It has been another turbulent year for air travel. As of the end of 2021, the thousands of vacation flights canceled due to the devastating omicron variant are dealing another blow to an industry struggling with lost revenue, disruptive passengers, and is on the front lines of interpreting and enforcing COVID-19 regulations. the governments.
Here we look back to see how Citizen Free Press covered the biggest developments in aviation in the last 12 months.
Passports and vaccination mandates
It’s hard to believe, but barely a year has passed since Margaret Keenan from the UK became the first person in the world to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in December 2020. Today more than 8,000 million have been administered.
The airline industry has had to adapt quickly. Although we are now getting used to all the digital documentation we need to fly, it wasn’t until January that the United States introduced covid testing and Citizen Free Press speculated on the ethics and practicality of introducing “vaccine passports”.
In Asia-Pacific, the year began with concerns that flight crews would spread the virus in otherwise tightly-closed nations and Singapore Airlines hoped to be the world’s first airline to be fully vaccinated.
Attitudes toward vaccine mandates for airline personnel varied around the world, which was particularly controversial in the US, where Delta Air Lines and Southwest opposed making them mandatory for their workers.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser, said in September that he also supported a mandate for passengers, but the travel industry was not on board and this remains a relatively uncommon move around the world.
In October, Air New Zealand became one of the highest-profile airlines to announce a passenger mandate, which it will implement in February 2022.
The first line of application
The industry’s net losses for 2021 are expected to be close to $ 52 billion, but in addition to these financial woes, the job was only getting tougher for the airline workers responsible for transporting us through the skies.
In the US, there were more reports of disruptive passenger incidents in 2021 than in the 31-year history of unruly behavior records. Some flight attendants have even started self defense training.
In addition to struggling with passengers unwilling to wear masks or attempting to drink their own alcohol during the flight, airlines have had to keep up with rapidly changing and often confusing COVID legislation introduced by governments.
In April, an Australian domestic flight was delayed so long that quarantine rules changed while passengers were in the air, while in December, Ghana’s international airport introduced some of the strictest regulations in Africa, fining airlines. with US $ 3,500 for each unvaccinated passenger who flew into the country.
Busy planes and rising fares
Cancellations, crowded planes and ever-increasing fares have become the “new normal” for air travel in the United States, Citizen Free Press wrote in November.
Operational collapses at Southwest and American Airlines were behind the recent cancellation of thousands of flights, but staffing shortages also led to overworked flight crews, while the smaller variety of flights led to more expensive tickets.
One small advantage for consumers in the covid era is that, globally, many airlines have introduced and retained much greater flexibility when it comes to changing flights on short notice.
However, flying is now often a stressful and costly experience overall, not helped by the ‘fit to fly’ covid tests that remain a wild west of private companies offering widely varying levels of service and value for money.
Hello, bye and see you later
In February, Bombardier announced that it would stop producing the iconic Learjet, the small private jet that for decades was synonymous with high-end business travel.
At the opposite end of the size scale, the latest Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger airline, was delivered to its client airline Emirates in December.
Airlines continued to stock the A380s and many other aircraft due to a lack of pandemic demand, although many resurfaced as travel increased during the summer season. In the California desert, there was even a problem with parked A380s attracting rattlesnakes.
The 74-year-old Italian flag carrier Alitalia went bankrupt in August, and the fired flight attendants stripped naked in protest. The country’s new blue-liveried national carrier, ITA Airways, launched in October.
American airline JetBlue launched its first transatlantic service in August, between New York and London, and Citizen Free Press’s Richard Quest was on board.
And in China, the long-awaited Chengdu Tianfu International Airport opened in China. Built at a cost of around US $ 10.8 billion, phase one of the megacenter has the capacity to handle up to 60 million passengers per year.
The ‘kidnapping’ of Belarus
In May, Ryanair flight FR4978 from Athens to Vilnius was forcibly diverted to Minsk, escorted by Belarusian fighter jets, for Belarusian authorities to arrest opposition activist Roman Protasevich and his Russian partner Sofia Sapega.
Three days after the incident, European airlines were formally prevented from flying over Belarusian airspace, effectively redesigning the air map of Europe.
The carbon issue
At its annual meeting in October, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) passed a resolution in support of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
With the focus on climate change during the COP26 summit in Scotland in November, Citizen Free Press produced a lengthy read on how close we are to flying without guilt becoming a reality.
We also kept up with the latest developments in low-carbon alternative air travel, such as helium-powered airships for travel between cities.
However, coal-guzzling leisure travel was by no means off the agenda in 2021. “Flights to nowhere,” round-trip sightseeing tours, were all the rage, especially in Asia-Pacific. A Qantas trip to see the supermoon and full lunar eclipse at 12,192 meters over Australia was sold out in May in 2.5 minutes.
Supersonic sleep hit the turbulence
The dream of a successor to the Concorde became a bit more distant when Aerion, one of the main players in the race to build a supersonic airliner, collapsed in May after running out of cash. It had been only a few months since he had announced big plans for a sleek new global headquarters to produce his family of aircraft.
Meanwhile, Colorado-based Boom Supersonic is pushing ahead with its plans to make the 1: 3-scale prototype aircraft of its Overture jet airborne. His ambitions remain lofty: CEO Blake Scholl told Citizen Free Press in May that the company’s goal was to “fly anywhere in the world in four hours for $ 100”.
Atlanta-based Hermeus is working on an even faster hypersonic airliner, which means speeds of Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. That would take a plane from New York to London in just 90 minutes, making the Concorde’s three hours seem slow.
In terms of new design innovations, covid-proof cabs were obviously a priority this year. Airbus designed an in-flight covid quarantine tent, while Japanese airline ANA introduced hands-free toilet doors.
There were windowless cabin concepts and even underwater cabin concepts, and many unusual and eye-catching airplane seat designs.
Looking to 2022 and beyond, first class is disappearing from many airlines, and business class options are getting more luxurious.
In February, we declared premium economy the most popular airplane seat in 2021 and discussed how, in JetBlue’s new Mint Studio, the seating revolution had created one of the largest beds in the sky.
Super-corporate minisuites could be the future of luxury flights, we said in October, while in November we delved into what business class would look like in 2025 and what the next few years might look like for first-class options that last the course.