Well-known aviation vlogger Sam Chui always seems to be jetting off somewhere cool. Whether it’s enjoying business class on an ultra-long-haul trip, bush flying in Africa or checking out the flashiest private planes in the world, it’s a lifestyle most avgeeks can only dream about.

But how does Sam fund this lifestyle? Here’s what you need to know.

Becoming an influencer

Starting out, Sam worked in a high paying banking job, funding his travel lifestyle through his salary. From 2017 onwards, he began to take his YouTube work seriously, but still did his video work on the side of his day job. But the audience was growing, and so was the advertising revenue. At some points, his earnings from YouTube even surpassed what he was making in his day job.

Sam Chui Air Zimbabwe

Photo: Sam Chui

He ran the YouTube channel in parallel with his main job for as long as he could, but in April 2018, he finally took the plunge and quit his job to focus on video creation full time. Although many said he was crazy to give up such a good career, Sam knew his passion lay in aviation, and wanted to have more time to devote to it.

Since then, his channel has gone from strength to strength, amassing more than three million subscribers. As a significant influencer with an enormous reach, many started to wonder if Sam was in the pocket of the airlines. Speaking to Simple Flying, he admitted,

“I’ve never really clarified that very well.”

sam chui flight review

Photo: Sam Chui

Invited to fly, but not paid to fly

Sam revealed that he is sometimes invited along on special flights by airlines. However, while this would cover the cost of the fare, it wouldn’t pay for Sam’s time or leave him with anything other than the video footage he gets of the flight. He explained,

“Airlines do invite me to go on flights. As media, we sometimes get to go on inaugural flights or launch flights. I do have a lot of opportunities like this, but I don’t get paid to go on the flight, which is a different thing.”


Photo: Sam Chui

Much of the time, Sam pays his own fare to take the flights too. He does this from his YouTube proceeds, which come from advertisers and the numbers of views his videos get. He quipped,

“Consider the impact of COVID – the industry has lost about $200 billion or $300 billion collectively. What airline has money to pay me to fly around?”

Not paid for opinion

Some have argued that, because some of Sam’s reviews are fairly positive, he must be getting paid off by the airline to give them a glowing review. But that’s not the case at all, as Sam explained,

“Just because my video is positive, it doesn’t mean that I’m getting paid by the airline. These days, airlines do want to hear your opinions. When they invite you on a flight, they actually want your honest opinion on how you feel about the product.

“I have always included a pros and cons aspect in my reviews, and I like to keep it constructive. I never do twists or sensationalist kinds of comments. Some people like to do that kind of thing to get more hits on YouTube, which is a strategy I also understand.”


Photo: Sam Chui

I think criticism is an art. You have to make the criticism in the right way so people can understand it.

Anyone who has watched several of Sam’s video reviews will know that it’s not always a positive experience. He likes to highlight when airlines have done well and the good onboard products, but he’s not afraid to call out mistakes, poor service and bad experiences either.

The benefits of Sam’s influence

Sam takes around 100 flights a year. That’s a pretty tough schedule for anyone, averaging one flight every 3 – 4 days or so. But he no longer reviews just any old flight; he looks for the rare, the unusual and the special opportunities to share with his viewers.

Some say that, because Sam is so well know, he gets treated better on his flights. While that may be true, not everything he experiences is unique to him. He said,

“If you were to go on the same plane, the seats are the same, the meals are the same, the people around are the same, the galleys the same, the cockpit the same…

“At the end of the day, it is my personal experience. 500 passengers inside an A380 would have 500 different experiences and opinion. No experiences are the same. My video represents my own experience.”


Photo: Sam Chui

As such, there is relevance for anyone in these flight reviews, even if they aren’t as well known! In fact, his influence and status as the world’s most followed aviation YouTuber means he can often get access to places the average avgeek could not.

“I have the muscle to negotiate with airlines, saying I’d like to put a GoPro in the cockpit, I’d like to produce better content than most other guys. So, in return for my audience’s appreciation, I work harder. I try to negotiate to get better access so I can make better content.

“I think I am no longer doing airline reviews nowadays. Instead, I just want my audience to enjoy the aviation experience with me, whether is flying supersonic Concorde or going to the world’s most dangerous airports, or at an airshow. It is all part of the aviation experience for the enjoyment of aviation fans.”

I think we can all agree that Sam’s efforts result in some stunning videos, helping us all appreciate aviation just a little bit more.

Source: simpleflying.com

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