2010 Review by Flight
Posted by Alex
So, the tally…just a hair shy of 50,000 miles (49,586 offcially, although I’m pretty sure a whacky route over the Himalayas on the way to Tokyo and some circling of London waiting to land probably pushes the actual number over the 50k mark!). That is almost exactly the equivalent of two trips around the world, at the equator! I flew a total of 24 flight segments (read: take-off/landing pairs) on six different airlines. Luckily, just shy of 50% of the miles were in business class, with another 32% in premium economy (a useful in-between step in terms of amenities and prices).
The airborne year started with a rare chance to buy/use an honest-to-goodness one-way ticket for the move – Icelandair from New York JFK to London Heathrow via Reykjavik Keflavik (also a rare opportunity to practice my Icelandic during all in-flight announcements). I remember virtually passing out from exhaustion and general weariness in the terminal at Reykjavik before boarding the connecting flight to London at 9am in the darkness of night.
In February, my first business trip to Milan Malpensa was a simple and short economy flight on British Airways, to be followed by much larger business trips! Then in March, Astrid and I got our introduction to the orange monster easyJet for our trip to Switzerland – going to Basel-Mulhouse-Freiberg on the French/German/Swiss border was ok, but they cancelled our return flight from Zurich and ultimately had to put us up for the night in what turned out to be a very nice hotel, but not until a few hours of waiting in the terminal and enjoying the not-so-nice words between the mostly-British crowd and the old Swiss ladies running the airport service desk (who, in an apparent sign of Swiss efficiency, were completely overmatched by the concept of a cancelled flight). Despite that experience, we went for easyJet again to go to Madrid in June, and only suffered a few hours of delay in coming home (and lots of running between gates trying to get a decent place in the queue).
The summer brought two big business trips for me – North America (to Montreal Trudeau, back from Baltimore BWI, on BA) and Japan (to Tokyo via Helsinki and returning from Osaka via Helsinki, on FinnAir, which was business class initiation!). At 4,860 miles, the Helsinki to Tokyo Narita leg was my longest single flight of the year; admittedly, this doesn’t hold a candle to the current longest non-stop flight in the world, which is (according to Wikipedia) Singapore Airlines Flight 21 from Newark to Singapore, which clocks in at a cozy 18 hours and 50 minutes to cover 9,535 miles (see Wikipedia’s page on Non-Stop Flights for more such factoids!).
The fall brought two more big business trips – China and New York. London Heathrow to/from Shanghai Pudong via Doha on Qatar Airways was a marathon trip, totalling itself almost 15,000 miles and taking more than 24 actual hours in each direction, including layovers at Qatar’s impressive premium terminal in Doha (where the outside temp in the middle of the night were over 90 F). Qatar Airways is one of only six airlines in the world that gets a 5-star rating, and the service in their business class (keep in mind, there is no first class) was certainly quite good! My trip to New York in November, close on the heels of Shanghai, was a standard British Airways 747 trip in World Traveller Plus, with pretty crappy BA service (after all, they have been on strike multiple times this year). You might be interested to know that BA is currently tied with Japan Airways as the largest 747 operator in the world, with a fleet of 57.
December brought the year’s last business trip, from London Gatwick to/from Dublin (my shortest flights of the year at just 301 miles), where I narrowly missed the problems caused while I was in Dublin by a major winter storm hitting both Ireland and the UK. Unfortunately, our plans for Astrid to join me in Dublin were dashed when her flight was cancelled. Finally, rounding out the year, our third easyJet adventure from London Gatwick to Hamburg and back from Berlin Schoenefeld to London Luton came off without a hitch – including flying on one of easyJet’s 8 remaining Boeing 737s (the oldest planes in a brand-new fleet that also includes 167 Frenchie Airbuses).
Of course, these 50,000 miles don’t include train trips – and I probably also travelled more miles on trains this year than any previous year (although I did rack them up when commuting from North Jersey to Rutgers, to be sure). But that is for another year-end post (I know, you were hoping this would be it :)).
Somehow, despite all the flying, I managed to primarily avoid the aviation headlines of the year, including strikes by British Airways cabin crew, the mysterious ash cloud that shut down European airports back in April, and the winter weather that has paralyzed both London and New York airports of late. The year left me with newfound appreciation for the finer elements of air travel, such as business class and airport lounges that enable you to focus on work pretty darn quickly even after travelling for 24 hours in a box hurtling high in the sky. What do I have to show for it? Silver membership with British Airways, which leads to more miles and lounge access, and a good but not terribly useful (yet) number of frequent-flier miles.
2011 is shaping up to perhaps be an even busier flying year; so far for the first half of the year I have two round trips penciled in to the west coast of North America (California in January and Vancouver in June) plus a trip to Taipei at the end of April/beginning of May. Happy Flying!