The biggest travel news moments of 2019

MARCH: Boeing planes grounded

After an Ethiopian Airlines crash in early March, aviation authorities around the world began grounding the Boeing 737 Max airliner, citing concerns not just about that disaster but also a Lion Air crash the previous October involving the same make of aircraft. The result: 346 dead, hundreds of aircraft grounded and thousands of travellers left stranded.

APRIL: Notre Dame fire

An image made available by on Wednesday April 17, 2019 shows an aerial shot of the fire damage to Notre Dame cathedral in Paris on Tuesday April 16. Nearly $1 billion has already poured in from ordinary worshippers and high-powered magnates around the world to restore Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after it was damaged in a massive fire on Monday. ( via AP)

Fire devastated the Notre Dame cathedral. Photo: AP

It is as much a symbol of Paris as the Eiffel Tower: the magnificent medieval cathedral that has stood watch over the city for 800 years. When a devastating blaze broke out in the cathedral, firefighters laboured all night to save the landmark but were unable to rescue the spire, which collapsed. While the government has vowed to repair the monument, it will be a long while before Paris' skyline is restored.

MAY: Everest congestion

In the same week that seven climbers died on Everest, mountaineer Nirmal Purja's photo showing crowds of climbers queuing to summit Everest went viral. The revelation that the world's highest mountain has become yet another victim of overtourism – and that climbers would ignore the bodies of the fallen – shocked the world.

JUNE: Hong Kong protests

Usually one of Asia's busiest hubs, Hong Kong's economy has crumbled after months of anti-government protests. Anger flared in June when the government tried to introduce a law allowing residents to be extradited to mainland China. Although the bill was later suspended, anti-government protests have continued, with the uncertainty about what comes next leading to a drastic drop in tourist numbers.


SEPTEMBER: Saudi Arabia opens up

Can one of the world's most conservative kingdoms reinvent itself as a tourism hotspot? Saudi Arabia's rulers have introduced tourist visas and are hoping to draw visitors to the country's beaches, its mountains and its five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Unaccompanied women travellers are welcome as long as they dress modestly, but it remains to be seen how many holidaymakers will take the trip.

SEPTEMBER: Thomas Cook collapse

Chaotic airport scenes filled the news bulletins after the demise of one of the world's oldest travel companies. Authorities scrambled to find ways to bring more than 150,000 stranded holidaymakers home and became Britain's largest-ever peacetime repatriation.

OCTOBER: The world's longest flight

Move over Perth-to-London, there's a new long-haul route in town. Qantas successfully completed the first test of its much-vaunted 19-hour New York to Sydney flight, carrying 50 passengers and crew. By limiting the amount of luggage on board and destocking most of the bar, they made it all the way on one tank of fuel.

OCTOBER: Uluru climb closed

Traditional Owners pose for photos after placing the new sign of the permanent closure of the Uluru climb on the final day the climb is allowed, at Uluru on Friday 25 October 2019. fedpol ulurubest Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Traditional owners pose after a permanent closure sign was erected at Uluru. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

This year finally saw the closure of Uluru's controversial climb. As Australians increasingly understood the reverence with which the local Anugnu hold the rock, the number of climbers had steadily fallen over the years, down to just 16 per cent of visitors. However, the climb's imminent closure saw long queues of travellers who wanted to climb Uluru one last time.

NOVEMBER: Venice floods

The lagoon city has long been subject to tidal floods, but four major high-water events in one week marked the worst week of flooding since the city began keeping records in 1872. St Mark's Square was closed and countless historic buildings were damaged, with repairs estimated to take years and cost billions of euros.