2020 in Review: Looking Back at My Highlights of Last Year

With January 2021 here, it’s time for the fifth annual review of my aviation activities. While I mainly do this to have a place that I can go back to remember some of the flights I took and aircraft I saw, I also hope you enjoy reading through it and through some of the articles that I link out to.

You can check my previous annual reviews here: 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Before continuing with the report itself, I’d like to wish you all the best in 2021 and thank you for reading this blog. I’d also like to thank my girlfriend, family, and friends for supporting me (not only) in this hobby and working on KN Aviation.

Now, let’s jump into the review!

Haneda Airport International Terminal
Haneda airport international terminal.

Miles, Types, Airlines

In 2020, I took 14 flights adding up to just over 22,000 miles. This was considerably less than the 100,000+ miles I flew in 2019 and 2018. Considering the ongoing COVID-19 situation, though, I am very grateful to have been able to fly at all. Nine of the flights were domestic within Japan and five were international.

The airline I flew the most was, with four flights, ANA. The aircraft types I flew the most included DHC-8-200, A319, and A320, each of which I flew a grand total of… Two times. The only airline I flew for the first time in 2020 was Oriental Air Bridge. Its DHC-8-200 was also the only new aircraft type I managed to log.

2020 Flight Map
Flights I took in 2020. (Generated using The Great Circle Mapper)

The Highlight of the Year: Traveling Internationally

Given the current situation, I have to say that the aviation highlight of the year for me was simply the fact that I managed to travel internationally at all. More specifically, I visited my family in Slovakia twice – in September and December.

The first time around, I traveled from Tokyo Narita to Vienna via Zurich on Swiss and Austrian Airlines, and from Vienna to Tokyo Haneda via London on Austrian Airlines and ANA. I booked the flights using Turkish Airlines and ANA miles.

Flying both ways in business class gave me a chance to try a couple of new products. Without a doubt, the highlight was flying in ANA’s relatively new “The Room” business class seat. I will write up the review of that flight over the next couple of weeks. It was also nice to try Swiss 777-300ER and Austrian Airlines short-haul business class for the first time.

ANA The Room
ANA’s “The Room” business class suite.

Additionally, while in Slovakia, I had a chance to visit the Museum of Aviation in Kosice which is part of the Slovak Technical Museum. Even though it is mostly filled with military aircraft, Slovak Government Yak-40 and Tu-154, as well as a Malev Il-18, make the museum well worth a visit even for airliner fans.

Slovak Government Yak-40 in Kosice
Slovak Government Yak-40 in Kosice.

As for the second trip, I flew from Tokyo Haneda to Vienna with Turkish Airlines in economy class. While I won’t be reviewing the shorter Istanbul to Vienna flight (I reviewed a similar one here), I plan to review the 787-9 flight from Tokyo to Istanbul both because I haven’t written about Turkish Airlines’ 787 yet and also because the onboard service that the airline offers in the COVID-19 era is considerably different from its service during normal times.

Turkish Airlines 787
Turkish Airlines 787.

A Year of Domestic Trips

Other than the two trips to Slovakia, 2020 was a year of domestic trips around Japan.

The most notable of those was a trip I took in March to fly on one of ANA’s 737-500s before their retirement. Along the way, I also managed to fly on Oriental Air Bridge for the first time and to try JAL’s domestic first class. I wrote about all those experiences extensively here, here, and here.

Oriental Air Bridge Dash 8 Q200 Cabin
Onboard an Oriental Air Bridge Q200.
ANA 737-500 Wing View
My first and last flight on ANA’s 737-500.

In July, my girlfriend and I flew to Komatsu with ANA to spend a couple of days in Kanazawa.

Before heading to the historic city on the Sea of Japan-side of the country, though, we paid a quick visit to Ishikawa Aviation Plaza next to Komatsu airport. While there were a number of interesting exhibits, the highlight was seeing a section of the cabin of one of the Japanese government’s VIP 747s. We took the train back from Kanazawa to Tokyo.

Japan Air Force 747
Japan Air Force 747 nose section displayed in Ishikawa Aviation Plaza.

Finally, in September, I flew to Fukuoka with Starflyer to build a playground and do some spotting. I’ll talk about that trip in the next section of this article.

In addition to aviation-related trips, my girlfriend and I also took advantage of Japan’s now-temporarily suspended Go to Travel campaign in which the government subsidizes half of domestic travel costs and did a couple of quick overnight trips around Tokyo. I plan to review two of the hotels we stayed at – Hilton Tokyo Bay in the Tokyo Disney Resort and The Yokohama Bay Hotel Tokyu – on this blog over the next few weeks.

Yokohama Bay Hotel Tokyu
The Yokohama Bay Hotel Tokyu offered nice views.

Plane Spotting in Kyushu and Tokyo

Plane spotting-wise, the highlight has been spending a few days at Fukuoka airport back in September.

The main goal of the visit was to take night photos from the airport’s new observation deck. Over the five evenings I spent at the airport, I was able to take dozens of them. If you enjoy taking night photos of aircraft, I can only recommend visiting Fukuoka airport.

Fukuoka Airport
Night spotting at Fukuoka airport.
JAL Disney Fantasia
Disney Fantasia 767 ready to depart back to Tokyo.

During daytime, I was lucky to see one of the two 777-300ERs operated by the Japanese air force doing some touch-and-gos, and JAL’s A350 in Arashi livery and 767 in Mickey Fantasia livery.

Japan Air Force 777-300ER
Japan Air Force 777-300ER at Fukuoka airport.
JAL Arashi
JAL A350 in Arashi livery.

Separately from the September trip, I also had some chance to do some spotting on the island of Kyushu during my March trip to fly on ANA’s 737-500. I spent a couple of hours at Fukuoka airport after my arrival from Tokyo, and I was also able to take some photos at Nagasaki and Goto-Fukue airports.

Oriental Air Bridge Dash Q200 JA802B
Oriental Air Bridge Q200 taken from Goto-Fukue airport’s observation deck.
Skymark 737
Skymark 737 departing Nagasaki airport.

Finally, I visited Tokyo Haneda airport a dozen times during the year.

In the first half of the year, the highlights were Air France’s 777-300ER in the SkyTeam livery and a Deer Jet 787-8.

In the second half of the year, more precisely in November and December, I was mainly visiting the airport to photograph Lufthansa’s A340-300s which the airline was sending to Tokyo instead of the pre-pandemic 747-8. Now, the flight from Frankfurt to Tokyo is operated by the A350-900.

Air France 777-300ER
Air France 777-300ER in SkyTeam livery.
Lufthansa A340-300
Lufthansa A340-300.

Separately from plane spotting, I also visited a Mercedes showroom in Tokyo where, for a brief period of time, one of Emirates’ great looking first class suites was displayed. I wrote about that experience here.

Mercedes me Tokyo Gallery Emirates First Class Suite
Emirates first class suite displayed in the Mercedes me Tokyo Gallery.

What Are the Plans for 2021?

With the situation surrounding COVID-19 being still uncertain, there are very few solid plans I have for this year in terms of international flying. That said, I certainly plan to visit Europe at least a couple of times and hopefully even do a spotting or review trip or two.

As for plane spotting, I hope to do quite a few “work + spotting” days at Haneda airport. Last year, I did a couple of those where I worked from the observation deck and took a photo here and there when there was some interesting movement, and they were really enjoyable.

Additionally, I would like to do another spotting trip to Fukuoka and also Sapporo if possible.

Work + Spotting
Getting some work done while watching aircraft.


Aviation-wise, 2020 was an OK year for me. For obvious reasons, I didn’t get to travel internationally nowhere near as much as I would usually do. That said, I am extremely fortunate to not have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic so far beyond logging fewer miles than usual – something that is more than enough of a result for 2020.

While the pandemic is still here, hopefully, things will start improving as 2021 progresses and the next year’s edition of this review will reflect that!

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