How air travel changed in 2021

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(CNN) – It’s been another turbulent year for aviation.

Towards the end of 2021, thousands of holiday trips have been canceled due to the raging Omicron variant, causing further damage to an industry struggling with lost revenue, disrupted passengers, and being on the front lines of both interpreting and enforcing government Covid regulations.

Here we take a look at how CNN has covered the biggest developments in aviation in the past 12 months.

Vaccine passports and states

It’s hard to believe, but almost a year has not passed since Britain’s Margaret Keenan in December 2020 became the first person in the world to receive a vaccine for Covid-19. Today, more than eight billion have been managed.
The airline industry had to adapt quickly. While we are now used to all the digital documents we need in order to fly, the US only introduced a Covid test in January and CNN was speculating about the ethics and practicality of introducing “vaccine passports”.
Attitudes toward vaccination mandates for airline employees have varied around the world, proving particularly controversial in the United States, where Delta Air Lines and Southwest have stuck to making it mandatory for their workers.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical advisor, said in September that he supports a mandate for passengers, too, but the travel industry hasn’t been on board and that’s still a relatively uncommon procedure around the world. In October, Air New Zealand became one of the leading airlines to announce the passenger authorization, which it will implement in February 2022.

Front line of implementation

Industry net losses for 2021 are expected to approach $52 billion, but on top of these financial problems, the job has been getting tougher for the airline workers responsible for taking us across the sky.

Flight attendants receive self-defense training as the number of rowdy passengers is increasing. Pete Montaigne reports from CNN.

In addition to fighting with passengers who don’t want to wear masks or who try to drink their own alcohol on board, airlines have had to keep up with the rapid changes and confusing legislation introduced by governments on Covid.

In April, an Australian domestic flight was delayed until quarantine rules changed so long while passengers were in the air, while in December, Ghana International Airport introduced some of the strictest regulations in Africa, levying a $3,500 fine on airlines for every unprotected passenger who travels. to the country.

Busy planes and high prices

CNN wrote last November that cancellations, packed planes and increased prices have become the “new normal” for air travel in the United States. Operational collapses at Southwest and American Airlines have been behind the recent cancellation of thousands of flights, but staffing shortages have also increased work on flight crews, while a lack of options on flights has driven up the cost of tickets.

One small positive for consumers in the age of Covid is that many airlines globally have introduced and retained greater flexibility when it comes to changing flights at short notice. However, flying is now often a stressful and costly experience overall – not helped by the Covid ‘fit to fly’ test that remains the Wild West for private companies offering very varying levels of service and value for money.

Hello, bye and see later

CNN’s Richard Quest boards JetBlue’s first transatlantic flight, discussing the travel challenges JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes faced before launching the New York to London route.

In February, Bombardier announced it was halting production of the iconic Learjet, a small private jet that for decades has been synonymous with upscale business travel.
At the opposite end of scale, the last Airbus A380 – the world’s largest passenger airline – was delivered to Emirates Airlines in December.
The A380s and dozens of other aircraft continued to be stockpiled by airlines due to lack of pandemic demand, although many emerged as travel increased during the summer season. In the California desert, parked A380s had trouble attracting rattlesnakes.
And in China, the long-awaited Chengdu Tianfu International Airport was opened in China. Constructed at a cost of about $10.8 billion, the first phase of the mega hub has the capacity to handle up to 60 million passengers annually.

Belarus kidnapping

Willie Walsh, director general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), tells CNN reporter Becky Anderson that the diverted Ryanair flight was a “high-risk business.”

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 Protasevic and his Russian companion, Sofia Sapiga.

Three days after the accident, European airlines were officially banned from flying over Belarusian airspace, effectively redrawing the air map of Europe.

carbon question

At its annual meeting in October, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) approved a resolution supporting net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

With a focus on climate change during the COP26 summit in Scotland in November, CNN produced this long read on how close we are to guilt-free flying becoming a reality.
We also followed the latest developments in alternative low-carbon air travel, such as helium-powered airships for intercity flights.
Carbon-soaked fun rides were by no means off the agenda in 2021. “Flights anywhere” – round-trip sightseeing – has been a fashion, particularly in the Asia Pacific region. The Qantas flight to view the supermoon and full lunar eclipse 40,000 feet over Australia in May sold out in 2.5 minutes.

Supersonic dream hit turbulence

The old dream of a successor to Concorde got a little carried away when Aerion, one of the key players in the race to build a supersonic passenger plane, collapsed in May after money ran out. It’s only been months since it announced big plans for a luxurious new world headquarters to produce its family of planes.
Meanwhile, Colorado-based Boom Supersonic is pressing ahead with plans to get a 1:3 scale prototype of its Overture aircraft in the air. Its ambitions remain big: CEO Blake Scholl told CNN in May that the company’s goal is “to travel anywhere in the world within four hours for $100.”
Atlanta-based Hermeus is working on a supersonic passenger plane that’s hypersonic — that means speeds of Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. This will get a plane from New York to London in just 90 minutes, making Concorde’s three hours seem slow.

cabin evolution

Looking ahead to 2022 and beyond, first class is disappearing from many airlines, and business class options are instead becoming more luxurious.

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