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TPG UK AvGeek nostalgia: 10 amazing flights from the past 10 years

March 28, 2020
10 min read
TPG UK AvGeek nostalgia: 10 amazing flights from the past 10 years
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The current lockdown as a result of the coronavirus crisis has me pining after aviation experiences of days past. I can't wait to finally be able to step into an airport lounge, turn left once on board a plane and enjoy the views from 35,000 feet.

Inspired by my colleague's retrospective on his traveling past, I started to reminisce about some of my best flights of the past decade that I would love to repeat when the world returns to normal.

Communist class

Rare aircraft and airlines combined when I took a flight from Beijing to Pyongyang, the capital of the hermit nation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, commonly known as North Korea. It was 2010 and the DPRK was still living in the heady days of Kim Jong-Il when I took to flying with the nation's flag carrier Air Koryo.

The safety video began with an announcement that the flight on this Tupolev Tu-204 aircraft was made possible because of the wisdom of the Dear Leader.

It was a hamburger for a lunch, and entertainment was provided by top-class North Korea opera singers. This was one never to forget, and I've had my eye on a trip back to North Korea ever since, especially to catch the latest iteration of the Mass Games, a performance involving more than 100,000 people.

Next time though, I'm determined to secure that upgrade and try Air Koryo business class.

Singapore perfection

Last year, I racked up my Amex Membership Rewards points and sent them over to my Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer account. 125,000 KrisFlyer miles and $24 later and I was booked on what turned out to be the best flight of my life. I flew from Singapore to Zurich in the new Singapore Airlines Suites on the Airbus A380.

There are six Suites in the cabin, and I was the only passenger. I was offered a pair of Suites and a double bed and I was truly spoiled rotten and blown away by the experience.

I plan to save my Amex Membership Rewards points to afford the unaffordable yet again.

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Israeli Independence Day delight

I have been traveling to Israel for my whole life, and El Al holds a very special place in my heart. As a young child I used to travel to Manchester Airport, ready for our annual February half-term trip to Eilat, praying that we would be picked up by a big beautiful 767-300ER bird, and defiantly telling my parents if it was a rubbish skinny 757 waiting for us, I wouldn't be boarding.

In 2019, I was lucky enough to experience a special day on board El Al, albeit on a narrow-body 737. It was Israeli Independence Day and crew were celebrating the 71st year. There were special menus, chocolates, crew dressed up and shots of vodka and whiskey on the go on the hop from London Luton to Tel Aviv.

In the coming years, I want to experience more days of national pride on flag carriers where they offer something special.

Repatriation missions

Although I would never wish for the collapse of any company, let alone an airline, this flight was magical. I was invited by the Civil Aviation Authority on board a flight picking up stranded passengers from Palma, following the collapse of Thomas Cook. There were many repatriation flights, but this one was on a Malaysia Airlines Airbus A380.

It was incredible not only to bring the worried holidaymakers home, but to see their faces as many were assigned seats in the first- and business-class cabins of this huge jet. This wasn't quite the journey back to Manchester they expected.

Birthday beginnings

It was an honor to be on board the first British Airways A350 flight from London to Madrid, and to be one of the first to experience the hugely upgraded BA business-class product, the Club Suite. Deliveries and inaugurals are exciting for any AvGeek, but this was extra special as it was on August 5, my birthday!

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Aussie wonders

Not all incredible flights have to be on commercial jets. One of the most awe-inspiring and beautiful flights of the past decade was on this microlight aircraft, exposed to the elements and with views like no other.

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We flew for 90 minutes over the Cape Range National Park on the very northwestern tip of Western Australia, close to the town of Exmouth.

This is certainly the way I want to sightsee in the coming years.

DCIM145GOPRO

Multi-carrier madness

The Cape Range National Park you see above in Australia is a very long way from home, and I used all my points and miles prowess to maximize on the flights there and back.

I utilized the little-known British Airways Multi-Carrier Award to be able to fly three Cathay Pacific first-class flights, one Cathay business-class flight, two domestic Qantas legs and a BA Club World leg for just 200,000 Avios and less than $685 on the following routing: LHR-HKG-TPE-HKG-PER-LEA-PER-SIN-LHR. It was a bugger of a ticket to book, but the satisfaction of nailing it was unmatched.

I'll be looking to take advantage of this secret redemption chart again, especially in my quest to try out more Oneworld first-class products. (Qantas, I'm looking at you!).

German precision

Veteran TPG staff seemed to be flying Lufthansa first class every other week, and I wanted in on the action. With some fabulously cheap companion fares on both Lufthansa and Swiss, I hit the button on flights to Bangalore for a Christmas and New Year jaunt to India and Sri Lanka.

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The experience was everything I hoped for. Caviar and vodka at 40,000 feet in the nose of a Boeing 747-8 jumbo was surreal, but the ground experience also blew me away. Coming off a long flight and enjoying gate transfers in a Porsche Cayenne to the First Class Terminal, having a soak in the tub with some Lufthansa rubber duckies and eating one of the best schnitzels I've ever had before a connecting flight to London was insane.

Another trip is imperative. This one earned me KrisFlyer Silver status, and one more like it this year will allow me to hit Gold, which unlocks benefits across Star Alliance partners.

Mountain views

Flights aren't always about what's happening inside the cabin. Sometimes the views are so stunning that the rest is irrelevant. This 40-year-old ex-British Airtours 737-200 had seen better days, but under the control of Sky Airlines (on 11.11.2011!) I was whisked down the Chilean coast all the way to Patagonia, with some of the most stunning views I've ever seen.

I now have my eye on some other similar routes where the views make up for the uncomfy seats and stale croissants.

Cockpit seats and makeshift airports

Tiny airports and tiny planes fill many with dread, but the up close and personal feel is a winner for me. On this flight between the Honduran islands of Utila and Roatan, I enjoyed this shack of an airport and got to sit next to pilot for amazing island runway landing views. After seeing our writer, Dan Ross' experience in the Scottish highlands and islands, this could be my next stop for a similar experience.

Featured image by DCIM145GOPRO

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more