After Action Report (AAR): My First Around-The-World Trip (ATW) (Part 1)
Greetings, Fellow Travelers!
BLUF: From 24 August to 3 September 2019, I undertook my first Around-The-World trip (eastward). In total, I flew 21,830 miles on four different airlines in both economy and business class. With three major stops and a mix of revenue and award tickets, it proved to be a great experience.
Today’s AAR takes us through my first ATW trip: the logistics, mechanics, flights, and destinations (in a multi-part series).
In October 2018, Swiss Airlines published some amazing First and Business class fares. The catch: must purchase two tickets and no changes, no refunds. I’ve wrestled with these sorts of restrictions before, and it’s never an easy decision no matter how much the cost. However, this deal was too good to pass up.
For $1750/per ticket, I purchased two tickets (with those restrictions). To get the best deal, these tickets were from Milan Malpensa to Bangkok via Zurich. For this price, I was able to secure Swiss Business class on the outbound and Swiss First class on the inbound (credited to United MileagePlus). At the time, we planned to still be in Stuttgart, Germany, so a positioning flight would be no problem.
[Take a look at my previous post, “TTP Position Flights,” to review this topic.]
My Stuttgart DEROS was officially October 2019, and if you know anything about the USAJobs system, the process is slow, frustrating, and full of red tape. So, at the start of 2019, I started looking at announcements figuring any prospective job would bring me on-board NET fall 2019.
In March 2019, I applied for three different jobs within a week: the job I currently hold in DC, another DC job, and a job in Austin. The two DoD jobs went radio silent after my USAJobs referral approx. 2 weeks after the job closed. The DeptVA job contacted me for an interview about 3 weeks from the job closing.
I completed the first interview mid-April 2019 and the second interview early-May 2019. While I was grateful for the quick interview process, I thought in no way could the DeptVA work HR fast enough to interfere with the Swiss flights in August 2019.
Much to my surprise, I was offered the DeptVA job (yay!) with a start date of 5 August 2019. Luckily, my new boss was kind enough to honor my previously booked Annual Leave. So, with the trip still on—and me now starting the trip from DC—I began thinking of flying ATW.
I had bought the Swiss tickets with four weeks between arriving and departing BKK, so Joey could enjoy a month-long cooking touring throughout Asia. Since I couldn’t take that much time off (from Stuttgart), I had planned to return to Germany about 1.5 weeks after arriving and then head back to BKK to catch the return trip. Yes, it’s crazy, but I really wanted to fly Swiss First!
Anyway, since I could no longer fly from the BKK-FRA route, I refunding that ticket (I only got my taxes back, but it’s still something). We settled on visiting Penang, Malaysia and Shanghai during my portion of the trip. I bought a United ticket ($900) from PVG to IAD via SFO returning to BKK to link up with the Swiss First flight. Luckily, I was able to secure United’s new Premium Plus product on the return (EWR-HKG), and much to my surprise, for $600 + 30K United miles, I confirmed an upgrade to Polaris Business (on their Boeing 787-900) from PVG-SFO. Money and miles well-spent!
[Are you following so far? Because if you are, you’ll see there is a westward ATW flight in my future.]
Now, I needed to get from IAD to MXP in time for the Swiss flights. Joey stayed in Stuttgart after I departed 31 July to wrap up loose ends there, so he’d just have a short STR-MXP flight. For 30K United miles, I booked an United economy award ticket: IAD-ZRH-MXP. With my UA Gold status, I’d be able to access the great Swiss Senator Lounges at ZRH.
[TTP: even when you land at the ZRH E Gates—as most U.S. flights do—you can still access the better E Gates Swiss Senator Lounge. Just give yourself enough time to make it through immigration before catching your Schengen flight.]
This is a lot of background to arrive at mapping my trip. Thanks for staying with me!
My ATW-eastward route: IAD-ZRH-MXP-ZRH-BKK-KUL-PEN-HKG-PVG-SFO-IAD.
A lot more to cover, but I’ll save that for follow-on parts. I had attempted to produce on-the-go real-time entries, but I’m not that fast a writer. Plus, it was a vacation!
In sum, with a combination of revenue and award tickets, I completed my first ATW trip (eastward) in August and September 2019. It was a great experience, and why I’m not sure everyone needs to do this, it was an oddly satisfying accomplished for me.
Albert Guerrero, USAF, Ret.
“Let’s Travel Farther, Together!”
Follow my travels on Instagram: @albert_traveler
PS: In case you were wondering, the other two DoD jobs did end up contacting me about interviews: when it rains, it pours! However, they contacted me about 2 weeks out from my 31 July PCS date and neither job tempted me away from my already-secured job at DeptVA.