🌎 How to book an around-the-world ticket
Planning a trip around the world can be daunting… trust me.
But today I’m going to share one of the best uses of points in the travel hacking world: the ANA Mileage Club Around the World ticket.
In case you weren’t aware, ANA (All Nippon Airways) is the largest airline in Japan and a member of the Star Alliance network.
ANA offers what we in the points world refer to as “the golden goose” of award travel - the ability to book an entire set of flights around the world using a fraction of the points you’d need with any other loyalty program.
Here’s how it works:
ANA has a chart that determines how many points your trip will cost based on the total mileage flown and the class of service (economy, business, or first).
Now your next question might be: How the heck am I supposed to fly all around the world on a Japan-based airline?
This is the best part:
You can book this ticket with ANA miles, but you can fly on any combination of Star Alliance carriers. Because Star Alliance is the largest airline alliance in the world, there is no shortage of ways to combine airlines and routes to make your trip a reality.
I’m going to give you an example, but first, let me explain some of the rules of this type of award.
- You can have up to 8 stopovers
- You must travel East to West or West to East with no backtracking
- You must cross both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans at some point on your journey
- The journey must last at least 10 days
And let’s also establish some terminology here:
- Stopover: Cities you plan on visiting (could be a day or two, could be a couple of weeks or longer).
- Layover: When you stop in a city for under 24 hours as part of a single ticket between two of your stopover cities. Layovers don’t count toward your 8-city stopover limit.
- Open jaw: When you leave a gap between two cities on your itinerary (which doesn’t count toward the total mileage).
Okay, I know you all want to get to the good stuff, so here it goes.
This is an example of an around-the-world itinerary you could book with ANA:
Now let’s break down exactly what’s happening above:
- San Francisco to Tokyo on ANA
- Tokyo to Hanoi (with a 24-hour layover in Seoul) on Asiana
- Hanoi to Bangkok on Thai Airways
- Bangkok to Dhaka on Thai Airways
- Dhaka to Dubai (with a layover in New Delhi) on Air India
- Dubai to Istanbul (with a layover in Cairo) on EgyptAir
- Istanbul to Athens on either Turkish or Aegean Airlines
- Open jaw between Athens and London
- London to New York on United Airlines
The total distance flown on that itinerary works out to 17,491 miles. Remember, because we have an open jaw between Athens and London, we don’t have to count the distance between those two cities.
The reason to add strategic open jaws is that it lowers the total mileage of your trip, and will therefore cost you fewer points.
Since Europe is so cheap to fly around, it is a good region to add an open jaw and book a cheap cash flight like this one:
Now if you look at the chart above, you can see that our sample trip falls between the 14,000 to 18,000 miles distance band. That means that we could book this entire around-the-world ticket for as little as 65,000 ANA miles in Economy, which is absolutely BONKERS for a trip like this.
If you had a few extra miles lying around, you could book that entire trip in business class for only 105,000 miles, which is also bonkers. Airlines like ANA, Turkish and United have some of the most luxurious business class seats in the sky, so experiencing them for so few miles is certainly a good value for your hard-earned points.
That is if you have ANA miles at all… But how do you get ANA miles in the first place?
One way is to fly with ANA.
That’s all well and good, but most of us don’t find ourselves paying cash for tickets on Japanese airlines very often.
That brings us to method number two.
You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to ANA Mileage Plan at a 1:1 ratio.
That means that by signing up for a single lower-tier Amex card
you could book this entire once-in-a-lifetime trip. If you opened a premium card,
you would almost have enough miles to do this entire trip TWICE. 🤯
If you remember from last week’s newsletter, you can also earn Membership Rewards points by using Rakuten
, an online shopping portal that earns cash back (or Amex points) at almost any store you can think of, including a number of travel sites.
Basically, here’s the bottom line:
Membership Rewards points are pretty easy to earn, which means ANA miles are pretty easy to earn. And if you earn enough of them, you can book a trip that most people would never think to be possible, especially not so easily. So start saving up those miles, kids.
In the spirit of around-the-world trips, I thought I’d share the story of the first-ever flight around the world of Pan Am airlines. Pan Am (or Pan American Airways) was a massive U.S.-based airline that operated from 1927 to 1991. For decades, this was the hottest airline in the world and flew all over the world.
In December of 1941, Pan Am flight 6039 operated scheduled passenger service from San Francisco to Auckland, New Zealand. Back in those days, planes needed to make quite a few stops to fly this far. Here is what that itinerary looked like.
Now if you’re a little worried about a plane flying through Hawaii in December of 1941, you’ve got the right idea...
Of course, just a few days after arriving in Auckland, the WWII invasion of Pearl Harbor happened, wreaking havoc on a crucial stopover point for any trans-pacific flight routes.
Unable to get the plane back to the U.S. as planned, Pan Am had to use its backup plan. And yes, there was a very detailed backup plan.
As soon as the transmission about Pearl Harbor came through, the pilots opened a sealed document that was meant for this sole purpose.
The document contained the following instructions:
"Normal return route cancelled. Proceed as follows:
Strip all company markings, registration numbers, and identifiable insignia from exterior surfaces.
Proceed westbound soonest your discretion to avoid hostilities and deliver NC18602 to Marine Terminal LaGuardia Field New York.
Yep, that’s right. These pilots had to strip the plane of all indications of the airline and home country and fly the plane westward toward New York. Thus began Pam Am’s first (unintentional) around-the-world flight.
The crew had no charts of any of the potential routes west of Auckland. Thanks to the Auckland public library, they were able to piece together this complex and dangerous route home, flying over the course of weeks under complete radio silence:
Miraculously, the pilots and the plane touched down in New York on January 6, 1942.
I think this is a pretty remarkable aviation story despite the horrific circumstances. Maybe one day I’ll use some ANA miles to book an around-the-world ticket and retrace their steps - the aviation nerd inside of me can’t resist.
Well, that’s all for today folks! I’m currently at the airport in Warsaw getting ready to head over to Qatar for a short stay before a very, very exciting flight in the famous Qatar Airways Q-Suites, which I m very much looking forward to. 😁
Have you ever taken a trip around the world? What are some of the places you would want to visit on a trip like this? Let me know by replying to this email or reaching out on social media.