The Most Expensive Commercial Flight Ticket of All Time

by SharonKurheg

If money is no object, you can pay a whole, WHOLE lot for a plane ride. I mean, sure, some millionaires OWN their own planes. But if you have little to no concern about price, you can also hire a private jet. The cost to charter a plane can range anywhere from $1,200 – $10,000 per billable flight hour (that range includes a wide variety of aircraft from small turboprops to the most expensive luxury business jets), which can be quite a pretty penny for some of those halfway-around-the-world trips.

But let’s say you’re rich, but not THAT rich. Say you’re “not rich enough” to hire a private jet, but are more than able to get the best that money can buy on a commercial airline.

If you’re a travel geek, you know that the cost of flights fluctuates constantly, depending upon demand. That being said, in February 2024, reported (*cough* via AI technology and then fine-tuned and verified for accuracy by a member of GOBankingRates’ editorial team *cough*) that the most expensive airline ticket in the world was going for upwards of $66,000 or more. That would guarantee you the Residence by Etihad Airways on their A380 aircraft. It gave you:

  • A private suite
  • A personal butler (welp, I’m out)
  • Chef-prepared meals
  • Limo service and private check-in
  • Unmatched privacy and comfort

Julian Hayward said “hold my beer”

Believe it or not, there was a one-time-only airline price that was significantly higher than that.

It was purchased by one Julian Hayward in 2007. Hayward, then 39, was a retired British entrepreneur from the dot com era and was living in Sydney. He bought two first-class seats from Sydney to Singapore for the jaw-dropping amount of $123,000 AUD ($180,380 US).

Oh, and by the way, that wasn’t for a round-trip ticket. Nope, just a one-way. He’d have to find his own way home.

Why did he pay that much?

For charity. Well, and to make history too, I guess.

Hayward made the winning bid on an auction that had been organized by Singapore Airlines. Their goal was to get publicity for their (then) brand-spanking-new A380 and raise money for charity (they eventually raised $1.9 million).

The bidding starts low – just $380 AUD, but you can only imagine how fast the bids rose since the winner would get access to the airline’s first-class seat on its inaugural flight from Sydney to Singapore.

a large airplane on a runway

Example image by Kentaro Iemoto from Tokyo, Japan (Singapore Airlines A380-800(9V-SKD)) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons / Original A380 livery can be seen here

What was it like?

That first A380 flight, flight number SQ380, was between Sydney and Singapore, as we mentioned. Julian Hayward was one of the first 455 passengers to experience it and, in fact, the first passenger to board.

Hayward was nice enough to write about the experience. This was his report, via Business Traveler in December, 2007. However, there were other reports of the flight, as well:

What about nowadays?

We haven’t heard much about Hayward since that historic ride. However Simple Flying reports that the plane, registered as 9V-SKA, was retired on June 11, 2017. They followed up in 2021 and said that parts of the plane’s skin were removed and turned into aviation tags to raise money for charity.

a close up of a tag

PC: Aviationtag

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Retired Gambler June 21, 2024 - 3:16 pm

FYI – to use the term “millionaire” to describe someone that owns their own plane (or even usually flies private on jet sharing aircraft) is not correct. You do realize being a “millionaire” isn’t that big a deal now right? Personally I have a net worth in the 6-8 million range (fluctuates based on stock market and other factors) and there is no way I could afford to own a plane or even have a Net Jets subscription. You need to be a billionaire to justify a private jet and a centi-millionaire to a jet sharing arrangement (unless there is business write off involved).

SharonKurheg June 21, 2024 - 5:31 pm

I promise there are MANY people who are “only” millionaires who own (and sometimes fly) their own plane. My friend does and although he and his husband are doing OK, they’re definitely not billionaires.


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