Over eight days in November I will complete my one hundredth “Around the World” trip. Flying around the world in a few days requires no skill but, on the other hand, it is something that most people on the planet have not experienced.
|One of my favorite sights in Asia|
I began traveling to Asia in 1995. On my second trip I happened to be seated next to a loquacious rock concert promoter on my return flight. Apparently he viewed me as a “international travel virgin” so he decided to educate me as we made our way over the Pacific. He handed me his business card which included only his name, phone number and “United States of America”. No business title, no address and, in that era, no URL or email address. I wasn’t sure what to make of my seatmate but since I was a captive audience it seemed like I might as well listen. I honestly only remember one thing he talked about – the first class “around the world ticket”. When we parted I thanked him for his insights and was determined to find out if the “around the world” thing was real.
As it turned out my seatmate was correct. Six weeks later I made my first – first class around the world trip but not before I spent some “quality time” with my company’s controller who had to approve anyone except the CEO buying a first class ticket. My justification was simple – if I went first class around the world it would save the company a couple thousand dollars vs a business class round trip from Charlotte to Tokyo or Osaka. I had to fly more hours but would accept that trade-off for first class. I got a letter from the controller authorizing me to “save the company money”. It was “win – win” and though I did spend more time in the air, it was on company time (getting paid to fly) and being in first class greatly increased my comfort and volume of frequent flyer bonus miles. The difference between first class service and business class was night and day. The RTW (“round the world”) also opened up access to Asian and European airlines via global alliances. I soon learned that almost any foreign airline in Asia or Europe had better international service than the US carriers. It was true in 1995 and still true today – even more so.
My current trip looks like this:
On Friday I flew from Charlotte NC to LA. After spending two days with my daughter, I reversed directions and headed to Chicago. Tonight I will fly to Frankfurt, Germany. After a shower and some quality time on email, I will board a flight for Bangkok, Thailand. One meeting and five hours in Bangkok will suffice and I move on to Singapore for another meeting and a dinner. At 5am the following morning I will head to Changi Airport for a flight to Tokyo. After a meeting, a dinner and an overnight in Tokyo I will take the bullet train to Osaka for 24 hours and then head back to Tokyo for a flight to Honolulu. After less than a day seeing relatives in Honolulu, I will fly back to Charlotte via LAX and ORD – which makes about 1.25 around the world (more than 21,000 actual flight miles) in eight days.