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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 17 August 2018

This UAE resident just flew around the world in record time 

Abu Dhabi resident Andrew Fisher, a fleet planner for Etihad Airways, has smashed the world record for flying around the world using scheduled flights 

Complete with passport, Andrew departs Abu Dhabi International Airport for Shanghai, where his record-breaking journey began.
Complete with passport, Andrew departs Abu Dhabi International Airport for Shanghai, where his record-breaking journey began.

When Andrew Fisher arrived at Abu Dhabi airport last month to depart on his record-breaking trip around the world, something was missing. The 42 year old New Zealander, a fleet planner for Etihad Airways, had forgotten his passport.

Fortunately, Fisher's number one travel rule - to always arrive at the airport in plenty of time and plan for failure - stood him in good stead. He simply went home, picked up his passport, and returned to the airport.

Andrew returns successfully to Shanghai.
Andrew returns successfully to Shanghai.

Andrew's world record-breaking attempt officially began in Shanghai on January 21. Departing China at just after 2am on an 11-hour Air New Zealand flight to Auckland, Fisher then had 2.5 hours before he took off on another 11-hour sector on the same airline, to Buenos Aires. He then had just 55 minutes in Buenos Aires before his next connection, a 12.5 hour KLM flight to Amsterdam. Finally, after another 2.5-hour layover, there was another flight of 10 hours 17 minutes with China Eastern, arriving in Shanghai at 6.46am on January 23.

Fisher had broken the world record in two ways - firstly, by shaving a hefty 3 hours and 13 minutes off the previous record, set last year by Gil Azevedo, a Portuguese banker living in Dubai, and secondly, by being the first person to break the record using just four flight sectors.

Andrew Fisher has broken the world record for flying around the world in the shortest possible time using scheduled aircraft
Andrew Fisher has broken the world record for flying around the world in the shortest possible time using scheduled aircraft

"It's an incredible feeling to have finally achieved my dream", Fisher said after touching down at Pudong International Airport in Shanghai. "Although I only managed 16 hours of sleep throughout the journey, I still felt fresh, perhaps due to the adrenaline and excitement at completing this unique experience." It may also have been due to the fact that Fisher treated himself to upgrades from economy class, admitting: "I like to travel comfortably."

Fisher credits the fact that he was able to cover the 41,375km trip in just four flights instead of the previous five, as critical to his success. "With the advent of new longer range and fuel-efficient aircraft over the years, airlines have been able to introduce non-stop long haul flights and add frequencies that facilitiated my attempt," he said. "Planning the trip was a matter of identifying the most suitable qualifying antipodal city pairs and then finding the best routes, schedules and tightest possible connections within the right window of opportunity."

Andrew Fisher returns successfully to Shanghai. Etihad Airways
Andrew Fisher returns successfully to Shanghai. Etihad Airways

A self-confessed aviation geek, Fisher, who hails from Christchurch, said long-haul travel had always been part of his life and from an early age he had enjoyed a passion for airline timetables and schedules. "Whenever any family or friends wanted to know how to get from A to B with a certain stopover, such as New Zealand to Europe via Mumbai, I’d present them with routes that not many travel agents would have picked."

Andrew sits with an airport official in Shanghai to validate his paperwork. Etihad Airways
Andrew sits with an airport official in Shanghai to validate his paperwork. Etihad Airways

Fisher had also had his eye on the world record since 1993, when the record was 68 hours. Having previously identified 2 or 3 different opportunities for breaking the record, which he did not go through with for logistical reasons, this was his first attempt. Despite his job, Fisher planned and funded the trip himself, and would encourage others to do the same. "Never give up on your dream, no matter how unrealistic it might seem to others. Take every opportunity to follow your passion."

Fisher says that despite the relatively smooth completion of his mission, there were nail-biting moments, mostly caused by minor flight delays. "All the flight sectors were delayed marginally, but the only time I started to worry was in Auckland, when the connecting flight to Buenos Aires was showing a 15 minute delay. The connecting time in Buenos Aires was only 55 minutes, so a 15 minute delay there could have been serious, and I didn't know Buenos Aires airport as well as some of the others. Fortunately because of flight schedule padding [where airlines effectively extend the length of time allocated for each flight beyond the actual flight time], even though we were 20 to 30 minutes late taking off we still managed to land 5 minutes ahead of schedule."

Just as he was about to depart Auckland, Fisher also kicked himself for not remembering to check in online for the Buenos Aires to Amsterdam flight. "I'd had a relatively leisurely layover but just managed to get online on my phone and check in before we took off," he said.

Andrew takes a short transit break in Amsterdam.
Andrew takes a short transit break in Amsterdam.

Fisher has other tips for travellers, gleaned from years of frequent flying, the most important of which is "be prepared." This also helped in planning and executing his world record, since ever stage of the trip had to be documented in the form of photographs and signed forms and log books. "Plan for failures and always have contingencies in place," he says. "Much to the irritation of the people I am travelling with, I always make sure to arrive at the airport in plenty of time and I build in lots of buffers."

In terms of travel health, Fisher says the most important thing is to stay hydrated. "Water is useful, but it passes through the body quickly so it's better to mix it with fruit juice," he says. His favourite airport is Singapore's Changi, because of its wellness facilities and relaxing atmosphere.

This week, Fisher was treated to a special reception by his colleagues at Etihad Airways HQ, and says he thinks his current record won't be broken any time soon. Yet he isn't resting on his laurels. "I'm planning on going for some other, similar record attempts," he says.

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Read more:

Etihad worker plans round the world record attempt

On the move: modern air safety is a wonder in our fractured world

Flying into the future: how airports around the world are being redefined

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