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The Cheapest Airfare to Australia May Not Be an Online Discount Airfare: Circle Pacific Fares

Updated on April 16, 2017
Lake in Australia's Snowy Mountains
Lake in Australia's Snowy Mountains | Source

The Cheapest Airfare to Australia may be a Circle Pacific Fare or Airpass

Online discount airfare consolidators such as Expedia and Travelocity are a great place to find cheap airfares. There is no denying that they expedite airfare searches by providing a one stop shop for travelers searching for cheap airfares, either domestic or international.

If you are planning a simple return itinerary, for example from Los Angeles to Sydney, Expedia, Travelocity, or your favorite airlines web-site may still be the best way to make your airline travel reservations.

But if like most vacationers heading to Australia, your itinerary includes a couple of domestic flights while in Australia, or a side-trip to New Zealand, or one of the many south pacific islands, you may do better to look a little further afield in your airfare search.

As travelers have become more accustomed to making their own travel arrangements, without the assistance of a travel agent, they sometimes forget that there are other fares available that accommodate these more complex multi-leg itineraries. They are generally easily identified by the use of the term, Airpass, Visitor Pass or Circle Fare.

Advantages of Booking Airline Travel on an Airpass or Circle Pacific Ticket

By booking your itinerary on a single ticket, you will find that some, if not all the Airpass legs of your itinerary are cheaper on the multi-leg ticket than if you’d purchased them separately.

Flights are booked within a group of airlines. For example OneWorld offers a number of Circle and Airpass fares to Australia, New Zealand and Asia, by utilizing the One World network of airlines (Qantas, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines). Similarly, the Star Alliance provides airpasses around the south pacific, pacific and Oceania utilizing their own network of airlines (United, Continental, Air New Zealand etc).

This means if one delayed flight causes you to miss another; it becomes the airlines hassle, not yours. Separate tickets, and separate airlines outside of a single alliance? Well, you may not be so lucky.

There may also be booking and date flexibility within the Airpass or Circle Fare not available when booking individual legs. Flight legs may be booked as open dated on some Airpass tickets allowing you to change travel dates after departure.

Disadvantages of Booking Airline Travel on an Airpass or Circle Fare Ticket

You generally cannot book these types of airfares online. There are planning tools and some simpler multi-leg fares may be booked online, but in general you will need to make your airline travel reservations with the airlines’ reservation staff.

There is usually also a minimum number of legs that must be completed on an Airpass ticket—usually 2 or 3 legs.

For Circle Pacific Type Fares you need to travel in one direction only and complete travel within certain mileage allowances. You also must visit Asia, North America and Oceania (Soutwest Pacific ) that is New Zealand/Australia.

Australian Airpass have been written about elsewhere, so the rest of this article will deal with the lesser known Circle Pacific Fares. Both the One World and Star Alliance offers a version of this fare.

Circle Pacific Fares

Most of the major airlines alliances offer these types of fares. As mentioned above they have their own sets of rules and a surprising level of flexibility given how rigid some return discount airfares can be.

One World Alliance Circle Pacific Fares

The feature that makes One World’s Circle Pacific Fare unique amongst Circle Pacific fares is the inclusion of South America in the possible destinations. (Qantas as now flying direct from Sydney to Santiago, Chile!).

Circle Pacific fares are valid for departure from the following regions:

  • North America (USA and Canada)
  • Southwest Pacific (Australia and New Zealand)
  • South America
  • Asia (Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam)

Sample Itineraries on the One World Circle Pacific Fare:

To book a Circle Pacific fare you must book with one of the One World alliance carriers: Qantas, American Airlines, British Airways, and Cathay Pacific. The following itineraries are provided as examples only and the viability of any routing combination will be determined by the airline at the time of booking.

22,000 Miles:

Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Sydney, Los Angeles

26,000 Miles:

Toronto, Los Angeles, Sydney, Perth, Hong Kong, Toronto

29,000 Miles: (South America is only available on the 29,000 mile itinerary

New York, Santiago, Sydney, Perth, Hong Kong, New York

One World Circle Pacific Price

The fare paid on a Circle Pacific fare booked with any One World Airline (Qantas, British Airways, American Airlines, and Cathay Pacific etc) is based upon:

  • · Miles Flown – there are price variances for 22,000 mile (4 stopovers), 26,000 mile (5 stopovers) and 29,000 mile (6 stopovers) itineraries
  • Class of Travel – you can book Circle Pacific Fares in Economy, Business and First Class and Premium Economy where available (not all airlines and sectors may have access to a Premium Economy class)

At one point One World had an indicative pricing calculator online, but this seems to have disappeared. Likely due to the increasing requirement that airlines quote all taxes and surcharges in their airfare quotes. Another thing this calculator made frequent flyers aware of was that your home country wasn’t always the most cost efficient place to start your journey….

One World Circle Pacific Fare Conditions

One World’s Circle Pacific fares are extremely flexible when compared to traditional return airfares where the more the fare is discounted the less flexible the fare is. Some of the favorable conditions of the Circle Pacific Airfare are:

  • Travel can be completed within 5 (Business and First 10 for Economy) to 365 days.
  • The itinerary may change prior to departure and during your trip. Some fares you book the routing and fill in the dates while you are underway!
  • These fares are a cost effective way to travel in a premium cabin such as first or business class.
  • You can have overland sectors in your itinerary.

Some of the more restrictive conditions on the Circle Pacific Fare include:

  • You must start and finish your Circle Pacific fare in the same location.
  • The mileage ranges
  • You must continuously travel in the same direction (clock-wise or anti clockwise). Backtracking is not allowed.
  • You must include Asia in your travel route in one direction (you cannot simply fly from the USA to Australia)
  • · Can’t book online, must contact one of the One World airlines directly.

Star Alliance Circle Pacific Fare

The Star Alliance group of airlines include: United, Continental (now United), Air New Zealand, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Air China, Air Canada, Asiana and Thai.

The Star Alliance has a similar Circle Pacific fare to the one listed above. The conditions are very similar and for the sake of brevity only the major differences are listed below:

  • Check the Star Alliance Circle Pacific Fare particularly if you have extended travel planned through the south pacific islands services by Air new Zealand, or in Asia.
  • Unlike the One World Circle Pacific Fares, there is not 29,000 mile option and South America is not a destination serviced by the Star Alliance’s Circle Pacific Fare.
  • Travel for the Star Alliance Circle Pacific Fare must be completed within 7 days to 6 months. The One World Fare will be more suitable for longer journeys as it remains valid for up to 12 months.
  • The Star Alliance Circle Pacific Fare allows up to 15 stopovers. The One World fares offer only 4, 5 or 6 depending on the mileage of your itinerary.
  • You can book online using the Star Alliance Book and Fly tool.


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