Is it possible to circle the globe using nothing but budget airlines? If you route it right, yes.
I’ve been saying for years that it doesn’t make much sense anymore to buy a whole round-the-world airline ticket ahead of time unless you are just getting a bare-bones one that you will fill in with shorter hops and alternative transportation. What I bought for my first RTW trip in the mid-90s seems crazy now: a stack of paper tickets in advance that went New York- L.A.- Bangkok- Kathmandu- Delhi- Athens- London- New York. (Even then we bought local jaunts from Singapore to Jakarta and Istanbul to Amsterdam though.) It especially doesn’t make sense on one of the legacy airline alliances unless you’re using mileage or are just love being on hold with call center employees.
Gadling found a great article from the Telegraph where a writer bought tickets at the last minute to go around the world from London. He spent 900 pounds ($1,800 these days) and touched down in 8 different places before returning home. The short hops were easy, but he had to work a bit to find ones across the oceans it looks like. One leg was on Zoom to Bermuda and another was on Oasis from Hong Kong to London ($230!). Here’s the story on Gadling and the original from the Telegraph.