My “Worst” Layovers

Flying out of a smaller city like Dayton, I’m used to having flight layovers on the way to nearly everywhere I travel. While any layover is going to lengthen a trip, one of the most common complaints I hear from traveling companions is when a layover forces them to fly east to go west, or vice versa.

Traveling east (DAY–IAD) to go west (TUL)

[All maps in this post are generated by Paul Bogard using the Great Circle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz]

I started thinking about a way to quantify how bad a layover was, and ultimately decided that it would be best to compare the sum of the (great circle) distances for each of the flights flown compared to the (great circle) distance of a direct flight from the origin to the destination:

{ratio}_{layover} = \dfrac{distance_1+distance_2+\ldots+distance_n}{distance_\text{direct}}

This would give me a ratio of how much further I flew than I needed to, where a higher ratio would mean a worse layover. A ratio of 2 would mean I flew twice as far as I needed to, a ratio of 3 would mean three times as far, and so on. A ratio of 1 would mean a layover didn’t add any extra distance at all.

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2018 Year in Travel

In 2018, I visited Australia and New Zealand, each for the first time. Other than that, my travel was largely similar in nature and quantity to 2017 – frequent routine business trips, with a few weekend vacations thrown in.

Hotels

I stayed in hotels a record 124 nights this year. Business travel was down slightly, but my three-week Australia and New Zealand vacation added a lot of personal hotel nights.

Flights

I ended up flying 109 flights this year, totaling 87,306 miles (140,505 km).

My 2018 flights worldwide
My 2018 flights within the United States

Maps generated by Paul Bogard using the using the Great Circle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz

New Airports

I visited eight airports for the first time this year:

  • #79 – SYD (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia)
  • #80 – PER (Perth, Western Australia, Australia)
  • #81 – MEL (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)
  • #82 – CHC (Christchurch, New Zealand)
  • #83 – DUD (Dunedin, New Zealand)
  • #84 – AKL (Auckland, New Zealand)
  • #85 – LBB (Lubbock, Texas, United States)
  • #86 – PVD (Providence, Rhode Island, United States)

With 86 airports visited to date, I have only 14 to go to reach my goal of visiting 100 airports.

New Airlines

I flew on two airlines for the first time this year:

New Aircraft

I flew on three aircraft families for the first time this year; all three were from my Australia and New Zealand vacation.

Airbus A380
Boeing 787
ATR 72

Aircraft illustrations created by Norebbo

Superlatives

My longest flight was 8,580 miles (13,808 km) from Dallas to Sydney. This 17–hour flight was the longest I’ve ever been on. I also flew my second-longest flight ever this year: 6,516 miles (10,486 km) from Auckland to Los Angeles.

My shortest flight was 139 miles (223 km) from Dallas to Lawton.

Map generated by Paul Bogard using the using the Great Circle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz

Driving

I drove approximately 22,587 miles (36,350 km) this year – 11,616 miles (18,694 km) in my own car, and 10,971 miles (17,656 km) in rental cars.

2018 US driving (rental cars in red, my car in blue)
2018 Australia and New Zealand driving

Map tiles by CartoDB, under CC BY 3.0. map data © OpenStreetMap contributors under ODbL

Frequent Traveler Status

This year, I maintained Platinum status with American Airlines and Diamond status with Hilton. I did not earn any other status this year.

2017 Year in Travel

Flights

With 113 total flights, this was a record flying year for me – the first year I’ve ever exceeded 100 flights. My work flights alone this year exceeded my total flights last year.

2017-flights

Hotels

My hotel nights were pretty consistent with the prior three years; I ended the year with 109 total nights.

2017-hotels

New Airports

I only visited five new airports this year, which puts me at a total of 78 airports visited so far.

New Airports 2017

Jacksonville, NC (OAJ) • Destin/Fort Walton Beach (VPS)
Bakersfield (BFL) • Tampa (TPA) • Peoria (PIA)

Peoria wasn’t a planned visit – we ended up diverting there and deplaning due to weather in Chicago.

Elite Status

I maintained American Platinum and Hilton Diamond this year, and earned Silver status for both United and Marriott.

EOY Status

So, for the first time, I have legitimate Marriott status – my previous Marriott Gold was a reward for having Gold status on United.

Trivia

Ohio County Courthouses

Splash

I play the geocaching game Ingress, and one of its features is the option to do “missions” – specific collections of waypoints to visit. Most of these are relatively short, with under 20 waypoints in a relatively small geographic area.

However, on a road trip that I took earlier this year, I pulled out Ingress on a break and noticed a mission called Ohio County Courthouses, which required visiting the courthouse in each of Ohio’s eighty-eight counties.

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Time Zone Changes

With two recent work trips and a five-city European vacation, combined with the changes to summer time in the US and Europe, I’ve gone through quite a few time zone changes in the past six weeks.

I wanted to find a good way to visualize this, and I ultimately decided on the following format:

Time Zones

Time zones can be challenging to represent, so let’s start with talking about UTC.

UTC (which superseded Greenwich Mean Time, although for our purposes they’re interchangeable) is the time zone of the prime meridian, and it does not change for summer time. UTC is used in situations where an unambiguous, continuous reference time is necessary. For example, flights are scheduled in UTC to avoid confusion about time zones and summer time – effectively, UTC is aviation’s “official” time.

The time zones we’re familiar with (for example, Eastern Standard Time or Eastern Daylight Time) are then represented as differences from UTC. Eastern Standard Time is five hours behind UTC – that is, when it’s 11:00 AM in UTC, it’s 6:00 AM in Eastern Standard Time. Thus, EST is UTC minus 5 hours, written as UTC–5. In the summer, Eastern time shifts an hour forward to Eastern Daylight Time, so EDT is only four hours behind UTC, or UTC–4.

So when I’m flying around between time zones (or switching to Daylight Savings Time), I’m really just changing the number of hours I am ahead of or behind UTC. So for any given moment in time (as represented by UTC, I can plot my offset from UTC.

Thus, in the above chart, the horizontal axis represents UTC, and the vertical axis represents the number of hours I’m offset from UTC. Every horizontal gridline represents a one hour shift. The colored bars represent time I spend in a time zone, and the dark gray lines between them represent travel.

So, for example, when I flew from Reykjavík to Chicago, I had to set my watch back by five hours (as I traveled from UTC+0 to UTC–5).

You can also see from the chart that I went through two shifts to summer time: I was in the US when they changed to DST on 13 March, and I was in Europe when they changed to summer time on 27 March. In each case, my watch had to move an hour forward, even though I didn’t travel anywhere.

Incidentally, with all this talk about UTC and Greenwich Mean Time, I’m happy to report that my Europe trip included a visit to the Royal Greenwich Observatory in London, which is the point that defined both the prime meridian and Greenwich Mean Time!

2016-03-28 11.47.50 HDR.jpg
Paul standing across the prime meridian at Greenwich