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'How I paid $300 for a $60,000 round-the-world first-class flight'

It’s usually only the wealthiest of flyers who get to turn left when they board, but one resourceful American traveller has revealed how he managed to enjoy a $60,000 round-the-world trip flying first class with Dubai carrier Emirates for just $300.

Sam Huang’s first-class extravaganza was made possible through the exploitation of an air-miles loophole that ultimately enabled him to fly first class to 11 cities in seven countries across five continents.


First-class passengers on Emirates A380 flights reside in private suites. Image: Emirates

Mr Huang clearly delighted in his time on board, and in his blog TopMiles.com he recounts time spent quaffing drinks in near-deserted, marble-clad first-class airline lounges; sipping Hennessy Paradis cognac (which costs from about £400 a bottle and is the most expensive spirit served by any commercial airline) post take-off; lingering over five-course meals and enjoying a postprandial shower. Extended over three weeks, the first-class trip began in Melbourne and took in visits to cities including Auckland, Dubai, Milan, New York, Mauritius and Rome.

A photo posted by Sam Huang (@intotheplane) on


Sam gets to work in the on-board bar

A businessman, Sam Huang blogged about how he has managed to shrewdly accumulate airlines' offers to new credit-card customers in order to accrue sufficient credit to undertake such an extensive journey.

His breakthrough was discovering that Bank of America and customer-loyalty programme Starwood Rewards both offer customers who sign up for their credit cards 25,000 bonus miles with Alaska Airlines, which is affiliated with Emirates. By paying the application fee and repeating the process multiple times over many months, Mr Huang was able to claim enough points to take a trip that would ordinarily cost $60,000 for a cost of just $300.

Emirates provided confirmation to

Business Insider that the trip took place as claimed by Mr Huang, who documents every stage of the trip in significant detail on his site, but travellers who wish to follow in his footsteps will need to be somewhat more resourceful.

The offer that led to Mr Huang flying first class with Emirates has since been withdrawn, and the airline didn't provide a response when asked by The Telegraph for its stance on its passengers securing flights in this way, but his blog documents other offers that might enable others to fly in business- or first-class with a number of different airlines at a significant discount.

He isn’t the only traveller who reveals how to manipulate airlines either. A contemporary of Sam Huang is 25-year-old Ben Schlapping, an aviation enthusiast and travel blogger, who founded the One Mile at a Time blog and who writes about his efforts to fly around the world without spending a penny.

He now flies an average of 400,000 miles a year, mostly in first class. Though he regularly documents champagne-soaked sojourns through the skies on various social media platforms and has gained a loyal following, a recent Rolling Stone article on his business strategy revealed an unexpectedly exhausting routine that sees him travel alone from one destination to another almost without cessation, rarely being able to see much of the destination he visits beyond its international airport.

Those who remain motivated to follow in the footsteps of these most frugal of fliers could begin their reseach by seeing how first class compares on the world's best airlines. Plenty of pundets offer additional tips and theories on how to get a flight upgrade and for travellers departing from Britain, British Airways' new Dreamliner 787-9 first-class cabin has just launched and offers BA's most exclusive flying experience.


Category: Business class

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