Friday, December 23, 2011

The Rules

We thought it might be helpful to discuss some of the rules and limitations surrounding our pending adventure.  You can view the complete Terms and Conditions at Groupon’s site, and we will highlight those we think are important here.  (If you think we have undervalued any of those terms or conditions, please tell us in the comments!)

  • "Travel may include Delta, Delta Connection®, Air France, Air France by CityJet, Air France Regional, Air France Brit Air, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, KLM Cityhopper, Alitalia marketed and operated flights only."
By way of explanation, all of the listed airlines are part of something called SkyTeam, which is one of several global airline consortiums (or “alliances”).  If we had booked a round-the-world trip through SkyTeam, it would have cost more, but also would have included airlines like Kenya Airways and Vietnam Airlines, making it easier to get to places like... Kenya and Vietnam.
  • "Travel permitted for Northern Hemisphere only."
Whelp, there goes Kenya!  Or half of it, at least.  This is pretty self-explanatory.  But it also prompted Trevor to look at a map long enough to realize that (1) he’s never been south of the Equator, and (2) the Equator is a lot farther south than he realized.  Oh, and (3) half of Africa is actually in the Northern Hemisphere.  It turns out Trevor learned a lot.

Anyway, this won’t really limit us as much as we initially thought it might, but it’s important to bear in mind.  Also, as will be explained below, it really only means we can’t use Groupon airfare to get south of the Equator... we may still be able to sneak across in other ways.

In the meantime, if you don’t know where the Equator is, just go to Google Maps and zoom all the way out.  (It's that horizontal line across the middle, by the way.)
  • "Travel must continue in a forward direction – travel requires, and is limited to, one flight over the Atlantic and one flight over the Pacific (no backtracking allowed between continents)." 
This seems to be similar to other round-the-world airfare rules we've seen.  Most programs won’t let you backtrack between continents, and also require you to continue going in the same direction once you start.  In every case we’ve seen, though, you’re completely free to fly around within a continent – for example, to fly west from Tokyo to Hong Kong, then east back to Beijing or Seoul without breaking any rules.
  • "Minimum 3 stops/Maximum 10 stops – must include one stop in Europe, one stop in Asia and one additional stop – a stop is 24 hours or longer. . . . A maximum of 16 coupons is permitted. One coupon equals one non-stop flight or one unflown segment (i.e. if customer flies non-stop from Atlanta to Los Angeles, then takes alternate transportation to San Francisco, then flies non-stop from San Francisco to Tokyo, this would total 3 coupons)."
This is interesting, but ultimately not really open to debate.  A “stop” is a 24+-hour foray, of which we must have at least three and no more than ten.  A “coupon” is, essentially, a “leg” – if you fly into Bangkok, take a bus to Phuket, and fly out of Phuket into Delhi, that’s three “coupons” (the two flights and the “overland” portion).  In other words, assuming you have nothing but direct flights, you can travel by non-Groupon means up to six times, in addition to your maximum-ten Groupon flights.

What is not spelled out, however, is what happens with a connection in between flights.  This is actually pretty important, given the limited menu of airlines.  For example, if the only way to get between Tokyo and Beijing is to connect through Hong Kong, is that one “coupon” or two?  Probably two; but we’ll see.

This is also the part we mentioned before – even if you can’t actually fly somewhere, it seems you can still get there.  For example, say you fly to Bangkok, then take a boat (long and boring) or another airline (fast but expensive?) round-trip to Australia.  You would have time to do all that, and even go on a “walkabout” (a la Crocodile Dundee), all at the cost of a single “coupon” (or even “nothing” if you still fly out of Bangkok, since you can’t actually fly out of the Southern Hemisphere).  More realistically, you could get to a part of Indonesia in the Southern Hemisphere by first flying to a part of Indonesia in the Northern Hemisphere.  Of course, there’s the added cost of paying for additional travel, which in some cases may be cheap (Europe via Ryanair), and in other cases may be quite expensive (we just learned about a place called Maldives).
  • "Pets not allowed."
Sorry, Monty.

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