10 Things the #10YearChallenge Taught Us About Air Travel

In the sky as on the ground, what a difference a decade can make. Or sometimes not. Turns out the #10YearChallenge that’s been sweeping social media this week is more than just a way for people to show how much they’ve #GlowedUp since the dark ages of 2009.
Airlines and airports have joined the fun, showing off their then-and-now pictures as a cheeky way to flaunt livery do-overs, humblebrag fleet additions and show off a new uniform or two.
In the past 10 years, we’ve watched some front-cabin seats go from sweet to outright palatial, while others haven’t changed a bit. Some airports have more parts to them in 2019 than in 2009, while many others are just more crowded.
As time goes by there are both more people traveling and higher customer expectations, and the #10YearChallenge shows that many players in the airline industry are investing in raising that bar while others (think: British Airways) haven’t touched their first class seats at all.
What the #10YearChallenge has done, however accidentally, is throw into sharp relief some of the most significant changes that have touched the aviation space over the course of the last decade. Updated liveries are always fun, but the prospect of ever-shrinking seats in economy gives us some pause. (#20YearChallenge on that, anyone?)
For now, here’s a look at what the #10YearChallenge has taught us about the state of air travel today.
1. Airports Are Expanding
Airports all over the world are constantly expanding, modernizing and increasingly becoming places where travelers won’t mind killing time.

Thursday January 01, 1970

When the newel Jewel Changi Airport expansion of Singapore Changi (SIN) opens this year, for example, travelers will be able to enjoy parks, playgrounds and other attractions while waiting for their flight.

Thursday January 01, 1970

#10yearchallenge Notice any difference? pic.twitter.com/eTWO6Fe7OD
— Changi Airport (@ChangiAirport) January 17, 2019

Thursday January 01, 1970

2. Fleets Have Been Evolving
In the last 10 years, the biggest fleet changes were generally those related to the legacy carriers (and not necessarily put out on social media). But KLM took a quirkier approach, using the #10YearChallenge to show how it said goodbye its Fokker regional jets and embraced the Embraer 190 instead.

3. First Class Is Fancier…
Some might even call it over-the-top. Emirates used the #10YearChallenge to remind us how its new First Class Suites rock the skies and make a select few among us very sad to have to actually land. That was long-haul First only 10 years ago?

View this post on Instagram

Fly better with Emirates. #10YearChallenge #EmiratesAirline #FlyEmiratesFlyBetter #Gamechanger
A post shared by Emirates (@emirates) on Jan 17, 2019 at 7:00am PST

4. …Unless You’re British Airways
A lot has changed in the UK in the last decade. But one thing that hasn’t changed at all is British Airways’ first class product. In fact, you could call BA the flag carrier for all those airlines that have just totally doubled-down on their existing offerings. Of course, British Airways hasn’t participated in the #10YearChallenge. In fact, the airline hasn’t tweeted since Dec. 4.
Here’s The Points Guy himself, Brian Kelly, demonstrating in person: In a BA First seat in 2009, and in a new Singapore Airlines suite last year. While BA stood still, Singapore (and many others) moved on to something way, way better.

5. Elbow Room Shrank in Coach
Passengers traveling in economy have absolutely been feeling the squeeze for more than a few years, as airlines not only try to cram in as many seats as possible, but retrofit cabins with thinner seats that often look better than they feel (yes Recaro, that could mean you).

More Boeing 777s have scrapped the old 3-3-3 seat configuration for the tighter 10-across cabin layout (3-4-3) in economy. That means for flyers in the back of the bus, air travel has become an exhausting game of constantly minding your knees and elbows. Not surprisingly, we couldn’t find any airlines that bragged about the disappearing elbow room.
6. Airlines Love to Reinvent Themselves
If the original intent of the #10YearChallenge was to show off just how fabulously you age, it makes sense that the most obvious thing for an airline to flaunt is its livery.
Royal Air Maroc, for example, kept its signature star on the tailfin — no surprise, as it’s on the national flag — but welcomed bolder red and green stripes. And that’s not the only airline that got a new look between 2009 and 2019. Just last year, Lufthansa debuted its underwhelming new livery. Twice.

View this post on Instagram

#10YearChallenge #ramMAX . . @rwy27l #Aviation #Avgeek #FlywithRAM #FlyForChallenge #FlyForFuture #Boeing #737 #737Max #RoyalAirMaroc
A post shared by Royal Air Maroc (@royalairmaroc) on Jan 16, 2019 at 1:55am PST

Southwest, for its part, took a more contemporary approach to the same design.

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = ‘https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v3.2’; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’));

Like fine wine.
Posted by Southwest Airlines on Monday, January 14, 2019

Air New Zealand introduced a stunning all-black paint job, but cheated a bit on the social media challenge: That fantastic new livery appears on just a few select planes.

Then there’s Air Canada, keeping things kind of, you know, Canadian. They certainly weren’t going to ditch the maple leaf in their livery redesign.

View this post on Instagram

New look. Still “fly”. 2009 vs 2019 #10yearchallenge #flytheflag . . Nouvelle apparence. Toujours en vol. En 2009 et en 2019. #defi10ans #hautledrapeau
A post shared by Air Canada (@aircanada) on Jan 15, 2019 at 10:00am PST

And despite picture-centering problems and an ungrammatical hasthag, Iberia rose to the 10-Year Challenge with several emojis, plenty of numbers and a noble effort to demonstrate the airline’s new logo.

7. Fashion Came Back Into Style
While not every flight attendant uniform reboot is a smashing success (sorry, United), airlines are turning to fashion designers to give their crew members stylish duds worthy of the Golden Age of travel.
In 2018, Delta rolled out its new Zac Posen-designed uniforms and the signature “Passport Plum” hue.

View this post on Instagram

Our new Zac Posen designed uniforms are now live on all Delta Air Lines flights! YESSS!!!! I love it, and I’m so excited to finally be wearing this fulltime! Today is the start of a new look and era for this company that I love! #Deltareadyfortakeoff #zacposen #DeltaAirLines
A post shared by Norm Ofstead (@normofstead) on May 29, 2018 at 8:40pm PDT

Forget a decade: “Above-the-wing” employees hadn’t received a uniform refresh since 2006, and “below-the-wing” employees, like ramp workers, hadn’t had a uniform overhaul since 2000.

View this post on Instagram

Yesterday was the last day in our Richard Tyler blue uniforms. Over the past 4 years this uniform has gone around the world with me… literally. It has been an honor wearing it, and I had such a phenomenal crew to share this last day with. Look out for more photos later because today we start wearing our brand new Zac Posen passport plum and ground speed graphite uniforms! WOOHOO!!!
A post shared by Norm Ofstead (@normofstead) on May 29, 2018 at 8:30am PDT

8. Vintage Is On Trend
For Korean Air, 10 was not a big enough digit this year and that’s cool, because the airline has more to celebrate in 2019 than mere meme compliance.

View this post on Instagram

50 Year Challenge! Established in March 1969, Korean Air will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2019. . . . #KoreanAir #GoKorean #Avgeek #Airplane #Korea #KALstagram #KE #KAL #Aviation #avgeek #10yearchallenge #50yearchallenge
A post shared by Korean Air (@koreanairworld) on Jan 17, 2019 at 2:33am PST

But jokes aside, the #10YearChallenge taught us that vintage fashions are very much in vogue right now.
In a twist on livery makeovers, some airlines like TAP have actually painted vintage (in this case 1970s) livery on some of their planes.

Czech Airlines didn’t post this specifically in response to the #10YearChallenge but hey, who’s going to quibble with this snazzy retro look?

View this post on Instagram

A je to tady! Vítězem ankety "UNIFORMA STOLETÍ" jsou letní modré šaty letušek ČSA z roku 1965. Po sečtení všech hlasů ze všech našich profilů FB a IG vyhrály jednoznačně poměrem 86 % ke 14 %. Někteří z vás to předpovídali od začátku ;-), máte naše uznání za skvělý odhad. Vám všem, kteří jste se zapojili do hlasování patří velké díky! Bylo vás celkem na všech FB profilech + Instagramu téměř 20 tisíc. S našimi letuškami v retro uniformách se budete moci setkávat i nadále. Chystáme pro vás všechny drobnou odměnu. Zůstaňte proto s námi a sledujte nás na FB či IG. # And here it comes! The winner of the "UNIFORM of the CENTURY" Opinion Poll is the blue summer dress worn by our flight attendants in 1965. After counting all the votes cast on all our profiles on FB and IG, the result was very clear. The dress won by a large margin, to be exact, by 86% (as opposed to 14% received by the second choice). Some of you had known it from the get-go.  Heads off to you for your exceptional judgement. Many thanks to all of you who actively voted. Altogether, there were almost 20 thousand poll participants on all our FB profiles and IG. You will continue spotting our flight attendants in retro uniforms in the future and you will all be treated to a small token of our appreciation. Keep following our FB and IG to find out.  #CzechAirlines #csaretro #cabincrew #cabincrewlife #flightattendant #flightattendantlife #skyteamalliance #czechairlines95 #flyOK
A post shared by Czech Airlines (@czechairlines) on Oct 31, 2018 at 1:48pm PDT

9. Miracles Do Happen
Something extraordinary that happened exactly 10 years ago? Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger safely landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River after the aircraft hit a flock of geese and lost power in both engines.

The flight became known as the Miracle on the Hudson. And yeah, you can turn anything into a meme.

The ultimate #10YearChallenge. 10 years since US Airways flight 1549 became known as the “Miracle on the Hudson.” @Captsully pic.twitter.com/T3yYhS2p16
— 🅑🅔🅝 🅑🅔🅐🅡🅤🅟 (@TheAviationBeat) January 15, 2019

10. Appearances Change, But Service Always Counts
Especially in a game as tough as the airline industry, this was a nice post from Hawaiian Airlines reminding us how the airline keeps that Aloha spirit going strong. And as for those bold oversized floral prints? Yes, please!

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter here: https://thepointsguy.com/mailing-list/