This Guy Had an Epic $23,000 Flight Experience for $108 (In Theory, You Can Too)

If this doesn't get you thinking differently about frequent-flyer miles, nothing will.

As luxury airline cabins go, Etihad’s The Residence beats out all others in commercial air travel. Introduced two years ago, it’s a three-bedroom flying apartment with a living room, private bathroom, and bedroom on an Airbus A380 — and the cost to fly would be prohibitive for almost every human on the planet.

But there are ways of getting around that, as one man recently proved: He flew on a trip that would have cost $23,000… but he paid only $108.

What? How?! Well, the passenger was Sam Huang — he’s the guy who runs the frequent-flyer-miles site TopMiles. And skilled as he is in the miles-accrual game, he was able to redeem 60,000 AAdvantage miles plus just that small amount of cash to fly from Sydney, Australia to the exotic Maldives. And the Sydney to Abu Dhabi portion was in Etihad’s elite First Apartment class.

Well, the Apartment is huge and epic: It has enough space for a lounge area with convertible sofa and a separate reclining chair, and serves Bollinger Grande Annee 2005 champagne, which retails at $100 a bottle. But it still wasn’t quite at the level of The Residence, and Huang wrote, “I wanted to see the holy grail of luxury commercial flying for myself.” 

So he followed protocol by emailing Etihad in advance and “pray[ing] to the airline gods that they allow you to take glimpse of the world's most expensive and private seat in the sky.” Sure enough, they agreed to give him a tour of the Residence if it was empty on his flight — and it turned out it was.

A private butler led him into the space — and then the plane hit turbulence so the butler had to leave to follow safety procedures… leaving the passenger who paid $108 alone to experience a $23,000 flight.

“If I thought the apartment was incredible, the private area of The Residence was simply epic. Every detail, big and small, just blended together like musical instruments in a world-class orchestra to give off a luxurious, five-star feel,” he wrote. “Everything about the space is simply brilliant. Instead of having a sofa that converts into a bed, The Residence is furnished with an actual full double sized bed. This is a first among all airlines.” 

As well, he described the main showpiece as the entertainment system's huge 32-inch LCD screen, which stands now as the largest in the sky.

In the end, Huang wrote, “I am extremely grateful and fortunate to have finally gotten to experience the holy grail of all airline seats. I felt like a true Arab sheikh, if only for a fleeting moment.”

We'll say.

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