The pros to booking through Singapore Airlines include:  1) Singapore Airlines is a transfer partner with Citi ThankYou points, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and American Express Membership Rewards, 2) Singapore Airlines is member of the Star Alliance which includes excellent hard products and destinations, especially in Europe, 3) you can book up to 16 segments,* and 4) award space availability is usually pretty good given the large number of Star Alliance partners.  The cons include:  1) you receive up to 7 stopovers, 2) Singapore Airlines imposes fuel surcharges on many Star Alliance members,** 3) the trip needs to be booked over the phone, and 4) there are additional restrictions to the routing rules.

*A Singapore Airlines representative verified (twice) over the phone that you can book up to 16 segments on an around-the-world award ticket.  Unfortunately, around-the-world award tickets do not have access to any additional award seat availability.

**Singapore Airlines recently eliminated fuel surcharges on its own flights, reducing your out of pocket cost on an around-the-world award ticket by approximately $400 USD.

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Flower Shop in Amsterdam

Sample Itinerary (Business Class)

The sample itinerary includes the following segments (award stopovers are in bold):  DCA-SFO-AKL-SYD-SIN-JNB-CPT-NBO-CAI-ATH-BRU-IAD  [I do not utilize the full 16 segments because fuel surcharges add up quickly.]  The beauty of this trip is that you can easily add on additional round-trip paid segments.  From New Zealand, you can fly to Fiji.  From Athens, you can fly or ferry to Santorini.  You could also eliminate Cairo as a stopover (you can occasionally book relatively cheap flights to Cairo) and add another destination.

I used ITA to approximate the fees and fuel surcharges (and then applied the applicable exchange rate) that I would pay for booking this around-the-world business-class award ticket:

  • DCA-SFO on United Airlines:  ~$68
  • SFO-AKL on Air New Zealand:  ~$40
  • AKL-SYD on Air New Zealand:  ~$51
  • SYD-SIN on Singapore Airlines:  ~$66
  • SIN-JNB-CPT on Singapore Airlines:  ~$39
  • CPT-NBO on South African Air:  ~$165
  • NBO-CAI on EgyptAir:  ~$153
  • CAI-ATH on EgyptAir:  ~$121
  • ATH-BRU on Brussles Airlines:  ~$103
  • BRU-IAD on Brussles Airlines:  ~$284
  • TOTAL:  $1,090

The total cost is 240,000 miles and approximately $1,090 in award fees.  If you paid for the trip in its entirety, it would cost approximately $11,368 (as priced through the Star Alliance around-the-world tool).  This itinerary would give you a redemption value of 4.28 cents per mile, which is pretty good.  I recently received over 8 cents per miles on American Airlines when I booked a first-class award flight on Etihad (Abu Dhabi – New York).

DCA is Washington DC, SFO is San Francisco, AKL is New Zealand, SYD is Australia, SIN is Malaysia, CAI is Egypt, JNB is South Africa, NBO is Kenya (Mount Kilimanjaro), ATH is Greece, BRU is Belgium, and CPT is South Africa.

Conclusion

Even though around-the-world award redemptions are slowly disappearing, you can still find decent value with Singapore Airlines’s around-the-world award ticket.  If you are thinking about traveling around the world, let me know below in the comments below.

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