It's a world record few might aspire to.

Spend more than 50 hours circumnavigating the globe on scheduled commercial airlines.

That's more than two solid days in the air, in transit lounges and departure queues.

For Kiwi airline executive Andrew Fisher, his 52-hour, 34-minute journey from Shanghai to Auckland to Buenos Aires to Amsterdam and back to Shanghai was the culmination of a teenage dream. The old record was 55 hours.

Advertisement

In some ways the vice-president of fleet planning for Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, who grew up in Christchurch, had been preparing for his record attempt since childhood, when his hobby was to map out airline routes.

Pre-internet this was done by asking travel agents for copies of printed timetables for all airlines, which his mum would then collect for him on her way home from work.

Fisher, who later wrote a thesis on airport transport accessibility in the Pacific, knew all the airline schedules and networks by heart.

"In those days it was kind of a joke, but it's become a major part of my career."

He first spotted his new record aged in his teens in the early 1990s, when it stood at 68 hours and the route was London-Copenhagen-Beijing-Shanghai-Los Angeles-Miami-Buenos Aires-London.

His journey was the first record-breaker to cross just four sectors, Fisher said.

Despite the ever-present risk of aircraft delays, weather or air traffic congestion spoiling his plans, he was always confident he would achieve his goal.

Ironically, his journey was almost scuppered before it began, after the 42-year-old left his passport at home before his first flight on Sunday.

Using the hashtag #theflyingfish the father-of-two posted selfies across four different time zones as he made his way around the world flying Air New Zealand, KLM and China Eastern.

He was kind to his fellow passengers, a selfie in Auckland showed him about to take a shower during a two-hour layover, but a 15-minute delay out of Auckland challenged, but did not defeat, his slim, one-hour connection between arriving in Buenos Aires and departing for Amsterdam.

Fisher would not say which class he travelled, but said other than sleeping just six or seven hours he passed the time by watching TV, reading and drinking lots of water.

"I didn't have any alcohol. I came off the last aircraft feeling really fresh, it must've been the adrenaline because when I got to the hotel I was exhausted."

Fisher was surprised by how much attention his efforts had received - some Chinese journalists slept at Shanghai's airport for fear of missing his arrival and there were more than 3.5 million views of a Chinese story about his journey.

Now back in Abu Dhabi, he was completing the most arduous part of the attempt, compiling all the evidence, from signed logbooks, witness statements, GPS logs, videos and photos to have the record accepted by Guinness World Records.

He should find out if he has been successful in the next few weeks, Fisher said.