The Milelion is going on an RTW trip

By night The Milelion fights (or at least complains very loudly about) the great injustices of poorly-conceived cobrand cards, cashback cards masquerading as miles earning cards and unannounced devaluations.

By day, The Milelion works as a management consultant fighting the evil forces of misaligned KPIs, fixing sub-optimal resource allocation and making a lot of powerpoint slides.

But it’s by virtue of the day job that in a few weeks, The Milelion will embark on a round the world itinerary. Although I can’t disclose the specific nature of the trip (you might read something about it in the papers come September) , it’s probably more fun to discuss the logistics rather than the purpose.

So I thought I’d use this article to walk you through how to book a round the world (RTW) fare with Star Alliance.

What are RTW fares?

All 3 airline alliances offer their own version of an RTW fare, but Star Alliance was the obvious choice for me because SQ is a member and it’s the largest alliance.

RTW fares can represent great value if you’re going to multiple destinations- an RTW fare in Business Class with 16 segments and 39,000 miles will cost ~S$20,000. To put things in perspective, a return trip business class fare from SIN-LAX would cost you about S$10,000 (It is also possible to redeem a Star Alliance RTW ticket using miles, 180,000 for economy, 240,000 for business and 360,000 for first, but as Athen points out below this only gets you 7 cities)

I’d like to share my experience using the booking engine. This article will be relevant whether you are buying a revenue RTW fare or planning to redeem a RTW fare for miles (although I imagine your flight choices would be more limited if you were redeeming)

Star Alliance RTW Fare Construction

starrtw

Basic Rules

Star Alliance has a very user-friendly booking engine that allows you to piece together your trip segment by segment. There are some ground rules

  1. Your total trip (including connections) cannot exceed 39,000 miles (there are cheaper fares with lower limits but 39,000 is the absolute maximum)
  2. You can only travel in one direction- eastwards or westwards
  3. You cannot backtrack from one zone to another. So if I’ve flown from FRA-DXB, for example, I cannot then fly DXB-LHR (one is in the Middle East, the other in Europe)
  4. You can backtrack within a zone. If my overall route is eastwards, I could fly FRA-LHR-DXB, notwithstanding that FRA-LHR is technically moving westwards
  5. You must start and finish in the same country. So while it is possible to start in San Francisco and finish in Boston, if your first flight is from Singapore you must end in Singapore
  6. You have a maximum of 16 segments and 15 stopovers permitted. A segment refers to a flight. So SIN-TPE-LAX counts as 2 segments, notwithstanding the fact that you’re physically in TPE for an hour

Confused? Play around with the engine and it will all become clear.

Constructing your route

On the first screen you select your cabin class, city of residence (i.e where you want to start the trip from) and the number of travelers. City of residence also determines what currency your ticket will be priced in. staralliancertw4

On the next screen you will add your destinations in the box on the top right.

rwt4

The engine is a bit particular about names- you can enter city names just fine, but it only recognises certain airport codes. It wouldn’t recognise ICN for Seoul, but was just fine accepting BEY for Beirut.

I later realised this was because it wants to offer you more options- so if you enter Seoul it will offer you routings to both Seoul Incheon and the lesser known Seoul Gimpo airport. Do note that if you fly into Seoul Incheon and depart from Seoul Gimpo, it counts Incheon-Gimpo as a segment on your journey.

rtw3

See the car symbol next to the airplane? That represents a “surface route”.  You can build in a maximum of 5 surface routes into your itinerary, but each one adds mileage and segments towards your total cap.

Why would you want to do this? Well, Star Alliance may be the largest alliance in the world but its coverage is lacking in some areas. When I was trying to get from ASU-CPT, the best it could recommend me was ASU-PTY-GRU-JNB-CPT, which would take 29 hours and involve a ridiculous backtrack to PTY. I resolved this problem by adding ASU-GRU as a land route and buying a separate ticket on Go! airlines for a 2 hours direct flight.

When you’ve entered your final destination (Singapore in my case), the system will check the itinerary for validity and price it accordingly.

rwtprice

Now the fun part- pick your flights!

staralliancertw2

Note that not all flights are equal- some carriers add surcharges for particular aircraft types. If you want to fly SQ full flat business class on your route, there’s an additional surcharge…

sqwtf

This is a great example of SQ’s typical snobbish attitude towards its alliance obligations. “Our product is so much greater than everyone else’s that you should pay a surcharge just for the privilege of flying it”

Only one other airline has surcharges, and even that is on a very specific route.

  • An Asiana Airlines Business Class surcharge (Q-surcharge) of USD 620.00 per sector is applicable for passengers booked in D Class on Boeing B772LR, Boeing B773ER or Airbus A380 when travel is between:Seoul and London / Los Angeles / San Francisco / New York

This makes SQ’s across the board surcharges even more ridiculous in comparison.

Once you’ve selected your routes, you’re set. On the subsequent screens you’ll enter your details and make payment. Protip- the DBS Altitude devaluation only takes place end June, so for May and June you can still earn 3 miles per $1 up to $10,000 of air ticket spend (the RTW ticket is processed by Lufthansa).

The system works beautifully. No need to worry about a browser timeout, I left it overnight and was able to pick it up the next morning. In any case, you can save your itinerary to pick it up later on a different computer.

My final routing (including stopovers) is

SIN-TPE-LAX-MEX-HOU-GRU-JNB-IST-ZGB-FRA-RUH-BOM-NRT-SIN, 36,000 miles

So what does this trip mean in terms of Milelion output?

Non-SQ Trip Reports

During the recent giveaway many people asked me to review other non-SQ airlines. I’m very pleased to say that this trip will allow me to do just that. Some of the business class products I’ll be reviewing on this trip include

  • EVA Air’s B777-300ER, SIN-TPE-LAX

I last flew this about 3 years ago and I’ve been eagerly looking forward to flying with them again. The service was fantastic. The food was catered by Din Tai Fung. The amenities kit was Rimowa-branded (still use it to store my unused credit cards). The seat was very comfortable. And until recently they served Dom Perignon in business class. So hopefully the experience this time round will be just as good as last time!

  • Turkish Airlines A330-300/A321 (JNB-IST)

The idea of flying Turkish excites me because they have an on-board chef from DO&CO and all the trip reports I’ve read so far have praised the food. The new Turkish seats are full flat (2-2-2 config unfortunately) which should make for a comfortable 9.5 hours flight.

  • Croatia Airlines A320 ZGB-FRA

I couldn’t find a decent photo of this so I’ll let it remain a mystery for now. But it’s a 90 minute intra-Europe flight on a narrow-body aircraft, and I’m under no illusions as to what’ll be offered. Again, it’s worth it just for the experience!

  • United Airlines B767-300, HOU-GRU

photo credit: fabflyer.net

Ah, United. Well, everyone’s got to do them sooner or later. United’s B767 is a strange 2-1-2 configuration, but as expected all the 1s are gone so it’s book a 2 and hope you get an empty seat next to you. I wouldn’t mind trying a United hot fudge sundae though, and can’t wait to experience the legendarily grumpy United service.

  • Lufthansa A330-300. FRA-RUH

Lufthansa recently finished installing their new full-flat business class beds on all their aircraft. Their old product was a joke, but fortunately the new seat looks pretty sweet. Again, 2-2-2 isn’t industry leading by any means, but I like the idea that every seat will have that new car smell. I have read that an unfortunate design flaw in the seat means you virtually play footsie with your seatmate. Let’s see what seat roulette brings me…

  • South African Airways A330-200, GRU-JNB

South African Airways will be another first for me. According to their website their seats are fully flat but according to every report I’ve read that just isn’t the case. I’ve never been to Africa before and yes I know South Africa is Africa lite, but it’s exciting nonetheless.

  • Air India B777-200LR, RUH-BOM

I worked for a year and a half in India after graduating from university, and every single Indian I met always told me he/she’d rather die than fly AI. I think I’m starting to see why. I purposely planned the routing so I could avoid AI as far as possible, but didn’t have a choice when routing RUH-BOM (a 4 hour flight, mercifully).

Other reports on AI have pointed out rather unsavory things like stains on the fabric or rats on the plane or pilots fighting each other or pilots refusing to fly without a particular female copilot.

Still better than economy though! And it should make for a great trip report.

  • ANA B787, BOM-NRT and NRT-SIN

I love ANA and would even fly with them over SQ. On my ANA flights so far (and I’ve done all 3 cabins with them) the crew have been amazing, the food has been excellent (I got amazing runny yolk eggs for breakfast, in economy. How do you even do that with an airplane oven?) and the airplane has so many of those small Japanese touches (like a bidet in the loo, a sleeping foam pad, an abundance of wet wipes) which I love. Note to self: Must. Find. Muskmelon.

So this and EVA are probably the 2 products I look forward to the most on this trip (any coincidence that they’re the only 1-2-1 configured products in this list?)

Airline amenities kit comparisons

Remember that SQ is actually an exception to the rule and most airlines do give out amenities kits in business class. I’ll be inviting a guestwriter who knows much more about skincare brands than me to review the different amenities kits offered in business class by respective airlines.

More hotel reviews

I’m planning to check off all 11 Starwood brand to complete the SPG dashboard challenge (well, 10. Element will come during my NY trip in September). Once I’m done with this trip I’ll just need to requalify for one more year to get SPG Lifetime Gold (well, before Marriott destroys everything anyway).

Silvercar and Turo reviews

I’ve written about Turo before, the P2P car rental that lets you rent cars at a fraction of what the airport car rental counters would charge. For most of the trip I’ll be Ubering around for work but in LA I’ll probably rent a car on the weekend for some personal R&R (on my own dime, obviously), and I’ve got my eye on this currently…

turo6

$55 a day? Yes please

The other service I want to test is Silvercar. I’ll do a full review afterwards, but to summarise it’s all Audi A4 rental service that does away with many of the annoyances that traditional rental car agencies have (like ridiculous refueling and toll charges).  I’ve wrangled a $35 a day rate thanks to a coupon that gives the first day free on a 2 day rental, which makes the cost even cheaper than renting an economy car at LAX airport

Conclusion

I’m very blessed to be able to take this trip and look forward to sharing as much as possible with you. The travelling may slightly interfere with The Milelion’s writing schedule, but you’re more than welcome to shoot questions through the contact us feature or simply by leaving a comment.

 

28 thoughts on “The Milelion is going on an RTW trip”

      1. Kpo a bit. Since it’s work-based, What’s the motivation behind this rtw? If u break and do more sectors on its respective revenue ticket, wouldn’t u be able to pocket more miles due to higher total cost to be paid? Just curious as I noticed this doesn’t sound your usual style 🙂

        1. haha yes. but exactly because it’s work-based i can’t do that. the only reason i can fly J all the way is because i managed to keep the total cost to about 15K usd. buying individual tickets would make it way, way more.

  1. Hi a bit confused about the total cost of the trip. The article stated the entire trip cost 36,000 miles but is that right? That’s extremely low for business class round the world redemption. Thanks.

    1. no, total miles flown will be 36k. this wasn’t a redemption, it was a revenue ticket purchase (business trip)

    2. I think what he is saying is, pay about 20k as a J RTW revenue ticket. 39k (not 36k) mile is because that is the max u can fly on RTW terms and condition. Not sure if one gets miles credited for a RTW revenue ticket. I do think it should.

      1. you earn miles on a rtw revenue ticket. for business class it mostly books into D and Z fare buckets which earn 100-125% of miles flown on krisflyer

  2. Cool! So did you get to redeem for RTW in full? Also, if we opt for F with 360,000 miles, I wonder if award space availability still applies. ie, only saver award redemptions are permitted for RTW?

    1. not a redemption, a revenue ticket purchase. but if you book a redemption RTW ticket your flight routings would be similar. i say similar not the same because you’d have to compete for a smaller pool of award inventory.

      1. That’s right… getting F to LAX via TPE is tough enough. Imagine looking for award availability for all the other sectors…

        I recall my parents went on a RTW trip on F (it becomes J when no F is available) class many years ago when UOB came out with the UOB infinite card and they spent enough on it for a redemption for 2. In those days they kept in touch with me via fax when they got to a hotel..! Yes.. fax!

  3. You know, looking at some of those airlines…. I can kind of understand how SQ can get away with charging a surcharge…

    1. that’s a fair point in that most of them are 2-2-2 configs in J. but i’d argue that ANA and EVA are on par with SQ, with Asiana a bit further back (ding for having long haul flights with angled lie flat in J still, although their a380 smartium product is quite solid). And then much further back i’d group austrian, brussels, thai, lufthansa.

      1. Do you prefer reverse herringbone to the sq J seat? For sleeping on I kind of like the idea of having a mattress pad, and standard reverse herringbone looks a bit… Narrow.

        I’m going to fly AA business on their 787/77W in a couple of weeks, so I suppose I’ll find out soon enough!

        1. one reason why i prefer reverse herringbone design is that it lets you choose exactly what angle you want to recline at. maybe I’m weird but i always found the most comfortable sleeping angle to be just short of 180 degrees. i read somewhere that the plane actually flies at an angle, so 180 degrees in the plane is not the same as 180 degrees on the ground. not sure if that’s true but it would make intuitive sense

          for SQ the seat isn’t great for anything other than full upright or lie flat. not a lot of lounging positions.

          1. haha then angled flat would be the best option for you?

            To be honest I have kind of felt that flat on a plane isn’t quite flat, and my head is at a lower angle to my feet. Looks like some experimentation is in order.

            1. death before angled flat. i’ve gone through ridiculous lengths to avoid angled flat seats let me tell you. i’m going to bring a spirit level on my next flight

    1. heh. as soon as you did that i started scheming in my head and i realised i could upgrade FRA-RUH for only 28,000 miles. 28,000 miles for the chance to try the FRA first class terminal? No brainer. unfortunately upgrade space isn’t open yet, LH only opens F space to star partners about 2 weeks before departure. that said, the LH site tells me of the 8 seats in the F cabin at least 6 are still available…

      1. Enjoy ur rtw trip. I am looking forward to ur article in Sep to explain how ur work is able to give u such a awesome trip.

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