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Rhys’ travel highlights of 2022

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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.

Park Hyatt Vienna room 2

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.

Hotel Reisen exterior

Other hotel highlights included Phulay Bay, a Ritz Carlton Reserve in Thailand, the Moxy Chelsea New York City, Sheraton Grand Edinburgh, Tampa EDITION, and the Radisson Collection Tallinn.

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.

Cathay Pacific Business lounge Heathrow plants

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 ….

Qatar Airways Qsuite

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.

Qatar Airways 787-9 business class

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.

Other flight reviews this year included Malaysia Airlines, Aer Lingus, Ethiopian Airlines, American Airlines and Norse Atlantic.

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.

Novelty value

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.

Comments (50)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • janedoy says:

    What a wonderful life. I’m very envious.

    • Rhys says:

      It’s not all glamour, trust me!

      • janedoy says:

        Think I could put up with it for a year or two!! If you need help….
        But thanks for your very informative emails. I’ve found some very useful even though my pension doesn’t allow much.

  • Reney says:

    Sounds like it has been an amazing 2022. Would love to know how you scored 4 (biz?) tickets to NZ?

    • Paul Roberts says:

      How did Rhys use Amex 2-4-1 vouchers to get to New Zealand?

      • MilesOnPoint says:

        Reading between the lines I imagine he’s redeemed LHR-SIN-SYD on BA and will position to New Zealand (AKL/CHC) on Qantas using separate tickets

        • Rhys says:

          This is correct, although I’m actually flying to Wellington. Air New Zealand there using Virgin Points and Qantas back to Sydney.

          • Charles Martel says:

            For anyone else also heading to Wellington next year with Overseas Amex Platinum dining credit to burn before the end of the calendar year Boulcott St Bistro and Dockside are willing to sell you a gift voucher over the phone which I’m hoping will go through the general till. Calling at the right time is on my to do list over the next few days.

  • Dude26 says:

    Off topic: you have kind eyes. It comes through very clearly in the picture.

  • Michael C says:

    Thanks for all the articles & entertainment, @Rhys !
    Was thinking a “lowlights” article might also be fun?!

  • Roehydes Finest says:

    Nice write up Rhys, forgive the slightly OT reply albeit as you’ve referenced Hyatt & their relative footprint early on, it seems as if they have downgraded the planned Park Hyatt in London which is due to open soon.

    • Rhys says:

      Not sure what you mean by downgraded? It’s still going to be a PH as far as I’m aware!

      • Roehydes Finest says:

        Think it might be badged as Regency now?

      • Rob says:

        I was discussing this with a senior Hyatt person recently and I actually said it should be a lower brand, but it is continuing as a PH (unless there is something they didn’t tell me).

        • Roehydes Finest says:

          I stand to be corrected but the app is now showing ‘Hyatt Regency London Albert Embankment’ next to the pictures that were depicting the Park Hyatt.

          From a selfish point of view, annoying as I was hoping to finally tick off the Park Hyatt brand on my explorer tab….!

          • Roehydes Finest says:

            Ignore me – just seen OGP’s comment under the Hyatt forum which deals with this.

            Too much Boxing Day cheer for me obviously….🤦🏾‍♂️

  • Jeff D says:

    Enjoyed your articles Rhys, thanks

  • Andrew H says:

    (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.)

    Um… not flying 65 times a year would be a good start. Just a thought…

    • Josh says:

      Dude, you’re reading a blog about airline points.

      • Brian says:

        I don’t think Andrew H was necessarily saying that flying 65 times a year is a bad thing – I’d have thought that he was pointing out that it’s really a bit silly to say you’ve flown 65 times in a year and then to talk about reducing your impact. Bit like a hunter saying ‘I’ve killed 65 elephants this year (This is a good time to mention that I am actively exploring how to reduce my impact on elephant populations through the purchase of land for national parks)’. This is a blog about airline points, which is why we read it. The writers, and the readers, take flights they don’t need to (like the Gibraltar flight Rhys took in order to review Terminal 3 lounges). If they, and we, think that’s a bad thing and we need to ‘reduce our impact’, then not flying is actually the answer. But if we want to fly, then just go on and do it without feeling the need to make some wishy-washy ‘commitment’.

        • Rhys says:

          Nothing wishy washy about the money we donate to the Woodland Trust!

        • Jack says:

          anyone can take any flight they want and should feel zero shame in doing so whatsoever. Aviation has hardly any impact to the sodding climate anyways under 3% of emissions in the world come from it and the UK has under 1% of emissions. Rightly so nobody should be shamed for flying as it a convenient way to get places and it connects the world. I fly very often and will not change that for people who are frankly eco warriors who claim the noble but are far from. Most people do not care nobody needs to reduce anything or stop flying, the UK is not the issue with the climate

    • Mike Hunt says:

      Andrew H go chain yourself to a motorway gantry if you are that concerned !

    • Harry T says:

      Wrong blog

    • Can says:

      I have a feeling that it is a simple maths:
      Woodlands Trust says that it takes 5000 nectar points to offset a ton of CO2:
      The article says Rhys emitted 75 ton of CO2.

      I leave it to the readers to calculate how many Avios it takes to offset Rhys’ CO2.

      • Jack says:

        Under 1% of all emissions come from the Uk and under 3% worldwide the C02 impact is minimal to none just fyi. Also what do Avios have to do with it as i am sure Rob and Rhys use cash, people need to stop being shamed in some cases for flying

    • Jack says:

      Under 3% of emissions come from air travel and under 1% of the world’s emissions from the UK it is a minute issue and nothing that we do will change anything . nobody should be shamed for choosing to fly a lot just because some of the eco warriors claim it is the worst thing ever. I also fly around 50 times a year and am not ashamed of it whatsoever

  • Tony says:

    I disagree with you about the JNB lounge. It’s a pleasant area, but since they reduced the size of the lounge and merged First and Business, it cannot cope with two wide body flights within two hours 2xA380 or 1×380 plus 1×787. With so many Premium pax and card holders…plus guests, it’s uncomfortably packed. A Silver, with partner and 3 kids, several times over takes up a lot of space….

    • Thegasman says:

      Are you really telling me BA would unveil a great new lounge concept & very rapidly turn it into an overcrowded dump?! I don’t believe you… (cough, cough, JFK….)

    • Charlie Whiskey says:

      Quite agree. Was there recently, flying out First in the earlier flight, and the entire place was a scrum, with not enough seating, not enough floor space for luggage or footfall. First pax can shelter in the small dining room set aside for them with a limited menu, but sitting at a table (with no chargers) if you are not eating instead of in an armchair is hardly a premium experience. Very disappointing …..

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