With January slowly coming to its end, I finally managed to finish an article taking a look back at what I did aviation-wise in 2017. While I previously posted an article listing my favorite and the most popular posts of last year, this one looks at the year in a bit more detail.
Before continuing, I would like to thank everyone that read KN Aviation in 2017 and everyone that supported me in pursuing this (sometimes crazy) hobby!
Anyways, without further ado, let’s jump into the review.
Are you interested in trying business or first class for the price of economy?
If so, you might want to check out Four Ways to Try Business Class Without Breaking the Bank - a free guide that I put together detailing some of the ways I was able to do so - and experiment with some of the methods mentioned in it.
Miles, Types, Airlines
In 2017, I flew a total of more than 82,000 miles which makes it my second best year ever when it comes to the number of miles flown, just after 2016. The total was spread across 52 flights onboard 27 different airlines and 18 different aircraft types.
Of those, 10 airlines and 4 aircraft types were new for me:
- New types – MD-88, 737-900ER, Q400, Cessna Grand Caravan
- New airlines – Thai Lion Air, Indonesia AirAsia, Garuda Indonesia, Island Air, Makani Kai Air, Mokulele Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, ANA Wings, Jeju Air, AirAsia Japan
Expanding My Inaugural Flight ‘Collection’
While I enjoy reviewing “regular” flights a lot, I also love taking the occasional “special” flight here and there. And, while I didn’t get to take any of the farewell flights that happened last year (Eva Air 747, Delta and United 747, etc.), I was lucky enough to be on three inaugurals.
The first of them was the inaugural flight of Air France’s Boeing 787-9 that I took in early January. I was able to take the first of four sightseeing flights the airline organized before the aircraft entered into service on scheduled routes. And, it was an unforgettable flight!
The other two flights were related to AirAsia with the first one being AirAsia X’s inaugural flight to the United States (Osaka Kansai – Honolulu) and the second one being the very first revenue flight of the “new” AirAsia Japan. While neither of them was as memorable as the Air France flight, they were still fun to be on.
An Increased Number of Business and First Class Flights
Perhaps the thing that made flying in 2017 stand out for me the most was the number of flights I was able to take in first and business class.
The first two of those were onboard Delta Air Lines’ domestic first class between Atlanta and Miami, and Miami and Detroit. Both of those were free upgrades thanks to my Delta Gold Medallion status (which comes as a perk with my Japanese Delta Amex Gold card).
Then, I flew onboard Finnair’s A350 in business class between Helsinki and Bangkok. While I originally booked the flight in economy class, I had the option of bidding for an upgrade before departure – and my bid of 338 EUR (a couple of EUR above the minimum) was accepted.
The other upgrade I paid for was on my flight between Osaka and Honolulu – the AirAsia X inaugural flight to the US. For just 20,000 yen (about 180 dollars), I was able to upgrade my promo fare economy ticket to AirAsia X’s Premium Flatbed business class. As an added bonus, I got to sit next to the airline’s CEO on the flight.
The remaining five flights – three in JAL’s business class and two in Cathay Pacific’s first class were booked using miles. While I booked one of the JAL flights (Busan – Tokyo) using British Airways miles, I used Alaska miles that I bought during a promotion earlier in the year for the other four.
Besides the individual reviews, I also wrote in detail about my 671.87 dollar Cathay Pacific first class experience here.
Spotting in Japan: The Usual & Three New Airports
As far as spotting is concerned, I was able to spend a fair bit of time photographing at both airports in Japan as well as in other parts of the world.
In Japan, I visited the two Tokyo airports a couple of times – both to just enjoy the regular traffic and to catch special aircraft.
The three aircraft that I was glad to see the most included:
- Ilyushin Il-96-400 of the Russian Ministry of Defense
- Boeing 747-400 of the Dubai Air Wing
- Boeing 737-900 of the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Finance
Besides the, I also went to Yokota Air Base to photograph the Air Force One and its backup plane – arguably the highlight of the 2017 spotting season in Japan.
Early in the year, I also had the chance to spend a couple of days in Sapporo, enjoying its amazing winter scenery giving a backdrop to a fairly interesting stream of traffic. I visited the airport in the north of Japan later in the year again – this time for the annual Chitose Air Festival to take a close look at the soon-to-be-retired JASDF 747-400.
Finally, I was also able to snap a couple of pictures at three airports that I hadn’t visited previously: Tokyo Chofu, Shizuoka, and Kobe. While they are far from being the busiest airports in Japan, it was still great to get photos with a different-than-usual scenery.
Spotting Around the World
My first spotting session of the year – given that I was in Europe for Christmas and New Year’s – was in Austria rather than in Japan. More specifically, I spend a brief period of time at Vienna airport’s observation deck to get some snowy shots after my arrival from Paris where I went to catch the Air France 787 inaugural.
The above was followed by another day of spotting at Vienna (to catch the first China Airlines A350 flight to the airport) and Bratislava together with Philippe (check out his fun to read, but I-wish-he-updated-it-a-bit-more-frequently blog, The Full Gull).
Then, on my way from Europe back to Japan, I stopped in Bangkok for a day where I went to Don Muang air base for the excellent Children’s Day open base. As an airliner fan, the main draw of the airshow for me is the ability to photograph Don Muang airport’s movements from the airshow venue.
The next big trip took place in March when I went to Miami for a couple of days thanks to a very cheap Delta Air Lines fare. Not only did the trip allow me to fly on Delta’s now-retired 747, but I was also able to photograph a wide variety of traffic from Latin America (among other places in the world) at Miami airport.
And, thanks to a couple of friendly German spotters, I was also able to spend some hours at Fort Lauderdale airport.
The remaining spotting sessions in the year were fairly short and took place during what were mostly “flying trips.” First, in April, I spent a full day spotting at Istanbul airport and visiting the aviation museum adjacent to it between my flights from Tokyo and to Vienna.
In September, I rented a car after my arrival in Budapest and spent a couple of hours photographing approaches and (re)visiting the excellent Aeropark Budapest museum before meeting up with my family.
Finally, in October, I spent some time spotting at Seoul Incheon and Jeju airports in Korea.
What Will 2018 Bring?
Looking back at 2017, the highlight was most certainly my spotting trip to Miami. While I thoroughly enjoyed all of the flights I took as well as the other spotting sessions, the Miami trip was the first time in a while for me to dedicate three full days in a row to spotting. And, it allowed me to see many airlines that I never saw before. All in all, it reminded me of how much I enjoy this hobby.
As for 2018, while there are still many unknowns – but, I already have at least two fairly big trips planned. I will embark on the first one during which I will have a chance to fly Qatar Airways’ QSuites for less than 700 dollars in less than a month.
The second one will take place in May when I will fly to Paris – and from there to Toronto and Vancouver. While my planes for the trip are not completely clear yet, I certainly hope to do some spotting in the two cities, as well as to take a seaplane flight in Vancouver. On the way back, I will likely stop by my home in Slovakia.
Other than that, I have a couple of trips on my mind – both to fly on some interesting aircraft as well as to photograph aircraft. I will write more about those once they are booked, though.
So, stay tuned. And, thanks once again for reading KN Aviation!