Well – it’s summertime, and that only means one thing here in the northern hemisphere: everyone is on vacation (or outside enjoying the nice weather) and it’s the time of year where less of the content I produce on a weekly basis actually gets seen. Therefore, it’s the perfect opportunity for me to take a little break myself and write about some fun stuff that I normally wouldn’t include in my regular content schedule. And what’s more fun (and offbeat) than trying to calculate Sam Chui’s net worth?
For those of you who have no idea who Sam Chui is (shame on you!), he’s basically the Godfather of AvGeekdom. He’s always been an “influencer” in the aviation and airline niche, and…well…if I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand. Since the entire point of this article is trying to calculate his net worth, let’s just jump right into that before anything else. I’ll follow it up with a brief history of Sam (and why he’s so significant) later in the post.
In order to properly calculate Sam Chui’s net worth, we first need to look at his annual income:
Ok, so, before I go any further with this, I do need to say that I’m totally going to be pulling the following facts and figures right out of my butt. I have no solid proof for the numbers I’m about to write, but as an aviation blogger and YouTuber myself, I do feel like I have enough experience and credibility in this niche to guess somewhat accurately(ish).
- YouTube ad revenue: $1.1 million – Sam is a total powerhouse when it comes to video reach, and everything he posts generates 500k to 1M views. As a matter of fact, according to Social Blade, he’s averaging 560,000 views a day across his entire YouTube channel (to put that into perspective, a little guy like me only averages 9,000 a day). Anyway, based on this number of views (and what other YouTubers with similar view counts have revealed about their ad revenue), he’s making good pretty money on ad revenue alone.
- Paid sponsorships: $75-100,000 – Again, I may be way off here but I’m going entirely on what I’m seeing him promote in his videos. I’ve done a few paid sponsorships myself and I’ve got a general idea of what the pay rates are, so it’s not too crazy to think that Sam is pulling $100k annually from sponsored content. If anything – I think my estimate is too low rather than too high.
- Blog revenue: $10,000 – I fully admit that I have no clue when it comes to estimating the annual revenue of samchui.com with any sort of accuracy. The problem is that he’s part of the BoardingArea network, which provides a platform for bloggers to host their content in exchange for a share in ad revenue (and other perks). Since I have no idea how much traffic his website gets, and how much BoardingArea is paying him to be hosted by them (in both ad revenue and partnership deals)…I’m just going to say $10,000. I could be way off.
- Miscellaneous investments: $50,000 – Again, I’m totally pulling numbers out of my butt here, but I feel like it’s reasonable that I’m *somewhat* accurate with this – at least with the premise that he’s got income from miscellaneous investments. You see, not only did Sam come from a wealthy family, he spent some time working in the financial industry (in Dubai) after college. He’s been around money his entire life, and I’d like to think that he’s learned a thing or two about acquiring appreciating assets along the way.
Then, we need to subtract his expenses:
By now, you may be thinking something along the lines of “Holy crap! Sam Chui’s net worth is absolutely insane!” But…hold on a second. Yes, he’s generating a lot of income on an annual basis. However, based on what I can tell (as an outside observer who doesn’t know him personally), he’s got some fairly significant expenses as well:
- Travel: $200,000 – Most people will naturally assume that Sam is paid by the airlines for nearly every flight he takes. I used to think this as well, but he recently posted a video in which he admitted that he pays for a vast majority of his flights himself. Very few airlines pay him to make videos (and other content), so most of everything you see on YouTube is paid for out of his own pocket. I figure $200,000 to be a somewhat conservative estimate based on the frequency of his flying and the types of products he reviews.
- Video editor: $50,000 – It’s true. Sam doesn’t edit all of his own videos (not that there’s any wrong with that). As a matter of fact, I think he was smart to hire an editor so that it would free him up to do other things (networking, attending events, etc). At this point I’m not sure if this editor is full time or part time, so I’m going with another conservative estimate of $50,000.
- Content writers: $50,000 – Something else that same hires other people for is content for his blog. Again, I’m not knocking this at all because I’d be doing the same thing with SANspotter.com if I could afford it.
- Home life: $200,000 – Sam is married, and I’m going to assume they are homeowners with a hefty mortgage (based fact that he used to be an investment banker and he’s still earning enough these days to support a large mortgage payment). $200,000 is a high estimate, but realistic if he’s ballin’ like I think he is.
Finally, what do we know about Sam’s assets?
Crickets are chirping in my brain as I begin to attempt to factor in owned assets into the “Sam Chui net worth” equation. The truth is…I have no freaking clue what significant assets this guy owns that are paid off and appreciating.
To keep things simple, let’s just say that Sam has $500k in home equity and $500k in various retirement accounts and investments. This isn’t unreasonable for someone of his age and history of high-income professions.
Based on the above information, I’m estimating the net worth of Sam Chui to be: $2,000,000
With roughly $1 million in assets and approximately $1 million in annual profit after expenses, $2,000,000 seems like a reasonable (best guess) number.
I’m willing to bet that most people think that Sam Chui is a 10X millionaire who has everything given to him for free. Yes, he’s fortunate enough to have connections that little guys like me will likely never have, but there are some rather significant expenses that offset his hefty income.
Still, a net worth of $2,000,000 is incredibly impressive for a guy who built a career from his biggest passion in life. Not only that, Sam has risen to the top of the AvGeek food chain – to the point where he’s known to people who have no interest (or knowledge) in the airline industry. Seriously – I’ve had completely random people (like coworkers and grocery store staff) ask me if I knew who Sam Chui is once they realize I’m an airline blogger / vlogger.
You’re probably wondering what kind of scenario involves revealing my interest in airlines to a grocery store employee…but that’s not the point of this post. The point you need to focus on is that Sam Chui is incredibly successful and he’s got one heck of a net worth to match.
My theory as to why Sam Chui’s net worth is higher than any other aviation “influencer”
The interesting thing about Sam is that he’s extremely proactive. What I mean by this is that everything that he’s ever done with his hobby of airlines and aviation has been to the extreme. For example:
- He is the top photographer (in terms of views) on airliners.net (and has been for many years). What’s more impressive about this stat is that he hasn’t uploaded any photos there since 2015.
- He currently has the largest social media following of any aviation influencer.
- He’s so well known in the industry that he is consistently given exclusive access to airline product and service offerings all over the world. Even to private events so exclusive that he is the only guest.
Sam Chui built his net worth around:
- Being extremely social
- Pushing the limits of what he’s capable of
- Being extremely passionate about what he does
For example, It was actually Sam who brought aerial airport photography to the mainstream in the early to mid 2000’s. At the time, the idea of helicopter photography over a major airport what was completely out of the realm of what normal aviation photographers such as myself were doing at the time. But now, it almost seems as if you’re not considered a legitimate aviation photographer unless you’re hanging out of a helicopter with a 500mm lens over a major airport on a regular basis.
It was such an extreme concept back then, but Sam became known for it and it propelled him to the top of one of the largest aviation and airline hobby websites in the world. Additionally, Sams easy-going personality and his love of meeting people allowed him to build an incredible network of personal connections within the airline industry.
The amount of inside connections that Sam has is completely mind-boggling to me
I’m always amazed at how he always seems to be given exclusive inside access to every airline product that he flies – even if he pays for the ticket himself.
He’s usually the first onboard (long before anyone else), he’s able to gather the entire crew for a group photos, he sometimes helps the cabin crew serve meals – it’s unreal. As a moderately introverted and shy individual myself, I can’t even imagine the conversations that must happen to allow him into those kinds of situations.
It’s these social interactions and valuable connections in the airline industry which have contributed so much to Sam Chui’s net worth.
On a side note: I wonder how many times he’s actually been flat out rejected by an airline for exclusive access to something? I mean, as busy as airline staff and cabin crews can be sometimes, it doesn’t seem unreasonable that he’s been told to pound sand (and take his seat like a normal passenger) every now and then. I wish he would talk about THAT kind of stuff more often!
What’s next for Sam? And what’s it going to take to propel his net worth to the next level?
From my lowly perspective, Sam is living the dream of nearly every AvGeek on the planet. He flies around the world for a living, he’s given exclusive access to special events, and he’s so well known that he’s almost always given special treatment on any flight that he takes. Seems like a pretty good life, doesn’t it?
However, as a full-time aviation YouTuber and blogger myself, I know exactly how difficult it is to create this type of content on a regular basis. There’s always immense pressure hanging over our shoulders, and we’ve always got to be ready to pivot and refocus on the next hot new thing. It’s not as easy as it may seem to do this type of work.
Sam seems like he’s in a pretty good position right now, arguably holding the number one spot at the top of the AvGeek food chain. Not only that, he’s got a net worth that most people in this world would envy – whether they’re in the airline industry or not. But at what point is he going to burn out? And where does he go from here? Do you think he’s content to stay at the level that he’s at for the rest of his life?
I sure as heck don’t think so
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Sam over the years, it’s that he loves to push the envelope of what’s possible. Not only within the airline and aviation hobby, but with himself as well.
Personally, I think YouTube is going to fizzle out and be far too competitive to succeed in within 10 to 15 years (even for mega stars such as Sam). By that point, I could see him moving onto an advisory or consultant role within the airline industry.
Thinking really long term, it wouldn’t seem unreasonable for Sam to finish out his career as a successful airline executive. Heck, is an airline called “FlySam” on the horizon? Time will tell…