The ultimate use of Qantas Points: fly round-the-world in business class

By | 2018-04-10T12:27:24+00:00 10 February 2018|

Many people dream about flying round-the-world in business class. It’s one of those ‘bucket list’ type of experiences, and if you’re one of the 11 million Australians who earns Qantas Points, it’s probably more attainable than you think.

One of the best uses of Qantas Points is booking the ‘oneworld award’, which allows you to fly up to 35,000 miles with five stopovers, including round-the-world if you wish.

For the oneworld award you need 140,000 points in economy, 280,000 points in business class and 420,000 points in first class. Business class is the sweet spot because first class itineraries are very hard to book (due to a lack of flight options) while economy doesn’t represent a high value use of points.

You may think that 280,000 Qantas Points is a daunting amount to earn, but given the huge credit card sign-up bonuses we’ve been seeing recently, and the many everyday opportunities to earn points, it’s a realistic medium-term goal.

(You can check out our favourite credit card sign-up offers here.)

Since you could easily spend 280,000 points on a return business class fare to Europe or the USA, flying round-the-world with 5 stopovers for a similar price represents great value.

Here’s what you need to know about booking the oneworld award.

The oneworld award rules

These are the rules you must follow:

  • a maximum total distance of 35,000 miles
  • a maximum of 5 stopovers
  • a maximum of 16 individual segments (i.e. individual flights and any land segments you make on your own, which 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
  • you can’t return to the country of origin until the end
  • you must finish booking all flights in the itinerary before the first flight takes off.

Possible itineraries

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 whether you can backtrack (which are limitations in most paid round-the-world fares).

Here’s an example of a simple round-the-world itinerary, which is a trip some of my family members enjoyed recently. It includes stops in Tokyo, London, New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas.

oneworld award itinerary

You can actually use the 35,000 mile allowance to go a lot further. For example, here’s a longer itinerary encompassing six continents.

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 (though you do have to count the land segment as one of your 16 permitted segments).

Here’s an example where you fly 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.

One factor to note is that there’s no requirement to fly round-the-world at all, though that’s how most people use this award. You can 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.

oneworld award itinerary

I think 280,000 Qantas Points (plus fees and taxes) is great value for trips like these.

How to book

Now, here’s the catch: it is typically very time consuming to book this award because finding business class seats can be tricky and the booking process usually requires several phone calls to Qantas.

To make the job easier, you should start planning 12 months’ out and add seats to your itinerary as soon as they’re released.

It also helps if you are flexible about dates and departure/arrival airports, especially in Australia.

Here are some other tips for booking:

  • it’s virtually impossible to book this on Qantas’ website in one go, as the site isn’t capable of handling complicated bookings, so to begin, book your first flight(s) on the Qantas site using the multi-city tool (not the RTW trip planner tool, which is only for paid fares) then call Qantas to add more flights to the itinerary
  • you’ll be charged 5000 points per person each time you call Qantas to add flight(s), but if you explain that it’s not possible to complete the booking online yourself, the customer service agent may waive the fee (it doesn’t hurt to ask)
  • you can explore the oneworld alliance route map here
  • to calculate the total miles flown, 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 origin 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 should start looking:
    • Qantas – 353 days, restricted to gold members and higher on some long-haul routes (in which case, everyone else gets access 308 days out)
    • Cathay Pacific – 360 days
    • British Airways – 354 days
    • Qatar Airways – 361 days
    • American Airlines – 330 days
    • Japan Airlines – 330 days
    • Malaysia Airlines – 354 days
    • Royal Jordanian – 362 days
    • Finnair – 361 days
    • LATAM – 331 days
    • Sri Lankan – 361 days
    • Iberia – 361 days
    • S7 Airlines – 330 days
  • as you can see from the above list, the oneworld alliance doesn’t include some Qantas partners, like Emirates, so pay attention to which airlines come up in search results on the Qantas website. You can only use oneworld airlines.
  • the Qantas website doesn’t display all award seat availability – for example, Japan Airlines seats don’t show up at all (apparently that will be rectified soon). The British Airways website is better for searching, but you need to be a member of BA’s frequent flyer program. It’s free and instant to join, but you’ll have to give them an overseas address as Australians aren’t eligible to join (you can just make one up).
  • if you mix different classes, the highest class will be used to calculate the cost – i.e. just one first class flight in a 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 (i.e. you can include economy segments in your business class itinerary)
  • if you want to minimise taxes and fees, avoid Qantas and British Airways as they have relatively high surcharges, and avoid flying long-haul out of any airport in the UK
  • as flights into and out of Australia will be the hardest to find (because of the demand) check availability for all capital cities and add a domestic Qantas segment to/from your home town if necessary.

Summing up

Booking the oneworld award is quite complex, but definitely worth the effort given what you get to enjoy: that is, flying round-the-world in style, visiting a range of destinations and having bragging rights for years!

If you find that booking this is award is too time consuming or difficult for you, there are some companies that offer award booking assistance for a fee, like iFLYflat and Award Flight Assist.

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About the Author:

Kris is the founder of The High Life and a complete travel addict. Originally from Perth, he's now based in Melbourne - but he's happiest in the air travelling to somewhere new. In 2018, Kris will be exploring Thailand, southern Europe, the USA and Mexico.

31 Comments

  1. Elle 8 May 2018 at 3:37 pm - Reply

    Hi Kris,

    Thanks for this and all your posts – magic!! 🙂 Planning out a trip and wanted to see if you saw any issues with the following?

    SIN – HND (Oct 2018)
    HND – MEL (Nov 2018)
    MEL – HKG (Jun 2019)
    HKG – FCO (Jun 2019)
    CPH – MEL (Jul 2019)

    Many thanks!

    • Kris Brankovic 8 May 2018 at 4:29 pm - Reply

      Looks great!

      • Elle 10 May 2018 at 4:30 pm

        Thanks!

  2. David Butler 21 April 2018 at 5:38 pm - Reply

    I am a total novice trying to get my head around all of this – this information is gold. Thank you so much!!! I was hoping to do this on points for September this year – but I’m guessing April next year might be more realistic…

    • Kris Brankovic 23 April 2018 at 3:16 pm - Reply

      Thanks David 🙂 Yes you’ll struggle to get seats now for September this year. Looking 12 months out is your best bet!

  3. John 12 February 2018 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    Doing it this year in April, can’t wait . Looks like the best way to use points.

  4. Monique 12 February 2018 at 6:05 am - Reply

    Amazing advice, thank you!
    We are looking at 2A + 2C in business.
    Do you see any issues with this itinerary:
    SYD – LAX (stop over 1, 5 weeks)
    LAX – BNE (stop over 2, 5 months )
    BNE – HKG – FCO (stop over 3, 5 weeks)
    FCO – DXB – SYD
    Is the above possible is coming back to Australia (but via Brisbane airport) breaking the rules?? By my calculations it’s 34,916miles.
    We would be doing quite a bit of travel through the USA and Europe during those stops but if we go in and out of the same airport, those ground miles are not counted…is that right? Brisbane is our home base BTW.
    THANK YOU!

    • Kris Brankovic 12 February 2018 at 10:49 am - Reply

      Hi Monique, this won’t work as you aren’t permitted to return to the country of origin until the end. You’d need to begin the itinerary outside Australia (eg New Zealand or a South Pacific nation) in order to use Australian cities as stopovers. Also I assume you’re thinking Emirates for FCO-DXB, but that isn’t permitted as Emirates isn’t part of oneworld (even if QF is codesharing). Maybe try FCO-DOH-SYD with Qatar Airways instead.

  5. Michael Brophy 12 February 2018 at 2:54 am - Reply

    Thanks for an amazingly clear post. I’v been trying to wrap my head around this for some time and this is the best.much appreciated.

  6. Vicki Andrews 11 February 2018 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    Hi. We are in the middle of booking our round the world two part trip. First Leg is to USA. Of course we started with the hardest place to get business class ff tickets. We are going on an Alaska cruise then the rockie mountaineer. Originally a qantas phone rep said she could get us to Vancouver via Santiago. (Starting our trip in Auckland). We tried again a month ago and got tickets to Dallas a month before our cruise started (this involves making own way to Auckland, staying a few nights. Flight is on qantas, we return to Sydney for 2hour transfer before heading off to Dallas . This was fine by us as we were hoping to drive down the Rockies from Calgary after the train trip to visit the national parks. We r doing the rockies first dropping car in Seattle then a train to Vancouver before the cruise. Flying from Calgary (not on qantas ff) to San Francisco home via Hong Kong on Cathay. That’s two stop over (Dallas & Sydney) two transfers, (Sydney & Hong Kong ) and one non qantas carrier. I haven’t calculated mileage yet.
    It took some working out. Now we are waiting to book the remainder of our around the world. We want to visit England and Europe Easter next year. So many choices on which way to go and on which airline. Thank you so much for making us aware of this usage of ff points.

    • Kris Brankovic 12 February 2018 at 10:53 am - Reply

      Sounds like an awesome trip – enjoy!

  7. Natalie 10 February 2018 at 9:06 am - Reply

    Hi, can you start your itinerary outside of Australia?

    • Kris Brankovic 10 February 2018 at 11:02 am - Reply

      Yes it can start anywhere 🙂

  8. RecyclingMan 21 September 2017 at 10:48 am - Reply

    Dear Flyboy,

    Thank you for your efforts !
    Could you please clarify (also related to BigSis inquiry). With 2 travellers would the fee to change/ add sectors be 2x 6000 pts or 1x 6000 pts.
    Is the nub of the plan that once you have exhausted the flights you can book because they have not been released, you NEED to finish the journey by phone ONLY, as you cannot include these extra flights manually over the web?

    Related to the question above, then when you add segements you will be charged the 6000 pts, but then, assuming you stay within the rules outlined in your blog, the maximum points for the journey will be 560K for 2? That is to say the trip will be treated as ONE trip not SEPERATE trips?

    However, in principle, if your trip did not exceed the release dates metioned in your article, you could in theory book the whole RTW ticket or loop ticket online and the max cost in points 560K + taxes for 2?

    • Flyboy Kris 21 September 2017 at 12:55 pm - Reply

      Hi there. Yes once you have made your first online booking you must call Qantas to add/change flights. In theory, you can book the whole RTW online yourself in one go, but in practice that is hard because seats are released at different times and sometimes the Qantas online booking engine gets buggy if you try to book lots of segments at once. The change fee would be 2x 6000 points. You can ask Qantas to waive this but it’s at their discretion. Qantas will add the segments to your existing booking, making it all one trip/reservation, maxing out at 280k points per person (plus change fees).

  9. BigSis 31 August 2017 at 2:24 pm - Reply

    We are planning our RTW spaced out over a 10 month period when obviously the last flights won’t have been released when booking the first flights. So it will cost 6000 additional points each time we add a flight either online or by phone?
    We are ready now to book our first flights in business, but are short of the required 560,000 points. I will get 100,000 bonus AMEX points in the next month. We have enough points to more than cover these first flights. Is it OK to start the booking process now or do I have to wait until the additional points are added to my account?

    • Flyboy Kris 31 August 2017 at 4:51 pm - Reply

      Hi there, you can definitely start booking the flights now. You don’t need the 560k points upfront – just what’s needed to cover the first bookings. And yes you’ll need to pay the change fee when you add flights and you’ll also need to call Qantas to do that, as you can’t add/change online yourself. Enjoy your trip!

  10. Lance 9 May 2017 at 7:53 pm - Reply

    You noted to book the first award flight on QF website then call up the contact centre to add additional segments. Essentially we are paying for the 1st segment in points and taxes, then top up the remaining points and taxes required for the ‘oneworld award’?

    • Flyboy Kris 9 May 2017 at 9:02 pm - Reply

      Yes, as you add flights, the cost will max out at 280k points so long as you meet the rule that you have at least two oneworld airlines other than Qantas (and you comply with all the other rules). If you are only adding the second oneworld airline late in your itinerary, the cost may rise above 280k until you add that second airline, at which time the cost will drop to 280k.

  11. Macca 24 March 2017 at 9:06 am - Reply

    Thank you for a great resource.
    Do you have advice when booking for two travelers.. is there a tip or process o ensure flights booked will be for two?
    Additionally given we should be booking so far out, are you aware of any issues with getting travel insurance, as whilst we will not be paying thousands of $’s, I would still want to ensure we had some protection.

    Thank you

    • Flyboy Kris 25 March 2017 at 3:12 pm - Reply

      My only advice when booking for two people is to make sure you’re both on the single booking – don’t book separately. In relation to travel insurance, if you have an American Express card issued by AMEX directly, it will cover a trip booked using points. However, you don’t need travel insurance for the flights – if you choose to cancel them, your points and the fees and taxes will be refunded, other than a cancellation fee of 6000 points per person (which insurance wouldn’t cover anyway). You only need travel insurance when you start incurring non-refundable trip costs.

      • BJ 13 May 2017 at 10:33 am

        Just out of curiosity, do you need to book the whole round the world fair at once? Or can you book the first part now, as per your example above, then in 5 months time book the remaining of the round the world trip? Or do you need to book all 5 stop overs at once in order to be able to get the round the world rewards ticket?

      • Flyboy Kris 13 May 2017 at 1:18 pm

        You can definitely book flights a few months apart, but all flights must be booked before you take off on the first flight. See my reply below to Lance As well.

  12. Ross 6 March 2017 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    Hi. I note you mention that QF website only shows award availability for a handful of airlines. Are you referring to the calendar or the segment choice? I have seen Royal Jordanian , AA and others also available on several recent itineraries I’ve booked.

    • Flyboy 6 March 2017 at 2:17 pm - Reply

      Yeah it’s a mixed bag when searching online with Qantas. I’ve updated that part of the post as, upon re-reading it, I realised I’d missed a few airlines that are actually visible. I think the BA site provides the best visibility, and would recommend people use that as their first option when searching.

  13. Rosie 5 March 2017 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    As I am a novice – when looking at the One World around the world it won’t let me cross the pacific more than once so how could I make this work.

    • Flyboy 5 March 2017 at 8:01 pm - Reply

      You must be looking at the paid RTW fare. The points fare is different and there’s no planner for it on the Qantas website, unfortunately. Your best bet is to search for a reward seat for each flight individually, then use the multicity tool to book or call Qantas.

  14. Kym 5 March 2017 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    How much were the fees and taxes for the examples booked?

    • Flyboy 5 March 2017 at 2:08 pm - Reply

      It varies widely. With cheaper airlines like Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and American Airlines it can be less than $1000. But with lots of Qantas and British Airways flights included (and departures from the U.K.) it can get up to $2000 if you’re not careful.

  15. Sue 5 March 2017 at 12:33 pm - Reply

    Do you know if you can similar on Velocity Points. I have heaps of them. But I still have that on my to do list because I have 320,000 Qantas points if I can’t do it with Velocity

    • Flyboy 5 March 2017 at 12:36 pm - Reply

      Virgin doesn’t offer this, I suspect because it’s not in a global alliance. You can transfer your Velocity Points to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles and book a RTW itinerary that way with Star Alliance airlines. I haven’t done a post about this yet but will do so soon 🙂

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