A man went on a Philious Fogg-style quest to fly around the world in 80 hours via a series of flights on low-budget airlines.
YouTube creator Noel Phillips, 42, began a literal round trip in April, leaving Houston, Texas, and just three days later in the city’s William P. Hubby came back to the airport
His journey ended up spanning nine flights, seven different airlines, five countries – and a total of 25,276 miles.
During the planning phase, Noel, a native of Leicester, England, who currently lives in rural Texas with his wife and two children, established ‘five simple rules’ to complete his globe-circling mission.
Noel Phillips, 42, embarked on a Phineas Fogg-style expedition to circumnavigate the globe in 80 hours via a series of low-budget flights.
The YouTube creator, who hails from the UK but lives in Texas, has established five rules for his travels
He determined for his 419,000-strong YouTube following, he would commit to: taking on low-cost airlines; flying on an economy ticket; crossing both hemispheres; moving further east with each flight (‘no back,’ as he says); And making it within his set time target.
Noel previously flew around the world in 80 hours in 2019, then flew back to London – although on that go-round, he was stuck in business class and didn’t cross the equator.
Of booking the low-budget airline journey, Noel told Newstimesuk.com: ‘It was an absolute nightmare to be honest.
‘Low-cost airlines are great for getting on cheap flights. But when it comes to changing their schedule, they are not very flexible. So I actually had about three different itineraries planned for this.
‘That was the final incarnation of it… Before, I had to change airlines on my flight. It meant that all the other flights had to be lost after that, because you couldn’t just change to a different day or something because they weren’t flexible with low-cost airlines,’ he explained.
‘So it probably would have cost more money than going on a regular airline.’
The first leg of the trip was Southwest, a three-and-a-half-hour flight departing at 11:10 a.m. from Hobby, Houston to LaGuardia, New York City.
The plane’s path revealed a brief glimpse of the Statue of Liberty from Noel’s window as it descended over NYC.
Noel caught a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty while traveling from Houston to NYC
La Sagrada Familia comes into view while landing in Barcelona
Noel spends the night in a hotel in Athens and wakes up to a distant view of the Acropolis
The Sydney Opera House was the last iconic landmark Noel encountered on his journey
He then took a Yellow Cab to JFK and, just after nightfall, caught a Level Airlines flight to Barcelona, Noel described the state of the economy as ‘pretty good’.
Arriving in Barcelona at dawn after a seven-hour, 45-minute journey, Noel caught a glimpse of the iconic Antoni Gaudi-designed cathedral, La Sagrada Familia, from his window.
With two flights down and seven more to go, Noel still had just 60 hours left to complete the journey.
Then came the three-hour flight to Vueling in Athens, the seasoned traveler’s first introduction to the city.
He spent the night in a hotel, waking to a distant view of the Acropolis beyond a worn-down-looking cityscape.
‘Good morning from Greece! I woke up to a view of the Acropolis, which is right there, in that building,’ he began his Athens dispatch.
‘I’m not going to lie, it’s not as impressive as it looks in the pictures. I mean, they don’t show graffiti on council flats and brochures, do they?’ He quipped about the panorama.
Next on his itinerary was an 11-hour Scoot Airlines flight to Singapore.
‘They don’t have the best reputation, I haven’t heard great things about them,’ Noel admits of the airline.
‘The Scoot cabin feels like a discotheque when you get on board,’ he says of the Technicolor mood lighting illuminating the plane’s interior.
‘Although a discotheque with really terrible seats.’
Scooting from Athens to Singapore, Noel observed ‘discotheque’-like ambient lighting in the cabin.
A $15 in-flight meal on Scoot Airlines was nothing to write home about
Instead of paying for in-flight entertainment on Jetstar to Melbourne, Noel made the brave call to pass the time with YouTuber Mentor’s pilot’s play-by-play plane crash.
To be sure, the economy seats were cramped and without individual screens.
But, instead of the pre-programmed in-flight entertainment, Noel passes the time watching a low-stakes drama between his companions.
‘Things are getting a bit awkward between the two passengers next to me,’ Noel whispered into his mic, turning to face the window and beginning to give a play-by-play of the exploits of the two fellow passengers.
‘The guy in the aisle is Greek, and spent the whole flight chatting with this poor lady next to me, talking in earshot for most of the flight where he put headphones on to try to stop it,’ he continued. Play by play
‘He took out his earphones to order food, at which point the guy in the aisle asked him for a drink, which he kind of refused.
‘Now, he’s not really saying much. All is very quiet. It’s a bit awkward … who needs in-flight entertainment?’ He added with a smile.
Noel recalls looking up at airplanes as a child in Leicester, England, and wondering what the people on them could see from their vantage point in the sky.
Noel has landed in Sydney with just 24 hours left in his countdown
Scoot’s meal, which set Noel back $15, consisted of ‘black pepper beef with rice’ and a can of Coke.
Pierced the rice with his fork and scooped up the entire, rectangular portion from his tray in one go – prompting Noel to shoot a disappointed look at his camera.
From Singapore, Noel boarded the nearly seven-and-a-half-hour Jetstar flight to Melbourne.
While there are seatback screens with in-flight entertainment, films like Hotel Transylvania cost $9 a pop. An ‘all-access’ pass was $13 – but Noel weighed in that the price was barely worth the rest of the flight time.
Instead he made the bold decision to watch Mento Pilot’s videos – a YouTube channel known for its detailed clips of plane crashes.
After landing, Noel discovers that Jetstar has canceled his flight from Melbourne to Sydney. He ruefully admitted that he had been rebooked on Qantas, ‘which breaks the low-cost chain,’ he lamented.
‘Please forgive me!’ He urged his audience.
There was just enough time to do some sightseeing on his Sydney layover, dropping by the Opera House. ‘It’s a pretty place, really!’ He joked.
Despite his concerns about once again relying on Jetstar to get him to Honolulu in time for his next connection, the nearly 10-hour flight was smooth enough.
Although she tried to snooze while cruising over the Pacific, the ‘non-existent’ legroom made it so she ‘couldn’t get comfortable at all.’
He declared the Sydney-to-Honolulu leg the ‘most uncomfortable flight’ of his trip.
Regardless, the plane touched down in Hawaii late at night, the countdown clock nearing the final 12 hours.
He flew back to Houston with less than an hour to spare
Noel triumphantly signs in from the entrance to Houston’s Hobby Airport, announcing that he’s going home to get some sleep and ‘and then try and go to the chiropractor’.
Including the cost of his flight alone, the total cost came to just under $3,000
While settling into his Southwest flight to Phoenix, Arizona, he recalled being on the same airplane model — a Max 8 — ‘a few days ago’ when he flew to NYC.
‘Crikey, it seems like forever since then,’ he added.
The second-to-last flight took six hours and he landed in the mainland US with a few hours to spare.
As the sun set over Phoenix, he headed southwest again, finally landing in Houston just after midnight.
‘Here we are, 25,000 miles later, back at Hobby Airport in Houston! And a little less than 80 hours I was here last. Wow, what a trip!’ Noel finished victorious.
He added that he was going home to ‘try and get some sleep, and then try to go to the chiropractor’.
Reflecting on the experience, Noel told Newstimesuk.com ‘It was an incredible trip,’ adding with a laugh: ‘I don’t think I’ll be doing it again on low-cost airlines anytime soon.’
‘As anti-climactic as it was at the end, when I came back and realized that no one else cared about what I’d done – I’m just standing in an airport parking lot – it was amazing to literally be around the world and only a couple have been in either hemisphere. [of days] Like that,’ he said about getting off his last flight.
‘I feel a bit of a sense of achievement after doing it. I think it was a great thing.’
In all, Noel spent just over 51 of the 80 hours in flight, leaving a full day and five hours for his connections and enlightened, on-the-ground sightseeing.
Noel grew increasingly tired on the last stretch of his journey
He got his start on YouTube more than a decade ago by posting videos he watched from his window on a flight
In the cost breakdown, Noel calculated that he spent $2,908.33 on airfare to his track.
That did not include what he had spent on previous versions of the itinerary that fell due to schedule changes affected by low-budget airlines that, as a matter of policy, did not reimburse him for his missed connecting flights.
The self-described ‘aviation geek’ traces his fascination with air travel to his childhood.
‘I’ve been on planes for as long as I can remember. I did not travel much as a child. I come from a background where we didn’t have a lot of traveling internationally or anything,’ he told Newstimesuk.com.
‘So plane-spotting and plane watching at the airport was something I always enjoyed when I was growing up.
‘And I was always like, “Where are they going? What are they doing? Who’s on that plane?”
‘They’re seeing from really high up and being able to see these amazing views. And I guess these planes can transport half the world’s people in a few hours. And the fact that they literally go to the edge of space, just takes people along for the ride. I found it really nice.’
As a youth, Noel ‘made a game, effectively, of flying as many different airlines as I could, flying as many different types of aircraft as I could, and flying as much as I could really.’
On his YouTube, the creator’s first video – the first from 13 years ago – reflects his early hobby of filming the view from the window during his flights.
‘It’s become an obsession over the years,’ he adds with a laugh.
‘I enjoy flying, I think, more than anything else.’
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