Judd Apatow of Oh, the Places We See set the theme for Lens Artist Challenge 157 – Getting Away. I’m catching up with this series because that was last week’s challenge. The best example of getting away I have comes from January 2015 when I booked an around-the-world trip with Delta Air Lines SkyMiles.

In 2014, Delta announced it was ending the ability to book around-the-world trips at the end of the year. It took 280,000 SkyMiles for one round-the-world ticket in business class. The flights could be on Delta or any of its SkyTeam partners. At that time, I had almost 1.5 million SkyMiles in my account and booked a ticket shortly after the announcement.

Even in 2014, 280,000 miles for one of these tickets was a bargain considering that a round trip ticket to Asia required 140,000 miles. Today, Delta expects that customers will pay more than 280,000 SkyMiles for a single international roundtrip in business class. Ah, the good old days.

I booked the maximum number of flights and stopovers permitted under the rules of the program. There were 15 flights (all in business class) with six official stopovers.  Six flights were on Korean Air, three on Aeroflot, three on Delta, two on Kenya Airways, and one on KLM. The stops were in Manila, Philippines (MNL), Bangkok, Thailand (BKK), Mumbai, India (BOM), Nairobi, Kenya (NBO), Sofia, Bulgaria (SOF), and Lima, Peru (LIM).  In addition I was able to spend a night in Amsterdam, Netherlands (AMS) thanks to an 18-hour overnight layover that didn’t count as an official stop under the rules of the program. 

The total distance flown was 38,415 air miles! The entire trip was compressed into only 20 days away from home. Having more time away would have been preferable, but I had other obligations to consider.

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Since the entire whirlwind getaway is impossible to cover in a post of any reasonable length, I’ll offer a few photos from the stopover and airline I enjoyed most. 

This was my first visit to Kenya and first real safari.  Two days on the Maasai Mara provided an introduction to safari life.  Staying in a tent made the experience authentic.20150121_235251  20150121_233731

The biggest surprise of the trip was how much I was impressed by Aeroflot Airlines. I had two Aeroflot flights between Moscow and Sofia, Bulgaria and one flight from Moscow and Amsterdam. Compared to other European carriers, Aeroflot offered far superior seats and service on these intra-Europe flights.

For intra-Europe flights, most European airlines use 3-3 seating in business class and block the middle seat.  Service is not much better than what used to be served in coach. 

In contrast, Aeroflot A320s and 737s have large recliner seats arranged 2-2 with seatback video, and the service is comparable to international business class on any airline.

Here’s a typical meal that was served on the Aeroflot flights.  

Aeroflot offered an amenity kit on these intra-Europe flights as well as tablets with built-in entertainment in addition to seatback screens and noise-cancelling headphones.

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Aeroflot amenity kit, entertainment tablet and noise-cancelling headphones.

The service of the Aeroflot flight attendants rivaled what I’ve experienced on the best Asian airlines.  One issue I didn’t anticipate was the Russian ability to keep airports open in a blizzard and their use of bus gates. 

Arriving at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport from Nairobi, I was wearing very lightweight clothing expecting to deplane via a jetbridge.  Instead, the Kenya Airways flight was given a bus gate making it necessary to walk outside from the plane to the bus and from the bus to the terminal.  Brrr! 

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Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport (SVO) January 2015. Lesson learned, I made sure to dress warmly for the flight from Sofia to Moscow. 

Even though Aeroflot was outstanding, I won’t be making any more trips to Russia as long a Putin is in power.  Although he is not the only autocrat in the world, he is one of the more obnoxious ones.

Final Thought 

This trip is my idea of a real getaway.  It was possible only because of frequent flyer miles.  If I had to pay for these flights, the cost could easily  exceed $50,000.