21st Dec 2017
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The perils of purchasing a round-the-world ticket
The perils of round the world tickets

It was the perfect plan. Ten countries, three continents and I saved a bucket load of cash by buying a round the world ticket (RTW). Or did I?

After 10 weeks of travelling I headed home from a place that could hardly be further from Melbourne – Longyearbyen. This is a village inside the Arctic Circle in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago where the streets have no names and polar bears outnumber residents. With four flights and 48 hours of travel ahead, at check in I was told the leg from Bangkok to Melbourne wasn’t coming up on the screen.

Feverishly I checked the 434 emails stacked up on my phone from two weeks of digital detox.

No cancellations.

In Oslo, they said my flight from Bangkok to Melbourne had been cancelled.

In Helsinki the flight was on the screen but is was too early for check in.

In Bangkok, I had a 14-hour layover (the main reason for the cheap ticket). Relieved to see my ongoing flight was listed (and on time), with my Arctic clothing plastered to my skin, sweat trickling down my back and the bags under my eyes big enough to squeeze in my excess luggage, I decided to treat myself to an airport hotel ­ after all I’d saved heaps on the airfare.

“Sorry it’s a busy weekend, all the hotels are booked out. Would you like to book a room in a nearby hotel?”

I handed over $80 (which included free WiFi) and bundled my luggage into a relatively clean but non-air-conditioned van for the ‘short’ transfer. Twenty minutes later along a potholed laneway scattered with rabid looking dogs, I spotted the only building that resembled a hotel amid a tangle of power lines.

The place was reminiscent of lodgings where I once experienced a fire, so when handed the room key, I asked for the fire evacuation procedure. The response was enough to tell me there’d be no shut-eye in this hotel. 

Knowing I’m within 24 hours of flying, I logged onto to my computer to check in.

My booking number was rejected. Apparently, I don’t exist. 

Although I flew under the ‘oneworld’ banner, the RTW ticket used a myriad of airlines. The online chat robot couldn’t find my booking. I phoned the airline (more money spent) to hear an ‘office closed for the weekend’ message. Same deal at the travel agency where I purchased the ticket.

In desperation, I phoned Qantas for no other reason other than to hear an Australian voice. The non-robotic Sarah was sympathetic but couldn’t help. She suggested to go back to the airport and wait for the flight to come up on the schedule board.

After what felt like days, my flight number eventually clicked over on the departures board. I was first in line at the counter and the news wasn’t good. For some unexplained reason (even though I had the e-ticket in my hand), my booking had been cancelled. I hardly recognised my zombie-like voice arguing the point. No one could explain how or why. However, if I wanted to get home, I had to pay $672 for another ticket. 

Thinking I’d be refunded the money back in Australia, I forked out another $75 to collapse in the comfort of a pay as you go airport lounge for three hours of pampering. By the time I boarded, total exhaustion prevailed and I hardly noticed the plane take off or land in Melbourne.

The wash up? Because neither the travel agent nor airline could figure out how my name was taken off the flight, I didn’t get a refund. Apparently, I’m an anomaly. Or am I?

Have you had a good (or bad) round the world ticket experience?

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    COMMENTS

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    Rae
    13th Jan 2018
    8:21am
    Lucky the ice storms hadn't started. Yes I've been caught in them and it's taken days to get out. I didn't even have a mobile phone and it was the kindness of young students that finally got me a seat on a departing plane during a lull in the storm.

    Cheap flights can be a bit hairy as you fly through busy hubs and that increases the risks.
    They always take much longer in time due to the number of hubs and the possibility of delay in each one. You can never really guarantee leaving or arriving on time when you travel.

    It's part of the challenge of travel.

    People blithely take the kids off to Bali where I once had to run and fight to get on a plane out of Denpasar. Timing is everything.A coup can happen quickly with no warnings to the traveller.

    I've had friends walk into war zones that just appeared in unstable republics.

    I've even been locked down by the FBI on St Louis Station as they got a witness to safety.

    I've been caught in riots in Cairo, Athens and Johannesburg and I still travel, Eyes wide opened and at least $2000 US in a money belt just in case.

    This lady got home safely in the end and has now at least one great travel story to tell.

    We should be grateful we can travel around the world.
    Manzac
    13th Jan 2018
    8:44am
    That wasn't a holiday Joycelyn, more like a nightmare. How was the outgoing and the first section of your sojourn RTW?
    My wife and I have had nothing but great experiences in RTW. Booked through a reputable company on-line in Adelaide (from Victoria). Yes there were five different airlines used with each having there good points and vice versa. The agents advised us of all the details concerning our trip (Melb - Japan - Italy - US - NZ - Melb) Be aware of where you're heading to as some countries, including Aust. cancel / overbook / reroute / without notice quite often and these things add to costs to a budget. It's essential you book a trip with good research and a clear understanding of where you're going and mishaps that can occur. Good insurance is essential. If you can't afford insurance DON'T travel
    Tib
    13th Jan 2018
    10:16am
    I'm not sure what the situation is with round the world flights? I fly to places to immerse myself in the culture and see the sites not to spend time in airports or planes which I hate I barely fit in a standard airplane seat. If it's just to say you have been around the world , I'll pass on that. But maybe I'm wrong?
    Drewbie
    13th Jan 2018
    10:51am
    No Jocelyn; I've not experienced a horrendous RTW as you, but I very much empathize with you re- the B.S. passengers face when airline & travel providers both online & off who just see their clients as " profit machines ".

    My experience with Jetstar International is a telling, but " true tale ". I'll keep it brief as possible.

    2013, myself, my wife, our 5 yr old son & a good friend flew Jetstar to home-visit 3 weeks the Philippines for school & Uni graduations. Got there no problem, but coming back was a debacle from Manila on. During our 3 weeks, Jetstar Int brought forward our 8.30pm homeward bound flight from Manila by 3 hrs . . . without informing us. Yes we had provided them with my correct email address, ph. no's & we had with us an Ipad to keep track of any relevant communiques.

    Turns out the Airlines Manila personnel did have my correct email address, but left off the .au designation on the end. Ultimately we missed our flight & our friend graciously using her credit card with a most generous limit, paid nearly 6 grand ( 1 > way flights ) for us all to get home. Being Easter week was a real bonus for Jetstar. We did the right thing back home & " reimbursed her " our portion of the extra flights purchased.

    Despite a detailed online complaint to Jetstar, did we get an apology? No! I was requested to fly back to the Philippines, after our return home, to collect my son's errant small carry on case which Jet star insisted was check-in luggage, had promised to & failed to get on our then, out-bound flight from Darwin.

    We did the right things; why else do I point blank refuse to fly with Jetstar, both domestic & International. They absolutely suck!
    Chris B T
    13th Jan 2018
    12:44pm
    No mention of having Travel Insurance, the outcomes may have been differrent when airlines, travel agents, booking sites have to explain to travel insurance companies the posted scenarios.
    When using cheap flights both domestic and international I have Travel Insurance for peace of mind. Plus it is amazing how helpful the Airline staff can be when you request written documention to give the Travel Insurance, that is the issue can be resolved.
    johninmelb
    13th Jan 2018
    2:38pm
    Round the World and Mileage tickets can represent good value for travellers, but they are fraught with dangers.

    If, for any reason, you fail to board one leg of the journey, or a flight gets cancelled, the entire itinerary gets cancelled in the booking system. This is a well known fact, but few people take any notice. It is especially difficult now as airlines have done away with the idea of passengers reconfirming flights beforehand, and also closed all their downtown ticketing offices round the world, where you could get tickets changed etc. (Back in the days when you could change tickets, and there were no charges.)

    I used to travel a fair bit on mileage tickets many years ago, and would have anything up to 18 different flights. Making a change to that sort of itinerary was a nightmare. But I was always able to go to the airline office and get it sorted out. Airlines like Delta, and American, used to have really experienced operators in their offices in the US, and I learnt a lot about ticketing, and the travel industry in general from them over the years.

    I don't travel as much any more, but I now do all my own booking online. I book all flights separately, and I allow a much greater margin of safety in layover times than travel agents or indeed some airlines, give. Planes used to run fairly close to on time years ago, and connections were not so fraught. Not so much now. I am too old to stress about missing flights or having to run through airports which are 10-20 times the size they once were.

    Despite airlines saying it is not necessary, I do reconfirm flights just to make sure I am still in the system, timings haven't changed, plane type hasn't changed to muck up my seat booking etc. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure as we once said.

    If you are going to travel, and the itinerary is a little complex, then always think about what MIGHT go wrong at the various stress points, and have some sort of plan b mapped out just in case. In a situation where a whole planeload of people are affected, being prepared and quick on your feet, you can get yourself sorted out while everyone else is in limbo. Seats are usually scarce on alternative flights, you need to get to the head of the queue before others work it out. Goes without saying that travelling only with carry-on will also make life easier as you are not dependant on problems with checked bags.

    Finally, it goes without saying, MONEY will solve many problems. Don't travel without access to some for emergency purposes. You may never need it, but it will give you peace of mind to deal with whatever life throws at you while travelling.
    gazza48
    13th Jan 2018
    3:18pm
    Believe me having been involved as a team leader in the airline industry, there were many complaints came thru due to passengers having flights cancelled even though they themselves had not changed that flight themselves. Unfortunately, a lot of bookings not made direct with the airline and all flights not appearing in the one pnr (passenger name record)can end up having flights cancelled. Simple things like not turning up for a flight (which happens continually on 12mth RTW tkts) or there has been a schedule change, can sometimes cause flights following that change to cancel as the airlines computers assume you are now no longer travelling! Weird I know but it is common believe me. Also ticket numbers are not notified to all the airlines so again that will cancel their flight due to it not being ticketed even though it is! Again not all airlines reservations systems talk to each other which creates these little problems along the way. However, RTW tickets are very much worthwhile and great value for the money you pay.
    Cat
    13th Jan 2018
    11:48pm
    She paid the travel agent for the fare, they did not provide what he paid them for, therefore she should be able to make a complaint to ACCC and get a refund from them.
    MarkT
    15th Jan 2018
    8:45am
    The title of this article is extremely misleading. There is no 'peril' in purchasing a round the world ticket. The peril is flying Jetstar and using a bad travel agent. You could have purchased a Finnair return ticket to Oslo and have had Jetstar as the leg between Asia and Aus so the issue has nothing to do with being on a round the world journey as such.

    The peril is clearly the travel agency you booked with. It is their responsibility to fix the issue with Jetstar and refund you. Whoever has issued the Finnair ticket has not correctly processed the Jetstar part, thus leading to your flight being cancelled. The travel agent would have known about this days or weeks in advance if they are properly checking their booking queues. So if you want to write an article about a negative experience perhaps consider pointing the finger at the actual issue, the companies you dealt with who did not fulfill their end of the contract.

    If the travel agent is ATAS accredited you can raise a complaint via ATAS if you haven't had an appropriate response from the travel agent.
    vinradio
    16th Jan 2018
    5:42pm
    Worst experience I ever had was being stuck at Athens airport when Olympus airlines went bust/ or was on strike, not sure which, as it was a long time ago. No flights for those booked with them to Australia, or anywhere else. I befriended some other Aussies at the airport, who were trying to get a very sick man with pneumonia back to Melbourne. When all the passengers fronted up at the Olympus desk, a very loud American nearly caused a riot after throwing a tanty and we had the security staff (who all looked about 17), pull automatic weapons on the crowd. Anyway, back then you could go to any other airline desk and get a transfer, so we all ended up going back to Melbourne on a half empty Swissair flight, which meant we could spread out across 3 seats and get a good night's sleep, as the plane left late that night.I did have to spend some hours sleeping with my luggage at Melbourne airport, as the flight arrived very early in the morning,but eventually got back to Adelaide.
    vinradio
    16th Jan 2018
    5:42pm
    Worst experience I ever had was being stuck at Athens airport when Olympus airlines went bust/ or was on strike, not sure which, as it was a long time ago. No flights for those booked with them to Australia, or anywhere else. I befriended some other Aussies at the airport, who were trying to get a very sick man with pneumonia back to Melbourne. When all the passengers fronted up at the Olympus desk, a very loud American nearly caused a riot after throwing a tanty and we had the security staff (who all looked about 17), pull automatic weapons on the crowd. Anyway, back then you could go to any other airline desk and get a transfer, so we all ended up going back to Melbourne on a half empty Swissair flight, which meant we could spread out across 3 seats and get a good night's sleep, as the plane left late that night.I did have to spend some hours sleeping with my luggage at Melbourne airport, as the flight arrived very early in the morning,but eventually got back to Adelaide.


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