2019 Year in Review and YWW Index

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Greetings from a train from Belfast to Dublin!! Every year, I take a look back on my year of travel and take a look at the year ahead. You can check out prior years here: 2018, 2017201620152014201320122011. This year, I actually traveled more than in the last few years, but I’ve also been super busy with work (the Trump Administration keeps me occupied), so I’m pretty far behind on posting trip reports. I do hope to finish posting my Rio trip report, and going back and covering my Paris and Luxembourg trip, before tackling my current Irish Adventure. But no promises.

The grand total in the air was 86,375 miles, and I hit five continents. I easily requalified for Delta Silver Medallion status, and will be rolling over enough MQMs that I should hit Gold by the middle of the year.

World map showing flights flown in

My 2019 in the Air, courtesy of GCmap.com

  • Total continents: 5 (all repeats, still haven’t hit Antarctica)
  • Total countries (excluding US and airport connections): 12
  • New countries: Zimbabwe, Zambia, Luxembourg, Slovenia

The Year in the Air:

I used a lot of miles this year.

First, my round-the-world January adventure was actually four different awards: an Aeroplan ticket in South African business class from New York to Victoria Falls via JNB for 75,000 miles, a Flying Blue ticket from Victoria Falls to Cape Town in Kenya economy class for 15,000 miles, an Iberia Avios ticket with one way in economy and one way in business on Cathay roundtrip from Hong Kong to Chiang Mai for 25,500 miles, and an Alaska ticket from Cape Town to Hong Kong in Cathay Business and Hong Kong to Chicago in Cathay First for 70,000 miles.

Then for my May trip to Torremolinos, I took advantage of a Delta sale and booked a 98,000 Skymiles roundtrip flight in Delta business class from DC to Malaga via New York.

Finally, for my Slovenia/Venice trip, I used 62,960 Avianca miles to fly SAS business class from DC to Copenhagen, and then Adria economy onward to Ljubljana. For the return, I used 66,500 Iberia Avios miles to fly Iberia business class from Venice to Madrid to JFK.

Some statistics and data, helpfully tracked on Flightmemory.com

  • Total flights: 47
  • Different airlines: 16!!
  • New airlines: 5 (Sun Country, Adria, Kenya Airways, Luxair, and Cathay Dragon)
  • Mileage: 86,375
  • Total airports: 27
  • Shortest flight: by mileage – Luxembourg to Paris (170 miles); by flight time – Washington National to New York JFK (1 hour)
  • Longest flight: New York-JFK to Johannesburg (14 hours 45 minutes, 7,982 miles)
  • New airports: LUX, VCE, LJU, AGP, CNX, VFA
  • Most common airport: DCA – 21 arrivals or departures
  • New planes: A350
  • Most common plane: Airbus A320 – 8 flights (17%)
  • Coach (including economy plus-type) = 68%
  • Premium cabin (business and domestic first) = 32%

Delta continued to shine, and I had excellent experiences on my 24 flights -51% of my flying. I also did long-haul transatlantic flying on its partners Virgin Atlantic and Air France, plus one leg on Skyteam member Kenya Airways.

I continued to shy away from American, after years as an American elite member (and even though I’d given me an unsolicited status challenge), and indeed the worst flight experience I had in the year was being yelled at while boarding with elites by a horrid ground staff member in Phoenix that I needed to buy a smaller carry-on bag because there’s no way it would fit on any plane  (it is a standard Travelpro carry-on that fits on most planes, including on that plane which I had flown from LAX to PHX on).  The nastiness and unpleasantness of that woman and the janky plane made that PHX-DCA flight the worst of the year, though the chaos of Kenya Airways was a close second. (Yes, American, that’s your competition…). I also had IRROPS poorly handled on the outbound of that flight, which led to me being rebooked onto Alaska; after that experience in March, I successfully avoided American for the rest of 2019, which is no easy feat given that my home airport is an American hub…I did end up on a lot of other Oneworld carriers, though, from my mileage redemptions on Iberia and Cathay.

And despite living in Washington, where Dulles is United’s hub, I flew zero flights on United in 2019. I did have a few Star Alliance flights, one of which was my favorite flight of the year: the short-hop from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls in South African business, which was just a cool trip on an empty widebody. (My flight in Cathay First from Hong Kong to Chicago was great too, but the ground experience was disappointing.)

Skyteam/Delta JV:  30 flights (64%)
Delta – 24
Air France – 2
Virgin Atlantic – 2
Kenya Airways – 1
Oneworld: 11 flights (23%)
American – 3
Cathay Pacific – 2
Cathay Dragon – 2
Iberia – 2
Star Alliance: 4 flights (9%)
South African – 2
SAS – 1
Adria – 1
Unaffiliated: 4 flights (9%)
Alaska – 2
Sun Country – 1
Aer Lingus -1

Where I laid my head:

I spent 48 nights in hotels or Airbnbs this year, spread over 28 different properties—in addition to a lot of nights on planes and at friends and family. The property I enjoyed the most was the Victoria Falls Safari Club and the worst stay was definitely the Park Inn by Radisson Cape Town Foreshore (oddly, back-to-back stays). I’ve listed all of the hotels I stayed at below, with links where I’ve reviewed them.

Hilton was my most frequented chain, with 11 nights at 7 properties, making good use of my Diamond status from being an Aspire cardholder. I was a Marriott Bonvoy Platinum member the whole year, but only spent 6 nights at 4 properties. And although I did get free breakfast at all of them, I didn’t experience much of a difference from being a Gold member—only one property even had a lounge and I didn’t get meaningful upgrades at any of them. Surprisingly, I spent 9 nights at Radisson properties—even more surprisingly, the majority of those nights were in the U.S. They were fine. I actually stayed at a fair number of independent properties.

Multiple stay brands:
Hilton – 11 nights, 7 stays (23%/25%)
Radisson – 9 nights, 5 stays (19%/18%)
IHG – 8 nights, 5 stays (17%/18%)
Bonvoy – 6 nights, 4 stays (13%/14%)
Accor – 3 nights, 2 stays (6%/7%)
Hyatt – 1 night, 1 stay (2%/4%)

The Year Ahead:

Looking ahead, I already have planned a lot of travel—including three days in Puerto Vallarta in January, Japan in February and March, a return to Torremolinos in May, Porto in June/July, and a few domestic trips as well.  I am thinking about Manchester for Pride at the end of August, and combining that with either Inverness and Aberdeen, or Nice and the French Riviera. My Japan and Torremolinos trips are using miles.  For Japan, it will be a fairly straightforward trip, flying JAL Business Class on an AA award DCA-JFK-HND on the outbound, and a United award flying ANA Business ITM-NRT-IAD on the return.  Torremolinos, on the other hand, has become a mess. Delta has eliminated its nonstop to Malaga from JFK this year. I was originally booked on Iberia business class JFK-MAD-AGP. When Iberia announced IAD service, I tried to book that, but Iberia would only allow me to do that by cancelling and rebooking, and it took over a week for me to get my miles returned… meaning availability in business was gone.  Plus, for some reason you can’t get the IAD flight to ticket with connecting flights within the MCT, even on the phone with Iberia, so I ended up having to book a separate ticket from MAD to AGP along with my Premium Economy IAD-MAD flight, and just have to hope the connection works. (I am pondering booking a refundable MAD-AGP Flying Blue award on Air Europa for later in the afternoon as a backup, or a refundable train ticket.) The return also is a mess, as I tried and failed for weeks to find a decent award option. I ended up booking an Aeroplan award from Malaga to Lisbon to Zurich to DC. The first leg will be on a turboprop, then TAP Business, and the last leg in Swiss Business Class, a first for me. The connection times are both short, so I’ve been hoping somehow to get a schedule change that will get me booked on a more direct route- but so far, zilch. It’s one ticket, though, so if I misconnect at all I’m protected.

Here’s what I currently have booked:

World map showing flight routes

Travel planned for January to July 2020. (GCmap.com)

2019 You Went Where Index:

Destination Reports and Trip Overviews:
Exploring Venice: Don’t Go to Venice in July
Checking in and Anatomy of a Trip/Rio Preview
Trains, Planes, and Automobiles (ok, bus, train, and vaporetto): Getting from Piran to Venice
The Slovenian Coast: Piran and Portoroz
Exploring Central Slovenia: Lake Bled, Vintgar Gorge, Bohinj, Skocjan Caves, and the Technical Museum
Two Days in Ljubljana
Exploring Malaga and Torremolinos
A Different Side of Hong Kong
Three Days in Chiang Mai
A Weekend in Cape Town
Victoria Falls 

Reviewed Flights, Airports, and Lounges:
Delta’s New International Main Cabin Service: Atlanta to Rio de Janeiro in Comfort Plus; Skyclub ATL Concourse F
Iberia Business Class Venice to Madrid to New York (A350), Marco Polo Lounge Venice
SAS Lounge Copenhagen and Adria Airways Copenhagen to Ljubljana
Lufthansa and Turkish Lounges Dulles and SAS A330 Business Class Washington to Copenhagen
Delta One New York to Malaga and back, Sala VIP Malaga
Cathay Pacific First Class HKG to ORD, The Pier and the Wing HKG, ORD Flagship Lounge, and American Economy ORD to DCA
Cathay Dragon Business Class Chiang Mai to Hong Kong, Thai Royal Orchid Lounge CNX
Cathay Dragon Economy Hong Kong to Chiang Mai
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Cape Town to Hong Kong
Kenya Airways Victoria Falls to Cape Town, Economy; Dzimbahwe Executive Lounge
South African Business Class Johannesburg to Victoria Falls and Premium Lounge Johannesburg
Swiss Lounge JFK, and South African Airways A340 Business Class New York to Johannesburg
Virgin Atlantic Economy London to Washington and No. 1 Lounge Heathrow
Air France 787 Economy Detroit to Paris, Yotelair and Instant Paris Lounge, and Paris to London (technically 2018)

Hotels:

Note not all hotels have been reviewed, but happy to share my experiences if you have questions. (Some more to reviews forthcoming, as well.)
Hilton Garden Inn Dublin Custom House
Hilton Belfast
Radisson Blu Royal Dublin
Millennium Hilton New York Downtown
Hilton Rio de Janeiro Copacabana
The Nines Portland
Radisson Red Portland (OR)
Park Inn by Radisson Luxembourg City
Mercure Paris Bastille Marais
InterContinental Hotels Paris – Le Grand
ibis Paris CDG Airport Hotel
The Gritti Palace, Venice, a Luxury Collection Hotel
Four Points by Sheraton Ljubljana Mons
Intercontinental Ljubljana
Radisson Blu Minneapolis Downtown
Hotel Ritual Torremolinos
DoubleTree by Hilton New York – Times Square South
Triada Palm Springs
Hilton Palm Springs
Holiday Inn Los Angeles – LAX
Intercontinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong
Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Tsim Sha Tsui
Holiday Inn Chiang Mai
Park Inn Cape Town Foreshore
Victoria Falls Safari Club
Almar Puerto Vallarta
Hilton Garden Inn JFK Airport
Intercontinental London Park Lane, Conrad London St. James, and Hotel Indigo-London Paddington (technically 2018)

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