It had been 61 hours. Noel Phillips was on an eight-and-a-half-hour flight from Sydney to Honolulu. It was rammed full, a reclined seat had been shoved in front of him, and he couldn’t sleep. He was exhausted, he told Insider.
Philips, a British travel YouTuber who lives in Texas, had decided to fly around the world in 80 hours on budget airlines, and only on economy seats.
He’d done this before in 2019, but in business class. An avid aviation fan, he likes to fly in business class and wanted to try low-cost airlines to keep him grounded, he said.
“I’ve never really flown long haul on low-cost airlines either,” he told Insider.
Over three days in April, he flew 25,276 miles across five countries on six different airlines. The nine flights cost him a total of $2,908.33, which comes to $0.11 a mile, he said in a YouTube video about his journey.
He had five rules: he had to fly around the world in less than 80 hours on low-cost airlines, all in economy. He also needed to visit both hemispheres and each flight had to take him further east – no “backsies” were allowed, he said.
Philips wanted to visit both hemispheres because last time in 2019, he didn’t. His followers complained that he needed to visit both hemispheres for it to truly be around the world, he said.
“Strictly speaking, you don’t have to if it’s an aviation thing. But I’m going to do it anyway so it’ll be a proper around-the-world trip,” he told Insider.
He didn’t allow any “backsies” (traveling back and forth again) as in his mind, it looks better when you’ve done one continuous loop around the world, he added.
He started his journey on April 2 with a Southwest flight from William P. Hobby Airport in Houston to La Guardia Airport in New York City.
The three-hour flight from Houston to NYC was probably one of the nicest flights he took on the three-day-long trip because he was in a fresh state of mind, Philips told Insider.
Plus, Southwest was great, he said. He paid $288.98 for the flight and found lots of legroom and an open seating plan, which he appreciated. The was WiFi on the flight, but it wasn’t free. He opted out of it for this flight.
He was also given a snack and drink for free, Philips added. He decided to stay awake on this flight, as he wanted to stay on Central Time.
“I don’t want to change to local time because there’s no point. Which local time would you choose? I’m literally flying around the world,” he said.
He landed at La Guardia to the sight of the Manhattan skyline. After a short three-hour layover, he was ready for his first long-haul flight to Barcelona, Spain.
In the beginning, he was a little nervous as flying long-haul on a low-cost airline was a first for him, he said. He flew with Level, a Spanish airline owned by Iberia, for $432.09 and found it much nicer than he expected it to be.
The legroom on the seven-hour flight wasn’t too bad, he said. “I’m 6-foot-4, so I struggle a lot on airlines,” he added.
What Philips really liked about Level was the seat-back TVs with free entertainment, which he didn’t expect, he said.
There was WiFi available, but it wasn’t free. Again, he skipped the WiFi as well as ordering food as he was trying to sleep on this flight, he said.
“I didn’t get a lot of sleep because it wasn’t massively comfortable,” he told Insider.
But they were one of the nicer long-haul flights he had on the 80-hour-long trip, he added. After a three-hour layover, he headed to Athens, Greece.
With 62 hours remaining, he connected to his third flight, from Barcelona to Athens, Greece. “I was exhausted by this point because I’d been up for well over 24 hours,” he told Insider.
He flew with Vueling for $217.33. He’d flown with them previously and had an OK experience, so he wasn’t nervous.
He paid to have an overhead cabin slot for his backpack, which resulted in him getting a seat with extra legroom, he said. He didn’t think there was much of a difference, but said that the seat itself was quite comfortable.
He bought sweet-and-sour chicken with rice on his two-and-a-half-hour long flight for €12, or about $13, he said. “For what was effectively just a microwave meal and a slab of rice, it wasn’t the nicest,” he added.
What he liked about the flight was the person he sat next to. She was a musician on tour, and they chatted throughout the flight about their jobs, Philips told Insider.
“You get to meet some really interesting people and learn their stories,” he said. It’s one of the things he loves about his job.
He landed in Athens at 11 p.m. and took a taxi to a hotel where he slept for four hours before his 11-hour flight to Singapore at 9 a.m., he told Insider.
“I was dreading this flight,” he said. He flew with Scoot, a budget airline in the Singapore Airlines Group, for $242.66.
He said he had seen videos about the airline’s policies, including one not allowing passengers to bring their own food and drink on board, according to its website.
He had to wait in line for over an hour to check in as he said wasn’t given the option to do it online for this particular flight, which was annoying as he didn’t have a suitcase. “I only had my backpack. I was like ‘I could just do it online,'” he said.
As Philips stepped onto the plane, he wasn’t impressed.
Philips said there were no TVs and half the tray tables didn’t work on the Scoot flight. The seats also didn’t recline, making it super uncomfortable, he added.
He had to stay awake on this flight to keep his body clock in Central Time as planned, which made the flight drag on, he said.
“It wasn’t a nice way of traveling, if I’m honest,” he said. But he appreciates that for a lot of people, like backpackers, that’s the way they have to travel since they’re on a budget.
“They’re not necessarily built with comfort in mind. But for a lot of people, they’re not traveling around the world in 80 hours. They get off the plane, and they can go and sleep then,” he added.
Representatives for Scoot did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Philips arrived in Singapore and had a shower in a lounge that he had access to thanks to his Priority Pass, he told Insider.
After a three-hour layover, Philips took a six-hour flight to Melbourne, Australia, with Jetstar. He hadn’t flown with the airline before, and many of his Australian Instagram followers didn’t have kind words to say about the airline, he told Insider.
Despite this, he got on the plane and thought it was quite nice. “The seats are pretty comfy,” he said.
The plane had TV screens, but he had to pay 12 Australian dollars (or $8) to watch movies and only the promotional content was free to watch. He opted for “The Crown,” which he had already downloaded, he said.
He pre-ordered mac and cheese, which was the nicest airplane food he had on the trip, he told Insider.
“I got off that plane in Melbourne and felt quite good. I was like, ‘Yeah, Jetstar are great,'” he said.
His next flight was with Jetstar to Sydney, he said. For two flights from Singapore to Sydney with Jetstar, he paid $496.39.
Then, he said he got a worrying text: “Jetstar have canceled your next flight.”
Philips said his first thought was: “That’s the end of it. It’s doom and gloom. It’s all finished.”
During his three-hour layover in Melbourne, he frantically searched to see if there were any other flights on low-cost airlines that he could take to Sydney, his next stop, but couldn’t find any.
In Australia, they don’t have many low-cost airlines, and Jetstar was the only option that day, he said. There were no Jetstar flights until later in the day, which would’ve meant that he’d miss his connection and fail the challenge.
He went to the Jetstar desk and was booked onto the next Qantas flight within 30 seconds. The staff were fantastic, he said, but he was upset about being booked onto Qantas as it’s not a low-cost airline.
He proceeded to board an hour-long Qantas flight from Melbourne to Sydney. He ended up crammed in a middle seat.
It wasn’t much different to Jetstar, and only an hour out of his 80-hour journey, he said.
The good news, however, was that the Qantas flight left 10 minutes after his original flight was booked, so he arrived in Sydney at the same time. “There was no difference to the whole schedule,” he said.
On his five-hour layover, he went into the city and saw the Sydney Opera House. One of the things he wanted to do on the trip was actually see a couple of the places he’s flying to, he said.
“It’s all right just traveling around the world in 80 hours, but if you’re not seeing anything outside the airports, there’s nothing there to distinguish it,” he told Insider.
After his quick stop in the city, he took a taxi back to Sydney Airport for his eight-and-a-half-hour Jetstar flight to Honolulu, Hawaii, which cost him $530.88.
“I was really nervous by this point because I’d obviously seen the full Jetstar experience,” he said. He only had a two-hour layover in Honolulu before his next flight, and was anxious that the flight could be canceled.
He didn’t need to worry – his flight from Sydney to Honolulu was on time, but this was the low point of the journey, he said. The flight was packed, he was exhausted, and the person in front of him had reclined their seat into him, which he found annoying.
He felt like he’d had enough. He wanted to get off the plane, onto something comfortable, and go home, he said. But he wasn’t ready to give up — he was too far in.
He landed in Honolulu on time, which was nice, he said. Thanks to having Global Entry, he sped through customs in 20 minutes and was ready for his six-hour Southwest flight to Phoenix, Arizona.
Once he was stocked up on snacks and drinks from Starbucks in Honolulu, he got on the plane. “It was like being home,” he said.
The seats were really comfortable, they had WiFi on board, and there was open seating. “I was like, ‘This is like another world. I like this,'” he said.
He bought WiFi for $8, and finally felt like he could relax a bit, he said. As opposed to Southwest’s flights on the US mainland, the flight attendants gave passengers a snack box, which he liked.
He also started to chat with a friendly person who sat beside him. “When you’ve been in such a bad place like I was on the flight before, and you’re sat next to someone who’s being nice and friendly, it makes a really big difference,” he said.
After six hours, he was finally back in the mainland US and about to take his last flight back to Houston, Texas.
He grabbed a pizza from the airport during his three-hour layover in Phoenix, and got on a near-empty plane. There were only 20 people on it, he said.
On his two-hour flight, he had a chat with a flight attendant about his 80-hour journey, who was amazed. “I don’t know how you do it,” she told him.
Philips was more amazed at how she could do it. She’d been working a five-day trip flying around the US, he said.
All he had to do was sit and look out a window when she had to work, he said. “The flight attendants are the ones who deserve the recognition,” he said in a YouTube video about his 80-hour trip.
He said he got a free drink from the crew to celebrate the end of the journey.
After 79 hours, nine flights, and eight back-to-back layovers, he finally landed back in Houston. “You feel like there should be some sort of an achievement, but it’s a bit of an anti-climax,” he said.
He landed in Houston at 10 p.m. to a deserted airport. “The only person in this entire airport that cares that I’ve just done this is me,” he said.
After an hour-long Uber ride home, he immediately showered. Despite having a shower in his Athens hotel and at a lounge in Singapore, he felt grimy and disgusting at the end of the trip, he said.
He slept a lot over the next few days, and went to the chiropractor the day after landing, he told Insider.
One of the most challenging parts of the trip was planning it, Philips said.
He’d originally planned to fly with Level to Barcelona, then with Pegasus Airlines to Istanbul and FlyDubai to India, followed by Indigo to Bangkok, Air Asia to Tokyo, and Zip Air to San Francisco, he told Insider.
However Level changed his flight to the day before, meaning he’d be going over his 80 hours, he added.
So everything after Barcelona was rescheduled. He booked Scoot to Athens, then to Singapore, and on to Tokyo. But then Scoot rescheduled the Tokyo flight so he lost the Zip Air flight to San Francisco too — and ended up booking with Jetstar via Australia, he said.
It was a trip with highs and lows, but he’d do it again, Philips told Insider. He loved that he got to see the world in three days, but at times it was uncomfortable and stressful.
If he could do it differently, he’d be more rigid with his sleep schedule and bring a travel blanket with him, he said.
Next time, he’d try a different version, like flying around the world on Boeing 737s.