Year in Review 2020

Ok, so when I said last year that I hoped not to fly Ryanair again, this wasn’t quite what I meant…

Obviously COVID-19 completely rewrote the script for 2020, eliminating almost all my travel – not just international, but domestic trips and my monthly commutes to Heathrow too (at least I held onto my – already 95% remote – job, unlike many in the aviation industry). As I write this, I’m sitting out a ten day quarantine in the UK, having already observed one in the Netherlands earlier this month to enable Christmas with our dutch family. With the Brexit transition deal expiring tonight and a super-strain emerging in London and the east, I can’t see travellers from the UK being welcome anywhere soon. So I suspect a slow start to my 2021 adventures too… but here’s a look back on what little I did manage for 2020.

all that was…

My total flying amounts to just four flights and 1445 miles, lows not seen since 2006. Things started well enough in March, with a Club Europe return to Frankfurt (my only new airport this year) intended to kick off a year of both status-chasing and attending climbing events. Hard to say which seems the more improbable now! There then followed a 279 day gap – for context, pre-COVID I averaged a flight every 28 days – before a familiar BRS-AMS-BRS on KLM Cityhopper.

My hotel stays are no more exciting. The roll call consists of: the Moxy LHR (two separate nights); the ibis LHR (one night); the Holiday Inn Frankfurt airport (two separate nights); and the Moxy Darmstadt. h I guess I award that pick of the bunch as the only one not to be booked on the basis of price and airport proximity!

…and could have been…

These minor travels are all the more disappointing considering that I was hoping for big things in 2020: so many plans were already in place that I ended up with eleven cancelled flights. Those included various unfamiliar airlines, airports and aircraft, with even a private jet thrown in the mix! I’d also have upped my country count by three, as per my “20 by 2020” goal.

Instead I became familiar with a variety of airline call centres and help desks… Ultimately I got everything refunded – except for a trip which is rebooked for 2021 – but it took me nearly nine months to resolve one of them, trapped in a loop between operator, travel agent and credit card company.

…and never shall be again

Sadder still were the opportunities missed which will never return, even in a post-COVID world.

For instance, KLM’s first ever flight was on May 17th 1920, from London to Amsterdam. I hoped to mark the 100th anniversary by taking an equivalent flight, but the moment is of course past (and went largely unobserved).

I’d also collected enough avios for a first class flight LHR-JFK, and identified availability in the nose of a BA 747 for my birthday. But even if transatlantic flights had been an option in November, the fleet had already been retired by then.

That also eliminates any further chance to fly in the Club World upper deck, although at least that is something which has featured a few times in my flying history. Similarly, my 2015 flight on the BA1 ‘babybus’ will now be my only such experience, as the sole remaining A318 was also removed from service. I doubt Norwegian will ever again operate its fleet of longhaul 787s (sampled in 2018) even if it can survive; and flybe simply didn’t.

With previous such retirements, there have usually been events to mark the occasion – and I’ve been lucky enough to fly on two final flights, of the BA 737 and the KLM Fokker 70. At the start of the year, I had my eye on another – the last passenger operation of a KLM 747 ‘combi’ – but it became impossible to determine when that would be until after it happened. Virgin managed a last supper for its 747s – admittedly, on the ground – but restrictions on travel between COVID tiers meant I couldn’t try to attend. For BA’s queens of the skies there was even less fanfare – although I did get some memorabilia from one via salvage company Plane Reclaimers – although a few frames have evaded the scrapheap so I hope to visit them eventually.

~

Beyond such vague ideas, it makes no sense to make predictions for 2021. I have six flights currently booked, but who knows if they’ll fly or if I’ll be allowed to board them. However, one side effect of this year is that I’ll never take the opportunity to travel for granted: for now, I’ll continue to hope to have such opportunities again before the year is out.