Do you know how many European airlines fly into Australia? If not, the answer is just one. British Airways fly daily between London Heathrow and Sydney via Singapore and that is the only service to any Australian port by a European carrier.
Having said that, most of the bigger carriers from Europe sell tickets between Australia and Europe by utilising partner airlines’ services between Australia and ports where they can pick you up from, for example flying Sydney to Bangkok with Thai Airways and from there to Frankfurt with Lufthansa all on a Lufthansa ticket.
In many cases, these fares can be incredibly flexible as they allow you to use a huge variety of cities in different continents as stopovers on the way from Australia to Europe and back allowing the construction of a ticket that goes from Australia to the Americas, to Europe, to Asia and back to Australia all on a return fare to Europe. These can usually be purchased for a fraction of the price of an alliance RTW fare.
Finnair have had fares that can be used this way for some time but in the last year have added the possibility of visiting both South and North America in the same direction and even including the flight between the two continents all on a return ticket to Europe. As Finnair don’t fly into Australia themselves, these fares utilise some of their oneworld partners, including Qantas, LATAM, American Airlines and Cathay Pacific to get you from Australia to somewhere they can pick you up from. Finnair always need to be used on the flights into and out of Europe of course.
These fares are definitely more restrictive than a traditional alliance RTW ticket. They still need to follow the routing paragraph in the fare rather than just being mileage or continent based. The value is just ridiculous though, particularly at the moment while the earlybird fares to Europe for next year are on sale.
Here’s an example of an itinerary that can be built using these Finnair fares:
So, that’s Sydney to Santiago to Miami to New York to Paris via Helsinki to Hong Kong via Helsinki to Singapore to Sydney. The total price for this itinerary is AU$2135 including all taxes!
Earning miles on these fares
When using the Finnair fares, the cheapest booking class is O the whole way through, regardless of the carrier. This means it’s not the greatest way of earning miles and status credits. The itinerary above is just over 29k flown miles but due to the booking class, you would only receive ~11000 redeemable miles and 225 status credits if you credited the entire itinerary to Qantas Frequent Flyer. If you’re looking at booking one of these fares make sure you do some research on the best program to credit it to.
Comparing these to oneworld RTW fares
If you quote this exact itinerary based on a oneworld RTW fare the price jumps to AU$4658, more than double the price of the Finnair ticket!
These fares also work in business class and the above itinerary would cost AU$9038 if you can get I class the whole way through. That’s a lot of money but compared to the cost of the same itinerary as a oneworld RTW business class fare, it’s still a saving of about AU$3000.
Obviously the oneworld RTW fares are much more flexible and there is a lot more you can do with them. As an example, Santiago is the only city you can visit on the Finnair fares and still be entitled to the flight up to North America. Also, as Finnair don’t operate any services to South America themselves, you can only do both continents in this order whereas on a oneworld fare you can quite easily go to North America, then South America and on to Europe. The other obvious issue is having to go via Helsinki on the way between the USA and Western Europe which adds a few hours to the journey.
Booking these tickets
There is one other thing that makes these fares a little tricky. I am not aware of any online travel agency that’s able to price these correctly. The reason is that they go against the standard fare quoting logic in the systems used to price fares as the longest flight in the itinerary is always going to be the one between Australia and the Americas. This means that a modifier needs to be used when pricing the fares to override the plating carrier to be Finnair. This just means that unless you have access to a GDS, you’ll likely need to get a human travel agent to book it for you.
Skyscanner won’t quite let me enter this many stops but if I put the above itinerary in without the stop in Singapore, just coming back to Sydney from Hong Kong (which actually drops the price to AU$2022 in the GDS), the total price of the cheapest result is over AU$10k!
A couple of things to note about these fares
- Even though they are pretty much always on sale, they are heavily dependent on availability and they are seasonal.
- The direction of travel that goes via Asia, at least at the cheapest level, allows 2 stopovers whereas the direction of travel via the Americas allows up to 4.
- These are route based fares so you can only go via the cities on the route map. As mentioned, Santiago is the only city that really works in South America and the only flights you can use between South and North America are direct services on either American Airlines or LATAM from Santiago to either Miami or New York.
- If you are only looking at stopping in North America and not South America, the list of cities that can be visited is pretty big eg. Honolulu, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston etc. but most smaller cities aren’t in the routing paragraph.
All in all though, these fares represent an incredibly good value option for a round the world itinerary.