Year in Review 2021

This time 12 months ago I was in quarantine, having narrowly avoided the disruption of the alpha variant; today I am wrapping up a self-imposed isolation to keep omicron at bay. So COVID-19 continued to depress both opportunity and willingness to travel for much of the year – I will not even attempt to chart the ever-evolving UK restrictions which seemed to mutate more often than the virus itself. 2021 also took a particularly heavy toll on me personally – I lost three relatives, my marriage ended, and I racked up another nine weeks of furlough. Given all that, I hope things can only get better… but I thought the same at the end of 2020! Fortunately, there are reasons to be optimistic: I still have my job; am triple vaccinated; and – barring any surprises – will be boarding a flight tomorrow for a big adventure.


As with last year, I flew only four times, although with slightly more total mileage; the obvious highlight was joining an A380 service to Madrid in club. The Isle of Man offered up a new airport, and I visited BA’s lounge at Terminal 5B for the first time, but other than that it is hard to identify any novelty – the other three flights were entirely routine easyjet economy on A320s.


So I had to get my avgeek fix in other ways… let us not speak of how much I spent on memorabilia from Plane Reclaimers, or that my living room is slowly turning into an aviation museum as a result. I also visited Manchester to tick off G-BOAC from the list of BA Concordes, which puts me halfway towards my goal of seeing them all.


Mr & Mrs Smith Palacio Solecio, Malaga, Spain

As with flights, so my nights away saw no change from 2020, with 13 in total. The warmest welcome was to be found at Cubbon House in Douglas, where I stayed for three nights. Best property is hard to decide between the Kimpton Clocktower in Manchester, or Palacio Solecio in Malaga. Sadly my most-used brand was Premier Inn…


A particularly complicated promotion I chased this year saw me joining Intercontinental’s Ambassador programme – by doing so and then putting in a night at either an IC, Regent or Kimpton property I would unlock a free night. So far, straightforward: but both the qualifying and award stay had to be completed in specific timeframes, and the latter was only valid at IHG properties up to 40,000 points. Still, that Manchester trip got me the voucher, which saved me £118 at the Hotel Indigo Madrid during my tour of Spain. That doesn’t quite offset the £147 annual fee for Ambassador, but membership also comes with a free weekend night I hope to use tomorrow… check back next year to see if I’m still subscribing though!

My stand-out redemption for the year was trading 30K Marriott points for a bank holiday weekend in Oxford versus an asking price of £482 – although I think I’d have found a less convenient / fancy place to stay rather than fork out that much in cash. I also redeemed 40K IHG points for the Palacio Solecio, and used a part avios, part cash arrangement for the BA flight to Madrid. But generally speaking my balances have been growing with little chance to use them – I’m particularly nervous about the number of Virgin points I’m sitting on by now.


Unsurprisingly, I am reluctant to make predictions for 2022 – and very few ideas and intentions are backed by actual bookings. But I should be making a swift start to travel in January, and even if that trip turns out to be my only one it will put up some more impressive numbers than this year. Hopefully, though, it is the first of many.