Sam Huang is at it again. The last time we chatted with the globetrotter, he had just gotten back from a first-class trip around the world on Emirates (of which he only had to shell out $300 for the experience). This time around, he got to experience the Etihad's $24,000 Residence and Apartment suites on a recent trip to Abu Dhabi and only paid $104, thanks to some major know-how and a whole lot of frequent flyer miles.
Simply put, Huang used 60,000 of his AAdvantage Miles toward the total cost which, as you can imagine, took the expense down a couple thousand notches. You can read all about his experience on his blog TopMiles, but here are a few highlights: suites that include a convertible sofa and a reclining chair; a personal butler to serve all of your booze, luggage storage, and comfort needs; a personal welcome note from the cabin manager; meals personally served by the on-board chef; cotton pajamas; and a full double-sized bed (in the private area of the Residence suite). He made a video of the entire experience, which you can check out above.
We got a few questions in with Huang on the Etihad experience and his tips for experiencing a bit of luxury at 40,000 feet in the air.
What was your favorite part of the experience?
Sam Huang: "For the Residence I'd say the highlight is the double bed and the privacy that goes along with it. The double bed is an actual bed, rather then a seat converted into a bed. Its so comfortable to sleep on! The second part is that there's an actual door which is pretty amazing, so its like having your own hotel room in the sky.
Of course the butler is also an amazing perk, with his white gloves and tailored suit. For the apartment, I'd say having your own separate 'lounging' area from your own seat is very innovative. The TV even swivels 90-degrees so you have a good view of the TV no matter what. Also, the onboard cook really impressed me. Where else can you get a 'chef's special' 40,000 feet in the air?"
What's your biggest tip for travelers looking for luxury on a budget?
SH: "[My] biggest tip is to sign up for the right credit cards based of how and where you want to travel. Although American Airlines recently devalued their award chart, you can still obtain enough miles for that dream first class trip, as long as you apply and spend strategically. Also you will have to be able to have flexible travel plans, as award space varies depending on the dates you want to travel! Many times airlines release a lot of award space last minute."
What's one thing you hope to someday experience in an airplane cabin?
SH: "I actually would love to be able to fly supersonic someday. Sadly, I was born too late and the Concorde was discontinued!"
Erika Owen is the Audience Engagement Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @erikaraeowen.