Flights? What?

I was wondering today, where’s my flying car? We now have all these tiny Star Trek style cell phones, we beam information through those internet tubes all the time, and yet I still can’t get a flying car! All I want is to be able to pack up my things, stick in it my flying car, and head off wherever I need to go. Oh, and since it runs on food scraps a la Back to the Future, it solves all gas issues as well. Now when will someone go ahead and build it? Anyway, it wasn’t just benign musings that got me going on this train of thought, I was trying to arrange our flights.

Taking a short break from my writing today, I called up to Continental’s round the world travel desk to ask them a few questions and maybe talk about possible itineraries. To bring everyone up to speed, we’re doing the absolutely insane thing of trying to use frequent flier miles to accomplish the major legs of our trip. Now what I learned from my friend at the desk was educational but not particularly helpful, if you get my drift. First, I learned there’s no North America to South America to Southeast Asia allowed, as that constitutes a change of direction. You have to start and end in the same city. You’re allowed six flights with only one open jaw. And you can only fly certain airlines, and this does not necessarily match up to who Continental is “partnered” with. The lady at the travel desk was not ready to help me sort through all the options at the time, but instead told me to look up the legs we want to fly on their websites, figure out what days we wanted to go, and then call back and be prepared to be *very* flexible. Oh, and we still have to cover taxes. You getting an idea of why going this route is insane yet? Yeah, it’s supposed to save us money, but (A) I’m not sure it will any more and (B) even if it does I’m not sure its worth it. As it stands now, we’ll be starting from South America (either Buenos Aires, Rio, or Sao Paolo). So we have to get down there on our own … and then we have to get back to the U.S. when we get back. So overall, this is adding a whole lot of hassle to things.

So that’s what I started doing this afternoon, trying to find flights on supported airlines between the cities/continents we wanted (anybody realize I’m a master procrastinator yet?). My good friend Kayak helped me collate everything, and I found some legs that may work. So I’m planning to call them back soon and see if any of these flights and times will actually work or if the whole thing is just a pipe dream. I get more and more skeptical every day.

[Afterword: In the end, we were indeed able to book our trip using Continental miles. Our legs were: Seattle to Managua, Nicaragua (via Houston); Managua, Nicaragua to Santiago, Chile (via Panama City, Panama); Santiago, Chile to Johannesburg, South Africa (via Paris, France); overland to Nairobi, Kenya (our open jaw leg); Nairobi, Kenya to Bangkok, Thailand (via Dubai, UAE); Bangkok, Thailand to Seattle (via Seoul, S. Korea).]

9 Replies to “Flights? What?”

  1. Good luck on the flight stuff, I also have been exploring a few dream trip options, have you looked at the ‘One World RTW’ trip? http://www.oneworld.com Not that I’m necessarily a huge fan of one world, but I really liked their itinerary planning page.

    your probably way ahead of me if you are already calling :), but I thought I throw it out there anyway.

    cheers,
    -Skip

  2. Hi Jeff,
    I highly recommend you to use the One World website…
    We also first went to a travel agency that told us we couldn’t do what we wanted… I still remember that agent and don’t want to speak to her ever again!!
    Then we came home.. did our itinerary on the website..

    You can check what routes/legs are available here: http://www.innovata-llc.com/onw/default.asp?show=MAP , and you can make your itinerary here: http://www.innovata-llc.com/onw/rtw/default.asp?show=RTW

    You don’t have to come back to the same city on the round the world ticket, and if you don’t want to go all the way round you can do the multi-city itinerary.

    After doing this, we printed off the itinerary, what shows you all the flights details and went to another travel agency, that booked our tickets straight away. You can also book them directly with any airline.

    The Star Alliance group has the same service.. the itinerary planner system is not so good, but they do and you can compare: http://www.staralliance.com/en/travellers/fare_products/round_the_world_fare.html

    Good luck!

  3. I share your recently found displeasure with the complications regarding RTW tickets through any of the major carrier networks (I won’t bore you with stories of the hours and weeks I spent fighting with numerous agents, supervisors, etc about it…I’ll save you the headache by giving away the end game…you don’t win). I came up against the same insanely frustrating obstacles. It’s amazing how much more flexible the airlines will be with RTW tickets (i.e. lose or at least loosen most of the restrictions) if you pay for your RTW itinerary instead of using points. But, that obviously defeats the purpose. Plus, some airline networks (if you’re locked into just one as I was) don’t necessarily fly to all the places you may want to go.

    I would suggest circumventing the system a little like I eventually did. I still used points for the major flights going from one region/continent to another. I just booked each leg individually instead of as a RTW grouping. The down side is that you can only book round-trip tickets (just fly the outbound and never take the return…which “officially” isn’t allowed, but they don’t know that when you board) which obviously uses more points than if you grouped all one-ways as a RTW intinerary. The upside is that I typically found a bit more flight availability, avoided the “all-in-one-direction” hassle and had significantly more flexibility in my itinerary (dates and locations) as I would book each leg after I arrived at the location preceding my intended next stop. If you can manage to work out a RTW ticket, it’ll certainly be nice to have all those bookings out of the way, but taking it one leg at a time isn’t so bad.

    One last point. Continental probably didn’t tell you (yet) that you only have about 330 days to complete your entire RTW itinerary….and that 330 days starts from the day you BOOK your ticket…not your first departure day. So you already start off a month in the hole if you want to travel for a full year, then depending on when you book you may have even less time.

    Should you decided to scrap points altogether (might as well use ’em if you got ’em though), check out airtreks.com. It’s a SF based travel agency that specializes in RTW travel tickets and they have a pretty easy/cool itinerary builder that’ll give you a good estimate (even recommendations) of what buying a RTW ticket would cost…they use any (reputable) airline they can to make it as cheap as possible.

    Hope it helps.

  4. Thanks for all the sympathies guys. I didn’t mean to sound complainy … just venty. Thanks for the suggestions Cris, but we only have Continental miles to spend on this, and its SkyTeam. They don’t have a nice website to check these things like Oneworld does … would be nicer if they did. My experience so far has definitely been like yours Scott, lots of obstacles, not much help. Interesting your point about things opening up as soon as you’re willing to pay for it. Figures though. I was aware there was a time limit, but I was told it was 1 year from booking, which I guess is only one month longer. This is also further complicating things, because we won’t be leaving from South America until March, and so there wouldn’t be any point to booking the trip at this point … just head to South America and try to book from there at some point, which I’m sure would even be more of a nightmare. I have checked out AirTreks, its very easy to plan your itinerary, and I like it a lot. I’d just prefer to not pay for all my flights. But alas, it may be that way in the end. There will definitely be updates, either ecstatic or depressed, as I muddle my way through this.

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