Kimberley Mannion looks back at the most significant travel moments of the past decade.
Any decade could be said to be a big one for the travel industry, given that travel is such a big part of our lives. The 2010s were no exception, with online booking platforms and low-cost airlines having made travel more accessible than ever. Indeed, the birth of Instagram at the start of the decade surrounded us with perfect images of travel bloggers on exotic beaches as we scroll through our feed on a rainy Glaswegian morning, making us want to pack our bags and spontaneously hop on a flight.
Despite this, the decade has not been without its bumps in the road for the travel industry. The ability to fly anywhere in the world whenever you like has become something almost taken for granted in our society, the type of luxury that you don’t step back from and allow yourself to be amazed by until it is taken away. The closing of airspace leading to the cancellation of hundreds of flights, then, stands out as a key event. The volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland, in April 2010 brought chaos to the British travel industry. Volcanic ash from the site in Iceland was ejected so high into the atmosphere that UK airspace was forced to close from 15 – 20 April. With the number of flights cancelled, holiday-makers stranded and money lost for airlines, this may be named as the biggest disruption to British travel of the decade.
Skipping now from the start of the decade to the end, another episode of disruption came just before Christmas 2018 when Gatwick Airport was closed and hundreds of flights were cancelled from 19 – 20 December, due to drone sightings reported near the runway. It’s crazy to think that such small devices, available to be bought by any Joe Bloggs, could unleash such havoc on one of Britain’s major transport hubs. It has brought about serious questions for the aviation industry over how to deal with this increasingly popular technology in the future and prevent similar instances from occurring.
One of the most significant travel events of the decade, and perhaps one of the greatest mysteries of our time, has undoubtedly been the unexplained disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. The flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing was reported lost on 8 March 2014 after it lost all contact with air traffic control, with the last tracking of the aircraft showing it diverting far from the planned route. By the end of the decade, we know no more about what happened. Just five pieces of debris were ever found, none providing any explanation, and investigations are now closed. The mystery has provided a field day for conspiracy theorists, with everything from remote cyber hacking to the presence of a second Bermuda Triangle, and of course, the classic possibility of an alien abduction being suggested. It seems unlikely that we, nor the families of the 239 people killed, will ever find out the truth about this horrific tragedy.
The end of the decade saw the collapse of a company who at the beginning were at the height of the industry – Thomas Cook. The once-loved travel agent went bust on Sunday 22 September 2019 after struggling with debt of £1.7bn at the last count. The company’s failure may be representative of changes in our society over the decade: the decline in relevance of travel agents as we can browse cheap getaways via online apps, climate change bringing heatwaves at home in the last two years stopping people from holidaying abroad, or uncertainty over the Brexit deadline and how this will affect travel. After 178 years in business, 24 of which were spent under public ownership as the government saved the company after WW2, Thomas Cook is certainly an iconic loss to the British travel industry, which is representative of the rise of Ryanair, Airbnb and the like.
These events all have a somewhat sinister tone, but progressions in the industry throughout the decade have brought joy to many, with the decreased cost of travel allowing more people than ever to see the world. The question now is how such changes will shape the decade ahead. The increased public consciousness over the climate crisis is calling for a trend of going “flight free”, so will the plane engines not be roaring so much during the 20s? The government helping FlyBe out of trouble in the first few weeks of 2020 has already struck debate about the appropriateness of state funding in the era of climate crisis, especially for an airline specialising in short haul flights. Whatever happens, we are sure to see more changes in ten years as the world and technology advances.