You can book an around-the-world award ticket for just 75,000 miles — here’s how
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With international travel making a return this summer, many of you are itching to get back out there and see the world. Whether it’s for international first class or a quick hop around the U.S., now is a good time to put your hard-earning airline miles to use. But what if you can’t decide on a single destination? Luckily, you can still book an around-the-world award for a reasonable rate.
These awards let you see multiple destinations across multiple regions in one go. You can stay for extended periods of time in multiple cities and sometimes take alternate transportation between destinations to maximize your trip. These trips cost a lot of miles, but you’ll almost always save when compared to booking tickets separately and piecing together your own itinerary. This is especially true if you book business class around-the-world award tickets.
These complex itineraries are generally made possible by leveraging alliance route networks. So not only are you seeing amazing new cities, but you can fly interesting new airlines too.
You can book around-the-world award tickets with major transferrable points currencies like American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou — but again, it’s not easy. You need to know where to look to find a transfer partner that works best for your specific around-the-world needs. So in this article, I’ll show you all your options for your post-pandemic around-the-world adventure.
The article is broken down by alliance. I’ll cover each around-the-world award option for said alliance and discuss the rules and pricing for each around-the-world option. I’ll also show you how to earn miles to book each around-the-world ticket and discuss how to actually book it.
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Oneworld around-the-world awards
Oneworld is the home of American Airlines, Cathay Pacific and many other reader favorites. Here are your options for booking around-the-world tickets on Oneworld partners.
Booking around-the-world trips with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Like Aeroplan, Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles program offers a quasi-around-the-world award option called “Oneworld multi-carrier awards.” These itineraries are confusing at first, but it’s easier to visualize once you’re familiar with the award chart’s rules. Here’s a look:
- Must fly at least two Oneworld carriers, three if flying Cathay Pacific
- Maximum of five stopovers
- Maximum flight distance of 50,000 miles
- You must return to your origin
- Two connections (in addition to stopovers) are permitted
- Two open-jaws are permitted
- Backtracking is usually permitted but varies based on phone representative
Other than that, there aren’t many restrictions to worry about. Prices are as follows:
You will pay moderate fuel surcharges, if applicable, but few Oneworld partners charge high surcharges. The exception to this rule is British Airways, which is notorious for charging $500+ for a one-way business class ticket to London. Thankfully, Asia Miles charges lower surcharges on BA flights when compared to other Oneworld loyalty programs.
You can generally backtrack on these awards as there’s nothing in the terms and conditions that prohibits it. That said, you may need to talk with multiple representatives to book one of these tickets. I’ve seen reports of Asia Miles representatives not allowing backtracking award tickets in some cases. If this happens to you, politely end the call and call back.
Asia Miles multi-carrier awards are generally the best way to book first-class around-the-world awards. That’s because Oneworld has the most carriers that still offer a true first-class cabin, like American Airlines, British Airways, Japan Airlines and others. Here’s an example of an around-the-world ticket that’s mostly operated in first class and clocks in at 21,224 miles. It will cost 280,000 miles, since the business class segments are charged like first class.
Here’s a sample itinerary you could book as part of a single around-the-world award:
- New York-JFK to London-Heathrow (LHR) – British Airways first class
- London to Madrid (MAD) – Iberia business class
- Madrid to Doha (DOH) – Qatar Airways business class
- Doha to Hong Kong (HKG) – Qatar Airways business class
- Hong Kong (HKG) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND) – Cathay Pacific first class
- Tokyo-Haneda to Los Angeles (LAX) – Japan Airlines first class
- Los Angeles to New York-JFK – American Airlines Flagship first class
How to book: Map out your trip with Great Circle Mapper and find award space with your favorite Oneworld search tool. Then, call Asia Miles to book your award ticket.
Earning Asia Miles: Cathay Pacific is a 1:1 transfer partner of Amex, Capital One and Citi and a 3:1 transfer partner of Marriott Bonvoy.
Booking around-the-world trips with Qantas Frequent Flyer
Qantas‘ around-the-world award program can be difficult to find since, like Cathay Pacific, it’s named “Oneworld classic flight reward.” You can only fly on Oneworld airlines (not other Qantas partners like Emirates or El Al), and you’re required to fly at least two non-Qantas Oneworld airlines.
That said, these awards have interesting rules. Here’s a look:
- Must fly at least two Oneworld carriers, three if flying Qantas
- Maximum of five stopovers
- Maximum flight distance of 35,000 miles
- One stopover is allowed in any one city
- Two connections are allowed at any one city in the Itinerary
- If your destination city is different than your origin, you will be charged based on the distance to return directly from your destination to your origin
- Ground transfers are allowed, but you will be charged for the distance between the two cities
- Backtracking is usually permitted
Pricing is as follows:
This award chart isn’t as generous as Cathay Pacific’s, but there is still some decent value to be found in business class. If you max out the five stopovers, you’ll likely end up paying 240,000 – 280,000 miles for a business class around-the-world award. That means you’re effectively ‘purchasing’ each flight for 40,000 – 45,000 miles each. As you’d expect, you are liable for paying fuel surcharges when carriers charge them.
Here’s an example itinerary I built out. It covers 31,279 miles and costs 280,000 miles in business class.
- Los Angeles (LAX) to Sydney (SYD) – Qantas, stopover
- Sydney to Hong Kong (HKG) – Cathay Pacific, stopover
- Hong Kong to Johannesburg (JNB) – Cathay Pacific, stopover
- Johannesburg to Doha (DOH) – Qatar Airways, stopover
- Doha to London-Heathrow (LHR) – Qatar Airways, stopover
- London to Los Angeles – American Airlines
How to book: Map out your trip with Great Circle Mapper and find award space with your favorite Oneworld search tool. Then, either book online by creating a multi-city award ticket or call Qantas to book.
Earning Qantas miles: Qantas is a 1:1 transfer partner of Amex, Capital One and Citi. You can transfer Marriott points to Qantas at a 3:1 ratio.
SkyTeam around-the-world awards
SkyTeam is the world’s second-largest alliance based on the number of members. It includes some of the most well-known airlines, like Air France, Delta, KLM and Korean Airlines. Here are your options for booking around-the-world award tickets with SkyTeam airlines.
Booking around-the-world trips with Aeromexico Club Premier
Aeromexico Club Premier’s SkyTeam around-the-world pass is an attractive deal. These awards cost 224,000 miles in economy or 352,000 in business class. With Amex’s 1:1.6 transfer ratio, you’ll need just 140,000 Membership Rewards for economy and 220,000 for business class.
The following terms apply:
- Travel must continue in the same direction, east or west
- Travel must begin and end in the same country
- A minimum of three or a maximum of 15 stopovers are allowed
- No more than five stopovers per continent
- All flights must be booked in the same class of service
- Pass is valid for one year from the date of issue
Allowing 15 stopovers is among the most generous of any around-the-world programs and there are no mileage limits to worry about. You can really squeeze in some long-haul flights as long as you don’t backtrack. I think that this is the best deal for booking long around-the-world trips with lots of stopovers. Even if you don’t max out the 15 stopovers, you may save miles by booking through Aeromexico rather than a similar itinerary with ANA Mileage Club.
Here’s an example itinerary that maximizes all 15 stopovers:
- Los Angeles (LAX) to San Jose del Cabo (SJD) – Delta Air Lines, stopover
- San Jose del Cabo to Guadalajara (GDL) – Aeromexico, stopover
- Guadalajara to Mexico City (MEX) – Aeromexico, stopover
- Mexico City to Santiago (SCL) – Aeromexico, stopover
- Santiago to Buenos Aires (AEP) – Aerolineas Argentinas, stopover
- Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo (GRU) – Aerolineas Argentinas, stopover
- Sao Paulo to Madrid (MAD) – Air Europa, stopover
- Madrid to Paris (CDG) – Air France, stopover
- Paris to Amsterdam (AMS) – KLM, stopover
- Amsterdam to Prague (PRG) – Czech Airlines, stopover
- Prague to Beirut (BEY) – Czech Airlines, stopover
- Beirut to Dubai (DXB) – Middle East Airlines, stopover
- Dubai to Shanghai (PVG) – China Eastern, stopover
- Shanghai to Taipei (TPE) – China Airlines, stopover
- Taipei to Sydney (SYD) – China Airlines, stopover
- Sydney to Los Angeles – Delta Air Lines
You are liable for paying fuel surcharges on Aeromexico around-the-world tickets, but they’re usually reasonable.
How to book: Map out your trip with Great Circle Mapper and find award space with your favorite SkyTeam search tool. Then, call Aeromexico to book.
Earning Premier Points: Aeromexico is a 1:1.6 transfer partner of Amex, a 1:1 transfer partner of Capital One and a 3:1 transfer partner of Marriott.
Booking around-the-world trips with Korean Air SKYPASS
Korean Air’s SKYPASS program allows up to six stopovers (four per award region) on around-the-world tickets. These cost 140,000 miles in economy or 220,000 miles in business class. Given how hard SkyPass miles are to earn and this low cap on stopovers, you may be better off booking with Aeromexico instead. That’s especially true once you factor in the Amex transfer ratio.
Check out our guide to Korean’s around-the-world pass for more details and sample itineraries. Because of limited earning opportunities, I won’t go in-depth on Korean Airlines around-the-world tickets in this article.
Earning SkyPass miles: Since Chase dropped Korean Air as a transfer partner, the only easy way to earn SkyPass miles is by transferring Marriott points at a 3:1 ratio.
Star Alliance around-the-world awards
With 28 member airlines serving over 1,300 destinations worldwide, Star Alliance is the largest of the three major alliances. Here in the U.S., United Airlines is the major Star Alliance carrier. Other well-known carriers include ANA, Avianca, Lufthansa, SAS and a suite of others. These airlines have hubs all around the globe, making it a great bet for around-the-world tickets no matter where you want to go.
Booking around-the-world trips with ANA Mileage Club
ANA Mileage Club’s around-the-world awards are flexible and — in my opinion — the best way to book a Star Alliance around-the-world ticket. Rules are relatively relaxed, but you’ll want to keep the following in mind:
- Flights must be used to cross both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans once
- You must fly east to west or west to east and can’t backtrack
- Up to eight stopovers are permitted, up to three in Europe and up to four in Japan
- You can book a maximum of 12 flight segments
- You can also include up to 4 ground sectors (alternate transportation between two airports)
- The departure date of the final international flight to return to the country of departure must be 10+ days after the departure of the first international flight on the itinerary
Pricing is fair too — here’s a look at ANA’s around-the-world award chart:
One thing to note about ANA around-the-world awards is that you’re liable for paying fuel surcharges, taxes and other fees if the operating carrier charges them. This can make booking tickets with carriers like Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines pricey. Thankfully, you can avoid these surcharges by booking with the following airlines that do not add fuel surcharges:
- Air China
- Air New Zealand
- Brussels Airlines
- Ethiopian Airlines
- LOT Polish Airlines (low surcharges)
- SAS Scandinavian Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- South African Airways
- TAP Portugal
- United Airlines
While first-class pricing is enticing for a long around-the-world trip, Star Alliance makes it challenging to book. Singapore and Swiss don’t release first-class award space to partners. Lufthansa only does within 15 days of departure, leaving ANA as one of the only Star Alliance carriers that would actually let you book first class. Thankfully, Star Alliance has great business-class options for you to choose from.
Take the following example, which covers just over 20,500 flight miles and includes seven stopovers. This ticket costs just 125,000 miles, which is around what most carriers would charge for a simple round-trip business-class ticket to Asia.
- Newark (EWR) to Frankfurt (FRA) – United, stopover
- Frankfurt to Prague (PRG) – Lufthansa, stopover
- Prague to Warsaw (WAW) – LOT Polish Airlines, stopover
- Warsaw to Singapore (SIN) – LOT Polish Airlines, stopover
- Singapore to Hong Kong (HKG) – Singapore Airlines, stopover
- Hong Kong to Seoul (ICN) – Asiana, stopover
- Seoul to Tokyo-Haneda (HND) – ANA, stopover
- Tokyo to New York-JFK – ANA
How to book: Map out your trip with Great Circle Mapper and find award space with your favorite Star Alliance search tool. Then, call ANA to book your award ticket.
Earning ANA miles: If you’re short on ANA miles, the carrier is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards points and a 3:1 transfer partner of Marriott Bonvoy. Remember that Marriott also offers a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points you transfer to an airline.
Need to stock up on ANA miles? Consider applying for one of these American Express cards that can help you earn points with your everyday spending:
- American Express® Green Card: 30,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Earn 3x points on dining at restaurants, travel and transit (including flights, hotels, transit, taxis, tours, and ridesharing services), 1x points on all other purchases ($150 annual fee; see rates and fees).
- American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first six months of account opening. Earn 4x points on dining at restaurants; 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year; then 1x points); 3x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines or American Express Travel; 1x points on all other purchases, ($250 annual fee; see rates and fees).
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in your first six months of card membership. Earn 5x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines or with American Express Travel (earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), 5x on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel, and Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts; 1x on all other purchases, ($550 annual fee; see rates and fees).
The information for the Amex Green Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Booking mini around-the-world trips with Air Canada Aeroplan
Air Canada’s Aeroplan program doesn’t have an official around-the-world award chart, but it allows stopovers on one-way tickets. This means you can effectively build a mini around-the-world itinerary by maximizing these stopovers. Routing rules are relaxed and — under the new program — you can stop over in a different region than your final destination.
Here are a few rules to know:
- Stopovers cost an additional 5,000 points
- Up to one stopover per one-way ticket
- No stopovers in the U.S. or Canada
- Up to six segments per one-way ticket
- You cannot book tickets that are 100% or more physical miles over the direct distance between two cities
- Itineraries within a single region must stay within said region.
- There are no Maximum Permitted Mileage restrictions for flight rewards on partners
- Open-jaw tickets are only permitted between one-way tickets, not between connecting cities or stopovers
- All flights are priced on a one-way basis
Aeroplan prices flights based on the region you’re flying to/from and the total distance of your flight. You can view the full award chart on Air Canada’s website (PDF link). Further, the program no longer adds fuel surcharges to award tickets, so you can book carriers like Austrian Airlines and Lufthansa without breaking the bank.
You can maximize your Aeroplan tickets further by adding long layovers in up to six cities per one-way ticket. So if you’re flying from Newark (EWR) to Dubai (DXB) via Frankfurt (FRA), you can stopover in Frankfurt for up to 24 hours without using your one stopover. This can be powerful for quick visits to a city you’ve already been to — just make sure the connection times work out.
Here’s an example of a round-trip award ticket that includes a stopover on both the outbound and return tickets. There’s also a long-layover connection on the outbound leg for a day-long visit to Frankfurt (FRA). This ticket costs 180,000 points round-trip according to the North America-to-Pacific award chart.
- Newark (EWR) to Frankfurt (FRA) – Lufthansa, layover
- Frankfurt to Munich (MUC) – Lufthansa, stopover
- Munich to Singapore (SIN) – Lufthansa, outbound final destination
- Singapore to Tokyo-Haneda (HND) – ANA, stopover
- Tokyo to New York-JFK – ANA, inbound final destination
How to book: Map out your trip with Great Circle Mapper and find award space with your favorite Star Alliance search tool. Then, call Air Canada to book your award ticket.
Earning Aeroplan points: American Express Membership Rewards points transfer to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio, Capital One miles transfer at a 2:1.5 ratio and Marriott points at a 3:1 ratio.
If you’re looking to earn Capital One miles, you can open a Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. The Venture card currently offers 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening. You can still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
Booking around-the-world trips with Singapore Airlines Krisflyer
Singapore Airlines’ around-the-world awards are poorly advertised and relatively limited. That said, if you want to include a premium-cabin segment on Singapore Airlines, you have to book through its KrisFlyer loyalty program. This is because the carrier generally doesn’t release premium-cabin award space to partners.
For Singapore around-the-world award tickets:
- Travel must continue in the same direction (east or west) with no backtracking.
- Must begin and end in the same country.
- Maximum of seven total stopovers, with a maximum of two in each country.
- Maximum flight distance of 35,000 miles
- Maximum of 16 flight segments.
35,000 miles is a shallow ceiling to place on the around-the-world awards. If you wanted to try the world’s longest flight from Newark (EWR) to Singapore (SIN), you’d eat up almost 30% of your mileage allowance on a single flight. And the pricing is mediocre at best — especially when compared to ANA Mileage Club. Here’s a look:
- Economy: 180,000 miles
- Business: 240,000 miles
- First: 360,000 miles
Further, you’re liable for paying fuel surcharges if charged by the partner airline. Thankfully, Singapore Airlines doesn’t charge these on its own tickets.
One way to maximize these around-the-world tickets is building out an itinerary that includes Singapore Airlines’ fifth-freedom routes. Here’s an example of a business class around-the-world itinerary that costs 240,000 miles:
- New York-JFK to Frankfurt (FRA) – Singapore Airlines, stopover
- Frankfurt to Istanbul (IST) – Turkish Airlines, stopover
- Istanbul to Addis Ababa (ADD) – Ethiopian Airlines, stopover
- Addis Ababa to Singapore (SIN) – Ethiopian Airlines, stopover
- Singapore to Hong Kong (HKG) – Singapore Airlines, stopover
- Hong Kong to Seoul (ICN) – Asiana, stopover
- Seoul to Tokyo-Narita (NRT) – Asiana, stopover
- Tokyo to Los Angeles (LAX) – Singapore Airlines, layover
- Los Angeles to New York-JFK – United
How to book: Map out your trip with Great Circle Mapper and find award space with your favorite Star Alliance search tool. Then, call Singapore Airlines to book your award ticket.
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- Chase Sapphire Reserve – Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
Booking around-the-world trips with Lufthansa Miles & More
Lufthansa’s Miles & More program allows you to book up to seven stopovers and ten flight segments on around-the-world awards, though it does pass on fuel surcharges. Lufthansa’s raound-the-world awards cost the following amounts:
- Economy: 180,000 miles
- Business: 325,000 miles
- First: 480,000 miles
Earning Miles & More miles: The program does not have any transfer partners, so you’ll need to earn by flying Star Alliance carriers. Because of this (and the high prices), we won’t go in-depth on Lufthansa Miles & More around-the-world tickets.
Around-the-world awards are not for the faint of heart, nor are they an option for every traveler. They often require multiple weeks (or even months) to enjoy the stops, which requires commitment. That doesn’t even consider the time needed to research and book the flights to make it work. That said, if you’re able to embark on a multi-stop trip, these awards can let you do it for just a fraction of the cost of booking tickets separately. Even “shorter” trips of only three or four destinations can benefit from this booking option in the right circumstances.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Platinum card from Amex, click here.
Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg
Featured image by Jacob Lund / Shutterstock.com
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