As we say goodbye (good riddance?) to 2020, we thought we’d look back at a strange year for world travel, and forward to the plans we’ve got for the year ahead.

2020: The year travel ground to a halt

The year started out well, with lots of travel for work and pleasure, including a business trip to Russia. I had fun flying to St Petersburg for the first time with Rossiya, who served me lots of Russian cognac.

Flying Rossiya for the first time from Gatwick to St Petersburg
The crew were proud to serve their Russian cognac!

Next up was a quick work trip to Switzerland, followed by a skiing holiday in Slovakia where we stayed at the palatial Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras.

Fantastic views from the Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras

By this point, it was only late February and I’d also managed to squeeze in a week’s visit to Mumbai, to attend a work conference and catch up with Saadaan.

As well as hanging out in a nice suite at the ITC Grand Central, which we reviewed for our friends over at Turning Left for Less, we got to eat plenty of great food in Mumbai.

Enjoying a thali at a local restaurant in Mumbai
Saadaan seemed to like it too

I reviewed two different airlines on this trip, Virgin Atlantic’s 787 Upper Class and Oman Air’s 787 business class, which was a bit of a disappointment.

The service wasn't great in Oman Air business class

Immediately after my return from Mumbai in early March, everything changed. The world started to hunker down due to the spread of coronavirus - by now officially declared an international pandemic - and all travel was off.

The first cancelled trip was a long-planned holiday to India to celebrate one of my parent's 60th birthday. We had big plans to visit Delhi, Agra, Mumbai, Amristar and Kochi, and stay on the Discovery Houseboat, which looks like the best way to cruise the Kerala backwaters.

We were all disappointed to cancel, but we’re looking forward to planning our return, just as soon as covid is under control.

The only other international travel I was able to do in 2020 was a quick trip to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, where I stayed at the smartest hotel in town, The Esplanade.

Flying out from London, British Airways did a great job on the ground and on the plane, but it did bug me that BA was too stingy to pay for the business class lounge at Zagreb on my return.

Don't bank on BA paying for you to access the Primeclass lounge in Zagreb!

At that point in the summer, the UK opened travel corridors with a number of countries, many of them European, which meant there was no need for me to quarantine on return.

With rising infection rates in European countries, those travel corridors slowly fell away, one by one and that marked the end of my international travels for 2020. The reintroduction of quarantine rules in the UK saw me cancel short trips I’d planned with British Airways (to Istanbul) and Swiss (to Zurich).

The furthest I’ve ventured since summer is to west London, to check out the newly-opened viewing deck at the Novotel London Heathrow on Bath Road. If you’re an av geek and passing though London at any time, you’ll definitely want to pay a visit to the deck, from where you can see all the action at Heathrow (even if there isn’t quite as much action as there used to be!).

Air India 787, as seen from the Novotel viewing deck

Meanwhile, with so much to see and do in India, Saadaan had plenty to keep him busy. It was a big year for Vistara, which took delivery of new aircraft to service long-haul routes, and Saadaan managed to get the first (and best 😉) reviews of both the Vistara 787 business class, and the Vistara A321neo business class cabins.

Not wanting to leave Air India out, he also found time to review the Air India Boeing 777 business class cabin, plus business class on Air India’s iconic Boeing 747. Spoiler alert: neither were a patch on what Vistara has to offer (but then you knew that, anyway).

Post-lockdown, Saadaan checked in to the Oberoi Mumbai and was pretty impressed with the covid health and safety measures in place.

His travels also took him to Kolkata, where he stayed at two of the best hotels in town: ITC Royal Bengal and the Oberoi Grand, Kolkata.

The Oberoi Grand, Kolkata

A final trip for 2020 saw Saadaan head off to the beaches of Goa (lucky guy), where he was able to wind down at the luxurious ITC Resort & Spa, and stay at a traditional Portugese-style Airbnb property.

Looking ahead to 2021: Good times just around the corner?

Enough of 2020, already - what’s in store for this year? I’m looking forward to flying Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class again, this time to Delhi, on a bargain ticket I picked up last year for around £780 (roundtrip from London).

I’ve also rescheduled my long-awaited flight in ANA's super new first class cabin, The Suite, which remains the best use of your Virgin Atlantic air miles (as pointed out by the brilliant Rob from Head for Points).

After cancelling my booking for November 2020, I’ve rescheduled for the end of May, hoping Japan may have opened up by then.

ANA The Suite first class

Aside from that, I made a few speculative bookings when British Airways decided to offer a 50% reduction on air miles redemptions. Even better? You could combine that deal with an American Express companion voucher, which meant paying peanuts for two to travel together.

Saadaan and I jumped on the BA promo, and are planning to travel on the BA A380 in first class from London to Los Angeles in June.

The BA A380. Picture credit: Stuart Bailey/ British Airways

After getting a short taster of the Vistara 787, we’d definitely like to try out their Dreamliner on a longer sector, and we’ll chalk that up as another travel goal for the new year.

With vaccines about to take off in a big way, will 2021 be the year that weary travellers get to throw off the shackles of coronavirus and start exploring again? Let’s live in hope.

What are your travel plans for the coming year? Will you be ticking things off your bucket list, or laying low for a while longer?