Great Moments in Travel History – December 2021

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“Shorter Than The Day,” an art installation at the new LaGuardia Airport Central Terminal

After a dispute with hotel management over medical care and salaries, three disgruntled employees set a fire in the Hotel Dupont Plaza in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on December 31, 1986. It was the worst hotel fire in Puerto Rican history, with 97 people losing their lives in the New Year’s Eve blaze. The hotel is now the San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino.

While flying over Lockerbie, Scotland, Pan Am Flight 103 was destroyed by a terrorist bomb on December 21, 1988. All 243 passengers and 16 crewmembers, as well as 11 people on the ground, were killed.

Trans World Airlines agreed on December 16, 1990, to sell its six routes linking multiple cities in the United States with London to American Airlines for $445 million.

After spending most of the year trying to emerge from bankruptcy court, Pan Am ceased operations on December 4, 1991, after Delta Air Lines withdrew a funding commitment it had made as part of the purchase of Pan Am’s European routes and Northeast shuttle earlier in the year.

On December 16, 2003, Boeing’s board of directors gave the go-ahead for the company to offer for sale the 7E7 Dreamliner, now known as the 787 Dreamliner.

The 500th Boeing 777 rolled off the assembly line on December 3, 2004. The aircraft reached 500 units delivered faster than any other twin-aisle airplane in history.

The Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour opened at the new 73,000 square-foot facility in Everett, Washington, on December 16, 2005. Tourists and aviation geeks are welcome.

Total orders for the Boeing 737 surpassed the 6,000 mark on December 21, 2005, with an order from Xiamen Airlines for 10 737-800s.

The Regent Palace Hotel in London, which, at the time of its opening on May 16, 1915, was the largest hotel in Europe in terms of the number of rooms (1,028), closed its doors on December 31, 2006. The building was demolished starting in 2010.

The first 787 Dreamliner made its inaugural flight on December 15, 2009, from Paine Field in Everett, Washington, under the control of Capt. Mike Carriker and Capt. Randy Neville.

AMR Corporation, the parent company of American Airlines, and US Airways Group, the parent of US Airways, officially merged on December 9, 2013, forming the world’s largest airline, American Airlines Group.

On December 19, 2016, a hijacked truck driven by Anis Amri, a failed asylum seeker from Tunisian, plowed through a Christmas market in Berlin, Germany, killing nine and injuring approximately 50 people. One of the dead was Łukasz Urban, the truck’s original driver.  Amri was killed in a shootout with police in Milan four days later.

On December 19, 2017, Hawaiian Airlines said it would acquire a variety of bankrupt airline Island Air’s assets including its frequent-flyer membership list and ground-service equipment for $300,000. It paid $450,000 for the defunct airline’s operating certificate.

The first concourse in the newly built replacement Central Terminal building at LaGuardia Airport opened on December 1, 2018. The concourse is home to Air Canada, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines.  It is part of the $8 billion overhaul of the much-maligned airport, which two years later is almost complete.

Federal air marshals were told they had to sit in coach and no longer sit in first class or business, thanks to a change in policy that went into effect on December 28, 2018. The Federal Air Marshal Service said it was making this change in order for the air marshals to be in a position to better monitor passenger behavior, but industry observers felt that the change was due to pressure from airlines who were losing revenue when the marshals occupied premium seats instead of a paying passenger.


(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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