Overall, my travel increased slightly this year. Unlike in 2015, my travel was relatively evenly spread throughout the year.
I took 94 flights in 2016, which beat my 2015 record by five flights.
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.
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 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UTC (which superseded Greenwich Mean Time, although for our purposes they’re interchangeable) is the time zone of the prime meridian, and it does not change for summer time.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!
Wichita, though having a rich aviation history, is not a huge air travel market. The new terminal completely replaces the old one.
I did really like the old terminal; seeing that much brick in a functioning airport (both inside and outside) is rare nowadays.
However, the old terminal was absolutely showing its age. In particular, this was an airport that was designed before modern security, meaning they had to wedge it in wherever it would fit, which in practice was the base of the T junction. This led to some extremely narrow hallways, crowded checkpoints, and a best-they-could-do TSA PreCheck that shared the X-ray with the standard checkpoint.
So while I’m sorry to see the old terminal go, the airport needed a new terminal, and I’m just glad that I got to see the old building one last time.
2015 was a relatively strong year for me for business travel, with the first and last thirds of the year being particularly busy. Due to that, my total flights and hotel nights just edged above 2014’s numbers, for another record year.
I had 89 flights this year – 79 for work and 12 personal.
I didn’t take as many personal flights this year, but travel for my job more than made up for the difference.
That’s not to say that I didn’t do a lot of personal travel, but a lot of those personal trips were by car. I came out with 30 personal hotel nights and 79 business nights, for a total of 109 nights.
I’ve visited six new airports this year:
I ended the year with 60 total airports visited, and am well on my way to my goal of visiting 100 airports.
My flights were much more spread out among airlines this year, so I ended up getting the lowest tier status on two airlines (Gold on American Airlines and Silver on United) rather than last year’s mid-tier status on one airline. For hotels, I was easily able to pick up the 60 nights required for Diamond status with Hilton, and I even managed to pick up enough Marriott nights to get Silver. (Last year, my United Gold status gave me Marriott Gold status as well, even though I barely stayed with them.)
Next spring, I’m planning to go on a two-week European vacation with Amy.
I had a number of United miles saved up – not quite enough for two round trips to Europe, but enough to get us each a one way itinerary to Munich (our first destination). Airlines like to make it difficult to redeem miles at the advertised rates unless you book well in advance, so we cashed in the miles this week and got a pair of one-way tickets from Chicago to Munich, operated by United’s Star Alliance partner Air Canada with a layover in Toronto.
On a ticket like that, I have to select my seats on Air Canada’s website, since they’re the ones actually operating the flight. United provided me record locator for our Air Canada itinerary – one of those six-letter-and-number identifiers that you use to look up your flight.
I went to Air Canada’s website to pick my seats, plugged in that record locator… and was a bit surprised by the itinerary I saw:
In addition to the two 2016 flights that I’d bought, there were two additional flights booked in 2015, showing a trip from Honolulu to San Francisco to Toronto. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting!
This was a bit concerning to me, as I had no intention to go to Hawaii this month – and I was worried that if I didn’t show up for the first flight, my whole itinerary would be cancelled. I called Air Canada, but they told me I’d have to check with United, since United sold me the ticket.
Fortunately, the United agent I spoke to was very helpful. After looking into it with me, she was able to figure out that I’d been issued a record locator that was already in use.
Well, I understood that – with six digits that each have 36 possibilities (A-Z and 0-9), there are 366 = 2,176,782,336 possible combinations. That’s a lot of records, but it’s not infinite, and I can understand that eventually some numbers would have to be reused. The agent let me know that usually they try to wait a while before reusing a booking number, and it’s usually not a problem because they normally look up reservations by booking number and last name.
So it appears that of two billion booking number possibilities, I was assigned one that was not just in use, but also in use by someone else who also has the last name Bogard.
What’re the odds of that?
Anyway, once we figured out that their computer was seeing four flights with the same record locator and last name and assuming they were one itinerary, the United agent was able to cancel my half of the flights off of that existing reservations and rebooked my tickets on Air Canada, giving me a new record locator that (thankfully) appears to be unused by any other Bogards!