After a couple of years of on again-off again travel, 2022 has seen a return to vague normality. Huge swathes of the globe were still off limits, of course, including many parts of Asia, but it was good to get back into the swing of things for my busiest travel year, ever.
By the time you read this I should be at 65 flights this year. My FlightRadar24 – click to see my travel map – tells me I’ve spent over 293 hours in the air flying more than 127,000 miles. I’ve also stayed at 36 different hotels.
(This is a good time to mention that we do donate to the Woodland Trust after all HfP-relating flights and are actively exploring how we can reduce our impact through the purchase of Sustainable Aviation Fuels.)
This year, I’ve spent a signifiant amount of time exploring Asia, despite the relatively slow re-opening of the continent versus the Americas and Europe. Three trips – personal and business – have taken me to Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia.
But I’m jumping ahead.
If I could turn back time ….
Whilst it now feels like most things are ‘back to normal’, early 2022 was balanced on a knife edge. The emergence of Omicron in late 2021 made us all question whether we were bound for another round on the covid merry-go-round or whether it really was the year we could (mostly) leave it behind.
Despite that, I still made it to Vienna in early January, and whilst my travel there was not particularly in style (Rob challenged me to review a £1.79 Wizz Air flight!) I did end up staying at the incredible Park Hyatt Vienna, which quickly found its place in my top three favourite hotels I’ve ever stayed at.
I encourage you to read my review of the Park Hyatt Vienna here. It is a stunning hotel, formerly the Bank of Austria building and now the most beautifully designed hotel you’ll have seen, from the rooms with oversized art nouveau brooches hanging from the walls to the pool down in the old bank vault.
During 2022 I managed to review a few more Hyatt hotels and I’ve been really quite impressed. The World of Hyatt network isn’t as big as some of its competitors but I’ve had some very enjoyable stays. Another of my highlights was the Hotel Reisen in Stockholm which is part of Hyatt’s Unbound Collection. It’s a little gem that has recently been refurbished.
We’re all going on a lounge safari
Later in January we made it a priority to (re)review all the oneworld lounges at Heathrow Terminal 3. This resulted in a brief trip to Gibraltar where my main job was to arrive at the airport far, far too early for my flight so that I could pop in to the Cathay Pacific, Qantas and British Airways lounges. No prizes for guessing which was my favourite.
Over the summer I repeated the process for the Star Alliance lounges at Heathrow Terminal 2. Perhaps I’ll make it to Terminal 4 in 2023!
I’ve made it to a lot of high quality lounges this year. British Airways showed it could nail the lounge experience, first with its newish lounge at Johannesburg OR Tambo airport (review here) and more recently with the opening of the new lounges it is operating jointly with American Airlines in its new home at New York JFK Terminal 8.
The top Chelsea Lounge (review) is particularly impressive although more recent reports suggest the Krug appears to have run dry. The ‘BA Gold’ Soho Lounge is also many, many steps up from the lounge at Heathrow and boasts some nice airport views.
It now leaves BA’s Heathrow lounges in a tough spot, as they are fast becoming some of the worst lounges in BA’s network. Not great in your home city ….
A game of thrones
This year, I finally managed to fly Qatar’s Qsuite business class product taking my mum on her very first long haul business class flight. This was followed up by a trip in the ‘mini Qsuite’ Qatar Airways has on its new Boeing 787-9s – not quite as good but still very impressive.
Qsuite really is as good as everyone says. It’s hard to get a sense of how well it all works – the seat, the food, the service – until you try it for yourself. My mum is a bit spoiled now – it won’t be quite the same when I take my family to New Zealand on British Airways using two Amex companion vouchers in April!
Later in the year I managed to try out Finnair’s revolutionary new no-recline business class seat on a trip to Helsinki, which Rob had previously tried when it first launched this Spring.
Despite their old business class seat being perfectly acceptable (and indeed better than many other business class cabins!) Finnair has decided to rip it out and install this innovative new concept. Visually it looks very stylish and on a shortish flight from Helsinki it certainly felt comfortable. Of course, the real proof will be in the pudding on a long haul flight somewhere, which I hope to do at some point in the New Year.
Another one of my highlights was being one of the first people to fly in Virgin Atlantic’s brand new Upper Class suite on the A330neos. This seat has been a long time coming and I hope Virgin will fit it on its existing aircraft. The current generation seat is now 20 years old and starting to show its age.
The new A330neo seat is a big improvement on the A350 Upper Class suite whilst retaining the same style and flair. Whilst it may be more of a safe option versus Finnair’s new seat, it does tick all the boxes and is very comfortable, even on night flights, thanks to some clever seat mechanics. And of course it is paired with Virgin’s friendly cabin crew, which always makes a difference.
Money can’t buy
I’m also lucky enough to get access to places and planes that are off-limits to the general public.
Getting up at 4am was well worth it to be able to walk around Virgin’s brand new A330neo as it sat at the gate before our flight to Tampa one crisp, cold November morning.
I was also treated to a couple of hangar tours, including TAP Portugal’s facilities in Lisbon and AirX’s private jet maintenance hangar at Stansted. It’s not often you can crawl into the cargo hold or avionics bay of an aircraft.
One theme that kept rearing its head this year was the novelty lounge / airport / hotel feature. It all started with the hugely impressive Finnair Platinum Wing lounge at Helsinki. This has an airside sauna which I duly tested out.
When I heard that British Airways had infinity baths at its arrivals lounge in Heathrow I just had to try those, too.
Hotels wanted to get in on the action as well and I enjoyed a lovely airside dip in the Aerotel Singapore, which I believe operates the only outdoor airside swimming pool of any airport worldwide.
We really do offer a public service here at HfP 😉
Tomorrow Rob will go through some of his hotel highlights and lowlights from 2022, including many which were never reviewed on the site because they were family trips.