Travel tips from top aviation blogger

January 23, 2018 13:46
Sam Chui's passion for aviation started during his teen years when he frequently visited Kai Tak Airport to watch planes land and take off. Photo:

Born in Beijing in 1980, Sam Chui migrated to Hong Kong with his parents in the mid-'80s.

As a teenager, Chui often visited Kai Tak Airport, where watching planes land and take off fueled his passion for aviation.

He later moved to Australia for high school and university. Soon enough traveling became a routine and earned for him premium loyalty status with airlines.

In 1999, he created a website publishing photos of airplanes, which allowed him to merge his fondness for aviation with his passion for photography.

Today, Chui is said to be the world’s most followed aviation blogger and reviewer, with some of his videos gaining more than 12 million views.

Based in the United Arab Emirates, the aviation enthusiast would not hesitate to fly whenever he has the opportunity.

“I light up when I see airplanes and they all have my attention,” he enthused, noting that he has gained the reputation of an “avgeek”, a familiar term used in recent years to refer to aviation enthusiasts.

Although not working in the aviation sector, Chui is known to all major airlines and frequently gets invited to events such as aircraft launches.

When asked about his relationship with airlines, Chui stressed that it isn’t a professional one.

“I am still largely a customer to airlines. I pay for my flights like any other customers. From time to time, airlines invite me to events. Given that aviation is my hobby and passion, I try my best to attend and document the events,” he said.

So far, Chui has flown 1,600 times, gained 7,000 hours of flying time and earned around 3.1 million miles.

Asked about the number of loyalty programs he's enrolled in, he answered matter-of-factly: “I've lost count but I think I have about 10 or 12, usually one or two per alliance.”

While Chui mostly reviews first and business class cabins, his experience isn’t limited to luxury. His flight experiences range from luxury cabins and private jets to far more modest North Korean and Soviet jets. One of his adventures includes a trip to Lukla in Nepal, known as the world’s most dangerous airport.

Chui’s many flight hours have given him numerous insights and allowed him to encounter many experiences, some less pleasant than others. Here are some of his best and worst experiences:

Worst service

“Can’t think of one. Believe me or not, I am overly positive when it comes to flying. I enjoyed all of my flights!”

Worst delay

“I have suffered a 12-hour delay in Irkutsk, Russia in 2007. Due to its close vicinity to Lake Baikal, there was a lot of fog in the morning from the lake and the airport ILS had failed so no planes could land in almost zero visibility weather. Worst, I’ve developed food poisoning during the 12 hours' delay.”

Worst turbulence

“Sitting in the rear on an Ilyushin-86 flight from Novosibirsk to Beijing across Siberia with heavy thunderstorm weather around. The plane vibrated and shook literally the entire way.”

Worst incident

“In 2004, I boarded a flight from Russia to China in which we had a false BOB (bomb onboard) alert. All passengers were removed and the plane searched. After three hours we took off without incident.”

Worst airport

“Many remote places I’ve been to in Siberia have just a tin shed as terminal, probably since the Soviet times.”

Best food

“Lobster Thermidor on Singapore Airlines is a favorite of mine. You can ‘Book the Cook’ on this dish flying Singapore’s First and Business Class.

I also like the food and wine onboard Air France. They serve amazing cuisine developed by Michelin-starred French chef and sommelier.”

Best service

“I personally like Emirates which has a cabin crew of diverse background delivering service onboard.”

Best airport

“Singapore's Changi, with Seoul's Incheon and Hong Kong not far behind. I also like the new Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles.”

Favorite aircraft

Boeing 747.

Many people are curious about how to get an upgrade and, despite having no magical answer, Chui has got a few tips.

“You need to have frequent flyer status and some luck that your flight may be oversold so you become a candidate for upgrade. Also consider paying a supplement for upgrade as lots of airlines do ‘upsell’ offer either prior to the flight or at check-in. Always ask about the options!”

So far, the aviation enthusiast has published three books about his air travel experiences. This year, the blogger plans to focus on his YouTube channel.

Asked about how he would describe his relationship with aviation in a single word, Chui said: “Dream. Because I am a dreamer, I always dream high and big! Aviation has taken me to many far and amazing places that otherwise I would not have visited. I’ve made friends all over the world thanks to my aviation passion.”

Visit Sam Chui’s blog at

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