From the Arab Spring uprisings to the royal wedding, the travel industry was bombarded with a host of earth-shattering events in 2011. Check out our picks for some of the most memorable.
<b>First Dreamliner Commercial Flight</b><br>All Nippon Airways (ANA) piloted the first commercial flight of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Tokyo’s Narita airport to Hong Kong on Oct. 26. The world's first major airliner to use composite materials for most of its construction made its debut after years of delays and billions of dollars spent over budget. The inaugural flight was filled with aviation enthusiasts who paid thousands of dollars for a seat and raved about the plane’s amenities.
<b>Hurricane Irene Shuts Down East Coast</b><br>Hurricane Irene came ashore at North Carolina on Aug. 27 as a Category 1 storm. The huge, slow-moving tempest traveled up 1,100 miles of US coastline, leaving a trail of destruction resulting in 45 deaths and losses of up to $7 billion. The severe weather crippled travel along the East Coast, where more than 10,000 flights were cancelled, much of Amtrak’s service between Washington, DC, and Boston was suspended and many highways were closed.
<b>Arab Spring</b><br>On Jan. 25, Arab Spring uprisings spread from Tunisia and other North African countries to Egypt, culminating in the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak 17 days later. While Egyptians rejoiced at the peaceful coup, the fallout crippled the tourism industry, the country’s largest source of revenue and jobs. Even as tourists began to return to landmarks such as the Pyramids at Giza and Cairo’s Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, Egyptians again took to the streets in November, protesting the interim military government.
<b>Cisco Ceases Production of the Flip Video Camera</b><br>On April 12, Cisco announced that it was ceasing production of the Flip video recorder, a device that revolutionized the digital video camera market and became the trusty companion of travel bloggers worldwide. Cisco purchased Pure Digital Technology Inc., the inventor of Flip, in a $590 million deal in 2009.
<b>Earthquake and Tsunami Hit Japan</b><br>On Friday, Mar. 10, Japan’s eastern coast was rocked by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, one of the largest ever recorded, then slammed by a ferocious 23-foot tsunami. The initial disaster killed thousands of people and wiped out entire towns and villages. Survivors endured weeks of aftershocks and rolling blackouts, while explosions and radiation leaks at the Fukushima nuclear plant caused worldwide panic. Measurement of the economic, environmental and human toll is ongoing.
<b>LOT Polish Airlines Makes Emergency Landing in Warsaw</b><br>No one was hurt when a LOT Polish Airlines Boeing 767 flying from Newark, NJ, with 230 people onboard made an emergency landing at Warsaw's airport after its landing gear failed to deploy. Live television footage showed the plane sliding on its belly, sparks flying as it hit the runway, then being covered in flame retardant foam.
<b>Royal Wedding, England</b><br>Britain’s Prince William married Catherine Middleton in a lavish ceremony at London’s Westminster Abbey on April 29. More than a million tourists flooded England’s capital to witness the nuptials, spending tens of millions of pounds on refreshments, hotels, attractions and souvenirs. Meanwhile, highlights for the TV audience of 2 billion people worldwide included Kate’s much anticipated gown designed by Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton, the crazy hats worn by female wedding guests, and the bride’s sister and maid of honor, Pippa.
<b>Eruption of Puyehue Volcano, Chile</b><br>On June 4, Chile’s Puyehue volcano erupted, spewing plumes of ash 6 miles into the atmosphere. Dozens of South American flights were scrapped and 6 airports in Argentina were closed as clouds of volcanic ash rode the wind toward the Atlantic Ocean. Thousands of people were evacuated from surrounding rural communities in the southern Andes mountain chain.
<b>Qantas Airlines Strike</b><br>On Oct. 29, Qantas Airways, the world’s 10th largest airline, grounded its entire fleet around the world and locked out striking employees. The airline said it made the move because it could not meet the "extreme demands" of 3 unions representing pilots, mechanics and ground staff. The airline resumed flights 2 days later after an Australian tribunal ordered an end to the dispute that affected nearly 70,000 passengers.
<b>Unprecedented Flooding Slams Australia and Thailand</b><br>Massive floods hit 2 of Asia’s most popular tourist destinations this year. In January, much of south and central Queensland, Australia, experienced its worst flooding in half a century, triggered by unusually heavy monsoon rains. In Thailand, unusually heavy rainfall in September, October and November resulted in flooding across 64 of the country’s 77 provinces. Bangkok’s main international airport remained open throughout the flooding, but the domestic airport was shut on Oct. 25 as floodwaters covered the runway and began seeping into terminal buildings.
<b>Virgin Galactic Begins Taking Reservations</b><br>If you’re sitting on an extra $200,000, why not join the 430 would-be amateur astronauts who have already signed up for a Virgin Galactic suborbital flight? The deposit is only $20,000, and since the company has yet to reveal an exact launch date, you have time to save up for the rest. If that’s still a little much, buy a T-shirt on the website for just $40.