2019 Year in Travel

2019 wasn’t quite a record-setting travel year for me, but it was still among my busiest. Internationally, I got to visit Japan in the winter, and Sweden and Iceland in the summer. Domestically, I spent a lot of time on the east coast and in the Midwest, but somehow managed not to ever make it out to the Pacific time zone.

Hotels

Chart of hotel nights by year. 2019 shows 112 total nights (77 business, 35 personal)

Travel was down slightly this year, but I still ended up spending 112 nights away from home – 77 for work, and 35 for myself. The plurality of my personal nights were for my summer trip to Sweden and Iceland; most of the rest consisted of a lot of short weekend trips or visits to friends and family.

Flights

I ended the year with 106 flights, totaling 74 110 miles (119 268 km).

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

This was my first year with two separate international trips. I had a work trip to Tokyo in February, and a vacation to Stockholm and Reykjavík in August.

The Tokyo trip was my first time trying out American Airlines’ 777 premium economy class; my job only pays for economy flights, but I was able to purchase a same-day upgrade with my own money for a reasonable price on my Dallas to Tokyo flight. For a 13–hour flight, it was pretty much exactly what I needed; lots of extra legroom, a little extra width, and a nice side pocket to keep devices while they’re charging.

I also upgraded to premium cabins for some of the flights on our vacation; we upgraded to business class at check-in on the Finnair Chicago to Helsinki flight, and won a bid on business class upgrades on the Icelandair Reykjavík to Chicago flight.

The Icelandair 757 business class was closer to a domestic first class flight – lots more room, better service, but no lay-flat bed. Since it was a daytime flight, beds weren’t necessary.

The Finnair A330-300 business class had lay-flat beds, which was nice for the overnight flight. However, at 6′5″ (196 cm), I’m too tall for the bed, so I didn’t really sleep any better in the bed than in my AA premium economy seat. I don’t believe that flight had a premium economy option, but for my future long-haul flights, I’ll probably just upgrade to premium economy rather than business since the beds don’t provide me enough extra benefit for the enormous cost difference.

Domestically, I spent a lot of time in the Great Plains (particularly Oklahoma) and the east coast.

Directed graph with airports as nodes and flights as edges. Airport nodes are sized proportional to the number of visits, and flight edges are color coded by airline.

I decided to try a new visualization of how I flew using a directed graph. I wrote a small module for Flight Historian that could convert flights from my database into a GraphML file, then used yEd Graph Editor to convert it to a radial arrangement.

On this graph, each circle is an airport I visited at least once this year, and each arrow is a flight I took this year. (The circular arrow by OKC shows my flight where we took off from Oklahoma City, and had to return to Oklahoma City due to a mechanical issue.)

My busiest routes were between DAY and DFW or DAY and ORD, with strong showings for DAY ⇄ CLT and DAY ⇄ PHL as well. This makes sense, as Dayton is my home airport, these other airports are all American hubs that serve DAY, and American was my most flown airline this year.

In the last few months of the year, I flew a number of trips on Delta, which brought me a decent number of flights between DAY and ATL.

New Airports

Terminal silhouettes of NRT, FLL, FAY, PIT, BHM, MCI, HEL, ARN, MIA, AND ILM

I visited 10 new airports this year.

#87NRTTokyo–Narita, Japan
#88FLLFort Lauderdale, Florida, United States
#89FAYFayetteville, North Carolina, United States
#90PITPittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
#91BHMBirmingham, Alabama, United States
#92MCIKansas City, Missouri, United States
#93HELHelsinki, Finland
#94ARNStockholm–Arlanda, Sweden
#95MIAMiami, Florida, United States
#96ILMWilmington, North Carolina, United States

By picking up FLL and MIA this year, I finally visited all of the large hubs in the United States.

New Airlines

Finnair was my only new airline in 2019. As they are a Oneworld alliance member, I was able to use my American Airlines miles to book them for my trip to Stockholm (via a layover in Helsinki).

New Aircraft

I did not fly any new aircraft families in 2019.

Driving

I drove approximately 24 765 miles (39 855 km) in 2019.

Personal Car15 418 mi24 813 km
Rental Vehicles9 347 mi15 043 km
Total24 765 mi39 855 km
Map showing 2019 driving and passenger routes in the United States, Japan, Sweden, and Iceland

Altus (in southwestern Oklahoma) contributed to a lot of my rental driving – it’s not possible to drive directly into Altus, so I’ve flown into a variety of airports in the region (largely Oklahoma City, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Amarillo). I also had one trip where I flew into Kansas City to drive to Wichita, rather than flying into ICT directly.

Similarly, I didn’t have the option to fly directly into Portsmouth, New Hampshire on several trips there this year, which lead to some driving to other New England airports.

I visited Key West and drove the Overseas Highway (the southern terminus of U.S. Highway 1) for the first time this year.

States and Countries

Map of the United States. New Mexico, Delaware, Alabama, Minnesota, and Vermont are labeled "first visit in 2009." Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine are labeled as "Visited in 2019." Washington, California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, and DC are labeled "Visited."

I visited 24 states this year, five for the first time – New Mexico, Delaware, Alabama, Minnesota, and Vermont.

Map of the world. Japan and Sweden are labeled "First visit in 2019." Iceland and United States are labeled "Visited in 2019." Canada, UK, France, Germany, Austria, Australia, and New Zealand are labeled "Visited."

I also visited four countries this year, two for the first time – Japan and Sweden. (I also had a layover in Finland, but since I did not leave the airport, I don’t count it as a visited country for the purposes of this map.)

Frequent Traveler Status

Chart of frequent traveler status in various programs by year. For 2019, American AAdvantage Platinum, Hilton Honors Diamond, and IHG Rewards Club Gold were earned.

For the first time, I earned status with IHG (from a number of Holiday Inn stays), reaching their gold tier. I also maintained my Diamond status with Hilton, and my Platinum status with American.

Superlatives

Map showing a route between Dallas/Fort Worth and Tokyo, a route between Charlotte and Fayetteville, and a marker for Oklahoma City

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

  • My longest two flights were my 6 414 mile (10 322 km) flight between Dallas and Tokyo, and the same route in reverse coming home.
  • My shortest flight took off from and returned to OKC due to a mechanical issue, traveling a net zero distance.
  • My shortest flights that actually went somewhere were my 117 mile (188 km) flight from Charlotte to Fayetteville, North Carolina, and the same route in reverse.
  • Elevation vs Distance chart for the OKC-OKC flight, and a drive through Loveland Pass and up Mt. Evans.
  • I drove at my highest elevation ever (approximately 14 132 feet or 4 307 meters) by driving up Mount Evans via Colorado State Highway 5 – the highest paved road in North America.
    • That’s a higher elevation than my OKC–OKC flight, which only reached 11 076 feet before returning to the airport.

Terminal Silhouettes: FAY

Terminal silhouette of FAY (Fayetteville, North Carolina)

FAY.svg

This has apparently been the year where I decided to collect airports under construction – not just FAY, but FLL (and HEL, which I still need to draw). FAY was replacing half of the airside concourse when I first flew through there earlier this year.

I’ve been waiting for aerial image sources showing the new concourse, but with it reaching the end of the year, I had to start looking for other sources, and eventually came across the Fayetteville Airport twitter feed, which had a nice drone video of the terminal construction.

Between that, the outdated imagery, and photos I could find of the project, I was able to piece together enough information to properly draw the terminal.

Terminal Silhouettes: FLL

Terminal silhouette of FLL (Fort Lauderdale)

FLL.svg

Though I first flew through FLL over half a year ago, I’d put off drawing the terminal because Concourse G (the southernmost concourse) was under construction, and all the reference imagery I could find was still pre-construction.

As it’s approaching the end of the year, where I’ll need the silhouettes of all new airports I’ve visited for my year in travel post, I checked again and was able to find enough material to draw Concourse G. I’ll likely have to update the terminal in the future to fully capture the completed construction, but what I’ve drawn is pretty close to the state of FLL earlier this year.

Other than the reference imagery issues, this was a pretty easy terminal to draw; there were very few curves and all but Concourse E (the northwestern concourse) were at right angles to each other. I liked how the sunshades over the landside roadway looked, so I decided to include them.

Airport #95/100: Miami

Photo of "Miami International Airport" sign on terminal building

Miami International Airport
Miami, Florida, United States

First visit: 18 October 2019
flighthistorian.com/airports/MIA

One of my earliest posts when I started this blog in 2013 discussed how I’d been to all but six of the FAA-designated large hubs in the US, and I was only missing six: IAH, MDW, SAN, TPA, FLL, and MIA. Over the years, I’d managed to visit the first five, and this week I finally picked up MIA as well, completing my collection of large US hub airports.

I’d originally scheduled a 2 hour and 45 minute layover to give myself time to explore the airport, but my incoming flight was delayed and I only ended up getting about two hours. However, it ended up being enough, because in my reading up about MIA pre-trip, I’d somehow managed to miss that the concourses weren’t all connected behind security. With my AA boarding passes, I’d only be able to see concourses D and E airside.

D was quite long – while I don’t believe it’s quite as long as the main terminal at DTW, it’s the only airport I can recall visiting a single concourse with four of its own train stations.

E was interesting with its bizarre pier and satellite structure, where instead of the satellite train connecting to the close end of the pier, it connected to the root of the pier, with the tracks running over the roof of the length of the pier.

Photo of MIA Concourse E, with the satellite on the right and the pier on the left.
Concourse E, with the satellite on the right and the pier on the left.

Since D and E didn’t take the whole layover time to explore, and since I had PreCheck to expedite security, I also went ahead and exited the secure area to visit the ticketing, baggage claim, and parking structure areas.

Photo of the MIA central terminal from a parking structure

All in all, it’s not an airport that I would go out of my way to visit again, but it was a pretty decent airport for a moderate layover.

Airport #88/100: Fort Lauderdale (FLL)

Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States

First visit: 16 March 2019
flighthistorian.com/airports/FLL

I’ll be honest that I wasn’t too impressed with FLL on my visit. It’s certainly possible that I was visiting at a peak season, but the airport just felt crowded in a way that I wouldn’t normally expect for an airport its size. The arrivals road loop could not handle the amount of traffic flowing through it, leading to a much longer (and much more stop-and-go) shuttle trip to the rental car center than I would have expected from the distance traveled.

It’s also one of the airports whose terminals don’t seem to be connected past the security checkpoints, which does tend to get in the way of exploring the airport before my flight. At least Terminal 3 (E/F gates) and Terminal 4 (G gates) had a connector, so since my flight departed out of 3 I was able to visit half of the airport. Though it was still under construction, the parts of Terminal 4 which were finished looked pretty nice.