The post below has been updated with new information.

The Star Alliance Round the World award is a great deal.

ANA’s Round the World Pricing and Rules

The basics of booking these awards can be found on the ANA website.

  • Required mileage is calculated according to the total basic sector mileage for the entire itinerary. (Calculations exclude ground transportation sectors.).  In other words, add up the distances of every segment flown.  Do not count open-jaw distances.  For example, if you take alternative transportation, such as a train, to get from one city to another, that distance is not included in the calculations.
  • Mixed classes: The required mileage for the highest class of travel in the entire itinerary will apply.  In other words, if you fly some segments in business class and some in economy, the entire trip is priced based on business class pricing.
  • You must fly in one direction (either east to west or west to east). Backtracking is not allowed.
  • You must cross both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
  • You can have a max of 12 segments and a max of 4 “ground transfer” segments (like “open jaws” — for example, fly to Copenhagen and then take a train to Madrid to catch your next flight instead of flying).
  • A maximum of 8 stopovers are allowed. A stopover can be:
    • A city where you fly and stop to spend a few days
    • Either end of an open jaw. For example, if you fly into Copenhagen and take the train to Madrid to catch your next flight, both Copenhagen and Madrid count as stopovers. However, you do not count the distance from Copenhagen to Madrid when determining the price of your ticket
  • No more than 3 stopovers in Europe
  • No more than 4 stopovers in Japan
  • Your trip must last at least 10 days from the departure of your first international flight.
  • Flights may be operated by ANA or Star Alliance partners
  • Your itinerary must touch at least one country in each of the three following “areas”:
    • Area 1: North America, South America, Central America, Hawaii
    • Area 2: Europe, Middle East, Africa
    • Area 3: Japan, South Korea, China, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Southwest Pacific

Some backtracking is possible

The rules are clear that backtracking is not allowed, but a reader named Bill reported that agents may have some wiggle room.

Will was a reader who backed this up with more observations.

Their backtracking rule seems to be applied by the agents, and it’s very broad. It’s basically that you can’t cross from one of the IATA-defined “Areas” like Europe, then into Asia, and then back to Europe. Other than that, you have a lot of flexibility. I believe IATA calls them TC1, TC2, TC3.

A reader by the name of AS is behind this.

You can definitely deviate and backtrack if you need to. I talked to a rep and he explained it this way. If you’re going from the US to Australia, then that’s hard to find award space so you will probably need to go to Asia first and then route to Australia from there. The rep told me they know this and don’t have a problem with it. I think the spirit of the rule is they don’t want you zig-zagging all over the place, but within zones there is flexibility. I traveled SIN-PER and I was traveling west, so I definitely backtracked.

Up to 72 hour hold is allowed, depending..

In a previous version of this post, I stated that holds were not allowed. The timing is dependent on the airlines in your booking.

This is what I wrote when this post was published.

Despite a reader named Bill telling us that you can place the award on hold for 3 days, I and other readers have been told that no holds are allowed.  This is really unfortunate because transfers from Amex Membership Rewards to ANA often take a couple of days to complete.  By then, the award space you found could be gone.

I think I might have included an airline that doesn't allow holds in my previous attempt to put a trip on hold.

There are three changes that can be made for free.

  1. Change the flight time (but keep exact same carrier and route)
  2. Change the flight date (but keep exact same carrier and route)
  3. Change the class of service upward to the one you paid for (for example, if you booked a business class Round the World trip, you can change an economy segment to business class once a business class seat opens up).  You may have to pay additional taxes and fees when doing this.

It's possible to book a flight that's close to what you want and then change it to what you really want.

Award availability may not match expectations

ANA might not be able to find the same award space if you use a single tool to find it.

If I only looked for award space from Newark to Lisbon, it wouldn't happen.

When speaking with an ANA agent, it is important to have alternate options ready to go.

Still had phantom inventory display, so it really helped to have back up dates/flight options to propose to the ANA rep. when booking the itinerary. They’ll also be able to check inventory for options in that case, but the process is much smoother for coming in with your own alternatives.

Go west to reduce jet lag

Jetlagged on a train after flying east

People think that there is less jet lag when flying west.

Go east to reduce time in air

It makes sense to go east if you want to reduce flying time.

The United route between Tokyo and Newark is a good example.

Start or end in Hawaii

Readers suggest starting in Hawaii and ending on the east coast in the U.S.

It is possible to start your round the world trip on the east coast of North America and end it in Hawaii.

Use the Star Alliance Round the World Tool

It's useful for finding flight options and identifying fees that will be imposed on an award, but it's also useful for figuring out a paid Round the World trip.

The hat tip is as.

Don’t count on Great Circle Mapper distance calculations

The distances reported by this tool are not in line with the distances that ANA uses.

Great Circle Mapper can be used to get the ballpark distance measurement.

Call at 9am Eastern

Round the World Awards can't be booked online I have been successful by calling at 9 am.

The U.S. number is listed on ANA's website.

Call this number if you have Platinum status with ANA.

A toll-free number.

I have been on hold for hours when I try to call the Platinum desk during the day.

Oldporkchops used to suggest calling into an ANA call center.

If the line is dropped or if you need to call back for whatever reason, you have a higher chance of speaking with the person you spoke to, or the person who you believe has the best service attitude… I was looking through my phone’s contact list and found numbers for ANA Hong Kong (+852 2810 7100) and Singapore (+65 6323 4333).

I tried to get in touch with the Japanese call center at 8am or 9am but couldn't.

Fly airlines with low (or no) fuel surcharges

Even though the mileage price for these awards is extremely low compared to alternatives, the cash component can be extreme if you fly segments on airlines that charge outrageous fuel surcharge.

Star Alliance airlines with no fuel surcharges (on most routes)

  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air New Zealand
  • Avianca
  • Copa Airlines
  • Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) [see this post for details]
  • TAP Air Portugal
  • United Airlines

Star Alliance airlines with low to medium fuel surcharges (on most routes)

  • ANA
  • Asiana
  • Ethiopian
  • LOT Polish
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Turkish (higher than the others but low by comparison to some)

Avoid these airlines with notoriously high fuel surcharges

  • Austrian
  • Lufthansa
  • Swiss Air

Use to find awards

It is easy to search for Star Alliance awards on United's website, unlike ANA's website.

To note the limitations is important.

  • United will show results for United’s own flights which are not available to book via ANA.
  • United won’t show some ANA award space that is available only to ANA’s own members.
  • United will show award space for its partners that are not Star Alliance carriers (Hawaiian Airlines, for example).  ANA will not be able to book these flights.
  • The award pricing and taxes and fees shown on United are meaningless when booking through ANA.

Tips for using ANA’s award search

  • Find the search tool: On ANA’s home page, click “ANA International and Partner Airline Flight Awards,” and then “Flight Award Reservations.”  The system will prompt you to log in if you haven’t already.  If you don’t have an ANA Mileage Club account create one (bonus tip when creating your account: It will ask you to create an AMC password. This can be any 4 digit number, but you need to remember it.  It is used to verify yourself when you call ANA).
  • You can’t search for individual one-way awards.  Instead, use either the round-trip search or the “multiple cities / mixed class” search.  Below are tips for when to use each…
  • Round trip
    • Allows searching 7 days at a time (make sure to check the box titled “Compare seat availability +/- 3 days.”
    • Only searches the selected class of service (e.g. economy, business class, etc.).  If there is availability in other classes, the system won’t tell you that.
    • Can be used to estimate award taxes / fees for each segment.  Do a round trip search with your segment of interest as the outbound, and try to find availability for both directions and on the same carrier.  When you select the flights, ANA will show the total taxes and fees for the round-trip.  Divide the result by two to get a very rough estimate of the cost of the segment that you’re interested in.
  • Multiple cities / mixed class
    • Shows results for all classes of service at once.  This is very helpful since you may want to book some segments of your trip into economy if there’s more availability that way.
    • Does not let you search 7 days at a time.  If there’s no availability for the first segment on the date you entered you won’t get any results.
    • Requires at least two segments.
    • Won’t show taxes and fees unless you build a round-trip.  Unless you design the segments to be a round-trip, you can’t get the system to price the award.  Instead it will say “This service is not available for the specified itinerary. Please amend the flight criteria and try again.”