I’ve had the time of my life since joining TPG in January.
Throughout the year, I’ve traveled to amazing places, met incredible people and produced some awesome content. I recently wrote about the status I earned this year — definitely enough to make TPG himself proud — so I’ll focus on my travel itself. And if you want to come along with me for the ride, follow me on Instagram (@_zachgriff).
Looking back, I’ll be highlighting below some interesting stats, as well as calling out some of my best travel experiences of 2019.
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2019 Travel Stats
Total miles flown: 205,985
Longest flight: 9,524 miles on the world’s longest flight from Newark to Singapore (review coming soon)
Shortest flight: 62 miles on one of British Airways’ shortest flights from Antigua to St. Kitts (review coming soon)
Unique airlines: 24 (Azul, Alaska, ANA, American Airlines, Bangkok Airways, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Cape Air, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, Delta, GOL, JAL, JetBlue, LATAM, Lufthansa, SilkAir, Silver Airways, Singapore Airlines, South African, Southwest, Swiss, Thai and United)
Unique airports: 52
Hotels: Too many to list, but you can see a college of my hotel keys below
Most meaningful trip
I love to travel. There’s just something exhilarating about exploring the unknown. But my most meaningful trip this year wasn’t necessarily a far-flung exploration. It was TPG’s trip to PeaceJam Ghana.
I went with a group of colleagues, and we witnessed Noble Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi inspire Ghanaian youth to stand up against childhood slavery and abuse. The children I interacted with were so excited to learn from us and left me more hopeful in society.
Favorite airport lounge
Although I don’t visit most domestic airport lounges, the story is quite different when I’m traveling internationally. The spread in lounge quality is so vast across airlines and continents, so I’m always on the lookout for new relaxing spaces.
That said, I spent time in some incredible lounges this year. The Swiss First Class lounge in Zurich was definitely one of my favorites. Between the private bedrooms and expansive outdoor terrace, this AvGeek was giddy the entire time he was there. When I wasn’t burning calories pacing outdoors, spotting a Swiss A220 or United 767, I was enjoying some top-notch food and drinks.
But my favorite lounge of the year was the Qantas First Lounge in Singapore. Qantas just opened the brand-new lounge a few weeks ago, and I was fortunate to visit when it opened. The restaurant-quality dining was delectable, and the relaxation areas were inviting. As a newly-minted Oneworld Emerald (thanks to Hyatt and AA), I’m really looking forward to visiting this lounge again next year.
Coolest AvGeek experience
I didn’t just travel around the world reviewing airlines and hotels this year. I participated in some really cool AvGeek experiences that helped make this year so memorable.
The highlight was creating two incredible behind-the-scenes time lapses of airport operations. In March, I went to LAX and then in the summer I went to Las Vegas McCarran Airport. Both of these videos are mesmerizing, so be sure to check them out if you haven’t already.
This year also saw the retirement of American’s MD-80s. The so-called “Mad Dogs” were the workhorse of the airline’s domestic fleet, so it was definitely a bittersweet day to witness live from Roswell, NM. It wasn’t all sad though, as I definitely had fun squeezing into an MD80 overhead bin.
Exciting new product
AA wasn’t the only airline to make room for newer and more fuel-efficient planes this year.
JetBlue took delivery of its first Airbus A321neo, which represents the next evolution in the carrier’s commitment to offering a passenger-friendly flying experience. I loved the to-go snack bar, as well as the ability to use your Bluetooth-enabled device to control the seatback TV. Plus, there’s nothing better than the new plane smell.
But most exciting was United’s CRJ550. Though the plane isn’t technically new — the carrier took a CRJ700 and just redid the interior — it’s the most comfortable regional jet in the sky. First class offers spacious 1-2 seating and a walk-up refreshment center. Economy was quite roomy in a 2-2 configuration, and each seat will soon offer power outlets. The best part? There’s plenty of closet space for all your carry-on bags.
What I’m looking forward to
2020 is shaping up to be another great year. I’ve already got some big trips planned for January, including a quick jaunt to Vietnam flying a new business class product, as well as Air Canada’s A220 inaugural flight. In April, I’m hoping to fly on an El Al “test” flight from Tel Aviv to Melbourne and later in the year I plan to fly United’s legendary island hopper. Though I haven’t finalized any other big trips, there’s definitely lots more to come.
Featured photo of a United CRJ550 by Zach Griff/The Points Guy