Jan112020

My 2019 air travel: 4 Europe trips, 55K miles flown, $3k spend, Star Alliance gold elite

My air travel dropped by more than 25% in 2019 to 55,000 miles compared to 75,000 miles flown in 2018. The reduction in air travel was my choice. A large part of that decrease in air travel was due to the influence of climate activist Greta Thunberg. Climate change activism news and a series of feature articles by The Guardian motivated me to spend many hours of time in 2019 researching science-based analysis on the impact of air travel contributions to climate change. What I learned set a rethink for my need to take advantage of a cheap fare and fly away from the USA six or seven times a year. Mentally, I still desire to get away. Logically, I feel compelled to restrain myself. Monterey is one great place to be physically stuck in and simply being by the sea offers mental refreshment for the soul.

$3,081 with four trips to Europe traveling through ten countries is arguably still a large air travel footprint. I don’t see my transatlantic air travel dropping in 2020 with three trips already planned by summer and a likely domestic cross county trip this spring to visit New England and Quebec for ancestry research.

My primary objective for 2019 was qualifying for Aegean Gold elite with Star Alliance Gold elite benefits. I met that objective in March 2019 with a four segment Aegean ticket flying Warsaw to Crete. Then, I requalified for Aegean Gold elite again in December 2019 with 24,000 Star Alliance Tier Miles. My Aegean/Star Alliance Gold elite status is set through March 2021.

Star Alliance Gold elite allows me access to Star Alliance airport lounges around the world with my wife when flying Star Alliance airline members, including United Club when flying United Airlines on USA domestic flights. I also receive Priority Boarding 1 on United and Star Alliance operated flights and the benefit of one free checked bag on most tickets.

So far, I have not taken advantage of the free checked bag benefit. Except for my initial EasyJet flight, where it was necessary to pay for a checked bag, 2019 was nearly a full year traveling with only two carry-on bags, one for the overhead bin and my backpack for under the seat. The real success story of 2019 air travel with my wife is she also managed the year with only carry-on bags. I simply pack one of her two liquids and pastes quart size bags in my luggage.

  • 55,198 flight miles on 10 differest airlines: Aegean/Olympic, American, British Airways, easyjet, KLM, Norwegian, Ryanair, SAS Scandinavian, United, Wizz.
  • 10 international countries visited: Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.
  • $3,081 spent on airline tickets. All flights were paid flights with no frequent flyer miles redeemed for flights in 2019.
  • Earned Aegean Miles+Bonus Gold elite in March 2019 and requalified in December 2019 through March 2021.
  • Aegean changed their Tier Points earning for SAS Scandinavian Airlines in fall 2019 making GoLight fares ineligble. Simply buying up to GoSmart with the benefit of one free checked bag for about $60 round trip per transatlantic ticket is not too much more to continue earning Aegean Gold cheap elite in 2020 with 12,000 Tier Points + 4 Aegean/Olympic flight segments or 24,000 Tier Points without Aegean flights. Two SAS Scandinavian SFO-Stockholm $500 round trip tickets can still earn 24,000 Tier Points under the revised current Aegean Miles+Bonus program rules.

SAS over Denmark

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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Comments

  1. It sounds like you’ve given this a lot of thought (more then myself I admit). As others go the same direction of not flying as much do you see a world of less flights, less planes (and the need to produce them), less tourism (and the related jobs, etc.)? Do you see more close-to-home travel in cars (and their effect) or just less travel period?

    In Monterey I could see staycations or travel to areas not that far away. Living in West Virginia not so much.

    I wonder about the effects of less globalized travel. Will we become more isolated with less empathy/concern for places we just see on the media?

    I am concerned with climate change, but can’t help wonder what will be different as a result of actions taken. In this case will we be more isolated? How far reaching will the economic impact be on some countries/areas heavily reliant on tourism, and related industries?

  2. @CarlWV – Air travel is projected to grow significantly over the next three decades, while few scientific studies anticipate significant technological advancements to reduce the carbon footprint of air travel during that time period. The growth of aviation as a contributor to climate change as many other polluting industries have current technological solutions to reduce their impact is expected to result in aviation contributing a higher proportion to the overall climate issue.

    That is the main dilemma with the future of air travel.

    3.7 billion global air passengers in 2016 projected to rise to 7.2 billion in 2035. – International Civil Aviation Organization. Only 3% of global population flew on a plane last year, yet these 3% may contribute more than 5% of total global emissions. https://www.dw.com/cda/en/to-fly-or-not-to-fly-the-environmental-cost-of-air-travel/a-42090155

    Since there is not much of an alternative in the USA for traveling long distance across the country given the time it takes for train, bus and auto to cover 4,000+ miles round trip, then we need plane travel.

    Ways to personally minimize air travel footprint for flyers is fly nonstop on newer more fuel-efficient aircraft taking up as little space as possible, i.e. economy rather than business/first.

    Take-off is the most fuel intensive aspect of flight. Fewer connections for your travel reduces that factor. Minimize connecting flights.

    Newer planes like Boeing 787 and Airbus 350 are far more fuel efficient than Boeing 747 and Airbus A380.

    TransportEnvironment.org – April 16, 2019
    “Airlines’ carbon emissions grew 4.9% on flights within Europe last year – in contrast to the other sectors covered by emissions-trading, such as coal and cement plants, which declined 3.9% overall. Carbon pollution from flying in Europe has risen a staggering 26% in the last five years – far outpacing any other transport mode.”
    https://www.transportenvironment.org/news/airline-emissions-growth-out-control

    • Norwegian Air Shuttle was the most fuel-efficient airline on transatlantic operations in 2017, with an average fuel efficiency of 44 passenger-kilometers per liter of fuel (pax-km/L), 33% higher than the industry average. British Airways (BA) ranked as the least fuel-efficient, falling 22% below the industry average.
    • The estimated gap between the most and least fuel-efficient transatlantic airlines widened from 51% in 2014 to 63% last year.  Norwegian’s average fuel efficiency increased by 3 pax-km/L, while British Airways’ decreased by 1 pax-km/L. Although the fuel efficiency of British Airways’ fleet increased, and average passenger load factors were similar in 2014 and 2017, the freight share of total payload and average seating density of BA’s fleet fell during this time.
    • Aircraft fuel burn was found to be the most important driver of fuel efficiency overall, explaining almost 40% of the variation in airline fuel efficiency across carriers, followed by seating density, which accounted for one third of the variation. Freight share and passenger load factors were relatively less important. – International Council on Clean Transportation
    https://www.theicct.org/publications/transatlantic-airline-fuel-efficiency-ranking-2017

    Here is the ICCT 2018 air travel report published in Sep 2019.
    https://theicct.org/sites/default/files/publications/ICCT_CO2-commercl-aviation-2018_20190918.pdf

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