There were some major changes in the world of travel in 2018. Here are the top 10 biggest events of the year.
FIRST NON-STOP FLIGHT AUSTRALIA TO LONDON
Qantas turned the kangaroo route into a single hop with its inaugural non-stop flight between Perth and London on March 24. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has his sights set on even bigger things – non-stop flights from east coast Australia to London and New York City.
WORLD'S LONGEST FLIGHT
Premium economy seats on board Singapore Airlines' Airbus A350-900. Photo: Supplied
Singapore Airlines regained the crown for the world's longest commercial flight when it recommenced its service between Singapore and Newark on October 11. The airline's Airbus A350-900 ULR aircraft, developed especially for this route, is fitted only with business and premium economy seats for the 19-hour flight.
NEW YORK CITY STOMPS ON AIRBNB
On July 18 New York's City Council voted unanimously to require Airbnb and other home-host facilitators to pass on all names and addresses of their hosts. This is the latest in the city's ongoing war to protect legitimate tenants from the disruption, annoyance and skyrocketing rents brought about by Airbnb in particular. Similar registration laws already exist in Barcelona and Paris.
SINGAPORE'S CHANGI AND THE FACE RACE
On May 1, Singapore's Changi Airport announced trials of a facial recognition system, deployed throughout its terminals. The move is designed to speed passengers through the airport, as well as locating those who check in but fail to show up for their scheduled flight. Changi's newest terminal, T4, is already using facial recognition for self-service check-in, bag drop, immigration and boarding.
VENICE'S ANSWER TO OVER-TOURISM
In a bold crowd-management strategy designed to combat over-tourism, Venice installed gates on two of the bridges leading into the city on May 1 to filter the huge number of visitors who traditionally descend on the city over the Easter holiday weekend. The move was intended to separate day trippers from local residents, with the option to shut the gates if the city became too congested. That never happened, but staggered visits could be the way of the future in Europe's tourism hotspots.
Symphony of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship, cast off from Barcelona with its first paying passengers on board on March 31. Just a shade over 1000 gross tonnes heavier than yesterday's hero, Harmony of the Seas, the 228,081 tonne Symphony underlines the never-ending appeal of big-ship cruising.
BEST NEW SMARTPHONE CAMERA
Smartphone cameras have come to rival high-spec cameras for the traveller looking for a pocket-sized wonder that not only snaps but tweaks images and posts to social media. Released in Australia on November 1, the Google Pixel 3 is the latest smartphone to up the stakes in the competition for the world's best smartphone camera. While the camera's wide angle and standard front-facing lenses that deliver 8MP images are not going to set the world on fire, the HDR+ function works a treat and Google has added zip in the shape of Top Shot, Super Res Zoom and Night Sight.
VICTORIA & ALBERT MUSEUM OF DESIGN, DUNDEE, SCOTLAND
In a bumper year for new museums, Scotland notched up a cultural coup on September 15 with the opening of the country's first museum dedicated exclusively to design. A dramatic, multi-layered sandwich of horizontal planes, the museum slices the water of the River Tay like a ship, referencing Dundee's rich history as a trading port. Highlight is the Scottish Design Galleries, encapsulating the nation's visual and creative history, with the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Oak Room as a standout.
WORLD'S LONGEST SEA BRIDGE
On October 23, Chinese President Xi Jinping opened the Hong Kong-Zhuhai bridge, the world's longest sea bridge. The 55-kilometre bridge/tunnel links Hong Kong with mainland China via Macau, slashing the travel time across the delta – but only for the buses, commercial vehicles and very limited number of private vehicles that are allowed to use it. For most travellers, a more practical route is aboard the Vibrant Express, the new high-speed Hong Kong-Shenzhen-Guangzhou rail line, opened exactly a month before the bridge.
BILLIONAIRES SPACE RACE
Space flights for paying passengers came a step closer on December 13 with the latest test flight of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic. Travelling at Mach 2.9, the rocket-powered airship shot to an altitude of 82.7 kilometres, beyond the altitude that NASA calls "space". Branson is promising to welcome the first passengers onboard next year, as he has almost every year since 2008, and other cashed-up moguls are competing in the space race.