Alan and Agnieszka Forbes celebrate their milestone airport visit shortly before takeoff in southern Morocco (Picture: Alan Forbes)
They have made a nerve-jangling landing on a remote Caribbean island and on a strip high in the Bolivian mountains on their mission to rack up airport visits.
Alan and Agnieszka Forbes have now hit their targets of 1,000 and 500 respectively on their latest adventure in a Moroccan region dubbed the gateway to the Sahara.
They celebrated with orange juices as the southern city of Tan-Tan, where they touched down after hitting the milestone, is dry. But they were able to rope in an airport security guard for a group picture before the internal flight from Guelmim, which lies 130km to the north.
Alan’s 1,000th visit and flight on Wednesday rounds off a hobby that became something of an obsession after he began counting more than four decades ago.
Morocco is also special because it was the destination of the couple’s first overseas trip together in 2012.
Alan, 62, and Agnieszka, 44, now plan to continue ‘collecting’ Wetherspoon pubs and to visit every airport flown to by Ryanair, EasyJet, Wizz Air and British Airways.
Alan and Agnieszka Forbes pose for a selfie outside the scarcely populated airport in Guelmim (Picture: Alan Forbes)
‘We were quite excited about the trip to Tan-Tan,’ Alan said.
‘I didn’t have a target until recently because it had become something of an obsession.
‘I’m partly relieved because we don’t have to find 20 or 30 airports to do in one trip anymore but overall we’re happy.
‘We marked it with orange juices at Guelmim before landing at the very nicely named Tan-Tan, which is my 1001th airport.
‘Guelmim has a really interesting history because it’s the gateway to the Sahara and has the biggest camel market in Morocco. It only has nine commercial flights a week while Tan-Tan has five.
‘It was quite foggy as we walked towards the terminal and we couldn’t see it until we were two minutes away, so it added a bit of magic to the occasion.’
The couple are all smiles as they celebrate reaching their targets for airport visits (Picture: Alan Forbes)
The seasoned travellers, who have also visited 822 Wetherspoon pubs to date, flew out to Morocco via Barcelona on February 22 and are due to return to the UK via Gatwick at the end of March.
They are scheduled to take a total of 10 international and internal flights on a trip which will next take them to the Western Sahara before they travel home to Woldingham, Surrey.
To date, Alan has visited 140 overseas destinations and Agnieszka 76, which includes countries and territories with different types of governance.
Alan sets the scene outside Guelmim Airport which has only a handful of flights every week (Picture: Alan Forbes)
The couple’s travels have taken them across the world over the past four years (Picture: Alan Forbes)
The list includes some of the world’s most remote locations — and they attracted bemused reactions from air industry staff as they asked to be dropped off at Tan-Tan on a flight destined for Casablanca.
Treating foreign travel as a full-time pursuit, the couple’s highlights include a mountainous location in Mestia, Georgia, and a hub at Potosi in Bolivia, which was formerly the highest commercial facility in the world. Another is an airport on the Dutch Caribbean island of Saba, widely thought to be the shortest commercial strip on the planet.
‘Saba is quite renowned for being a scary airport to fly into with a very, very short runway,’ Alan said.
Alan at Guelmim where the setting is a far cry from the couple’s departure at Gatwick (Picture: Alan Forbes)
‘The smaller the airport, the better for us, and to fly into Tan-Tan, which is surrounded by desert, is quite special. Papa Westray in Scotland is significant because it’s the shortest scheduled passenger flight in the world and we did it on our honeymoon two years ago, so that was very special for us too.
‘Airports can be boring and frustrating but we like to see if the terminal building has character, such as Jaisalmer Airport in India.
‘It’s also about where we have flown to and meeting people and finding out about the culture.’
A view on the internal flight from Guelmim which took the couple over southern Morocco (Picture: Alan Forbes)
Alan, who has three children and one grandchild, worked in the travel industry before he and Agnieszka retired four years ago to concentrate on their hobby.
Agnieszka, originally from Poland, worked as a sales director for a five-star Caribbean hotel chain before starting to check off airports on her list in 2012, when the couple got together.
They travel on a budget, booking in advance for the lowest prices they can find and have couch-surfed for free with hosts in order to sample local life.
The seasoned travellers roped in a security guard for a group picture after reaching their tally (Picture: Alan Forbes)
The experience collectors now regard the day-to-day living costs of their extended trips abroad as cheaper than staying at home in Surrey as domestic bills rise in the UK.
‘In Morocco we are spending maybe £30 a day maximum,’ Alan said.
‘People are friendly and we are experiencing new cultures all the time, you never know what’s round the corner, good or bad. It’s something we do together, and we enjoy it.’
After returning to the UK, the couple plan to continue visiting Wetherspoons, with around 70 venues left on their list, and to complete the Wainwright’s coast-to-coast walk
The experience collectors plan to keep hitting the road in the UK and overseas (Picture: Alan Forbes)
However the list-keeping is due to continue as Alan sets about a goal of visiting around 300 airports flown to by the four airlines, with 25 left to do.
‘We’ll do them gradually as achieving the 1,000 airports was the main thing,’ Alan said.
‘As long as we’re still travelling together and experiencing new places that’s the main thing, we just won’t be crossing them off the list anymore.’
Agnieszka added: ‘I love everything about travelling, meeting new people, experiencing new cultures and just generally being on the move.
‘It’s just about knowing there’s something new to explore around the corner, like Guelmim, which has the biggest camel market in Morocco.
‘It’s a passion we share with other travellers and the people we meet along the way.’
MORE : Globe-trotting couple couchsurf in Saudi Arabia on mission to visit 1,500 airports
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Alan and Agnieszka Forbes have travelled to remote and exotic locations across the world collecting airport visits.