Many people dream about flying round-the-world in business class but dismiss it as a lofty goal that’ll forever be out of reach. In fact, this ‘bucket list’ experience is more attainable than you may realise, thanks to a unique and highly rewarding way of using Qantas Points.
The ‘oneworld award’ is a special type of booking that allows you to fly with oneworld airlines up to 35,000 miles with up to five stopovers – which is enough for a round-the-world journey, though you don’t have to fly RTW if you don’t want to (more on that later).
This booking costs a relatively modest 140,000 points in economy, 280,000 points in business class or 420,000 points in first class (plus taxes and fees, of course).
Business class is the sweet spot, as it’s a higher-value use of points than economy. As for first class, that’s very hard to book because the number of routes with this cabin is very small.
Since you can spend up to 278,000 Qantas Points on a return business class fare to Europe or the USA, flying 35,000 miles with 5 stopovers for a similar price is superb value.
Note that Qantas has announced that from 18 September 2019 the cost of the oneworld award will rise to 318,000 points in business class, but it will still be good value even then. To lock in the current price, complete the booking by 17 September.
The main ‘catch’ with the oneworld award is that it can be time consuming to research flights and make the booking, so here are some tips to make the job easier.
You may need to read this article several times to absorb all the info … there’s a lot to cover!
Here are the specific rules you must follow for a valid booking:
- maximum total distance of 35,000 miles
- maximum of 5 stopovers (a stopover is when you have 24+ hours between flights)
- a maximum of 16 individual segments – a segment is a flight OR when you travel over land yourself. These land segments are counted towards the 35,000 mile maximum
- no more than one stopover and two transits through a single airport
- you must fly with at least two oneworld airlines that are not Qantas (in fact, you don’t have to fly Qantas at all – just two or more other oneworld airlines – see below for the list)
- you have 12 months to complete the travel
- once you return to your country of origin you can’t leave it again
- you must finish booking all flights in the itinerary before the first flight takes off.
You can fly anywhere and in any direction you want, so long as you comply with the above rules.
There are no restrictions on how many continents you can visit or regarding backtracking, which are limitations in most paid round-the-world fares.
If you make some land segments on your own, you can actually visit more than five destinations. That’s because when you land in one city and take off on your next flight from another city, it doesn’t count as two stopovers – just one. The land segment is counted towards the 16 maximum and the distance towards the 35,000 mile maximum.
To illustrate: here’s an example where you fly from Sydney to Tokyo (first stop), make your own way to Hong Kong, fly to Helsinki (second stop), make your own way to Paris, fly to Marrakesh (third stop), make your own way to Casablanca, fly to New York City (fourth stop), make your own way to Montreal, fly to Lima (fifth stop) make your own way to Santiago, and fly home.
Also, there’s no requirement to fly round-the-world, though that’s how most people use this award. You could do a loop around a specific region or criss-cross between continents – it’s totally up to you.
For example, here’s one of my recent itineraries, which started in Singapore and took me to the USA, followed by Australia, Japan and back to Australia.
How to book
Now, here’s the catch: it can be very time consuming to book this award because finding business class seats on popular routes is often tricky and the booking process usually requires several phone calls / chats with Qantas.
Here are some tips:
- start planning early – ideally a year in advance – and research which specific flights you want to book, and when you can expect the seats to become available for the dates you want (more on that below)
- be flexible with your dates
- explore the oneworld alliance route map here
- use Qantas’ website to research the availability of award seats on each individual leg. Write down the details for future reference
- be flexible with cities in Australia for departures and arrivals – ie. if you can’t find a long-haul flight ex-Adelaide, try Perth or Sydney. Don’t assume that the search results on Qantas’ site will have considered this option along with a domestic connection from your home city
- you can make the first flight(s) booking yourself on the Qantas site (use the multi-city tool for multiple flights), BUT …
- … it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to book all the flights in the itinerary. Qantas’ site isn’t capable of handling complicated itineraries, plus it’s unlikely all the seats you want will be available at the same time
- don’t delay with booking your flight out of Australia – seats get snapped up quickly
- you’ll have to call Qantas or use its online chat or SMS functions to complete your booking as you can’t add flights to an existing itinerary online yourself – a Qantas rep will have to do that
- you’ll be charged 5000 points per person each time you make a change, like adding flights – this is an extra cost to factor into your planning
- to calculate the total miles flown to make sure you don’t exceed the 35,000 mile limit, use the Great Circle Mapper tool. Just type in the airport codes separated by hyphens (for example, MEL-LAX-JFK-LHR-HKG-MEL). You can search for the codes on the site.
- you don’t have to finish in the city you started, but the booking system will calculate the distance back to the original departure airport in determining whether you’re within the 35,000 mile limit
- airlines release award seats at different times. Here’s how many days in advance you can usually book:
- Qantas – 353 days, restricted to gold members and higher on some long-haul routes (everyone else gets access 297 days out)
- Cathay Pacific – 353 days
- British Airways – 354 days
- Qatar Airways – 361 days
- American Airlines – 331 days
- Japan Airlines – 330-360 days
- Malaysia Airlines – 354 days
- Royal Jordanian – 362 days
- Finnair – 361 days
- LATAM – 330 days
- Sri Lankan – 361 days
- Iberia – 361 days
- S7 Airlines – 330 days
- you can only fly with oneworld member airlines, which does not include some Qantas partners like Emirates – so be careful when looking at search results on Qantas’ site
- if you mix different classes, the highest class will be used to calculate the cost – i.e. just one first class flight in an otherwise all-business class itinerary will make the cost jump to 420,000 points, so don’t do it. You can include lower classes if you wish. .
Booking the oneworld award is complex but definitely worth the effort given what you get to experience: flying in style, visiting a range of destinations and having bragging rights for years!
If you find that booking is too time consuming or difficult for you, try a fee-based award booking service like Award Flight Assist.
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