How Air Travel Will Change in 2019

Kristen Leigh Painter
12/13/2018

For the past five years, it’s been boom times in U.S. air travel as passengers benefited from highly profitable airlines in the form of low airfares and a rapid expansion of new flights. In 2018 alone, many U.S. consumers faced an onslaught of discounted fares—$99, $59, and even $19 one-way—and the industry celebrated a bounty of “firsts,” like the first nonstop flight from Chicago to Africa on Ethiopian Airlines, and Kansas City’s first non-stop flight to Europe on Icelandair. With 2019 just weeks away, the new year looks to be full of its own surprises, bringing new elements like biometrics and more (!) bag fees to the travel experience.

International trade policies and fuel prices are wild cards that could throw a wrench in it all though—possibly driving up prices and driving down the number of flights.

Biometrics Will Be Here, There, and Everywhere
Travelers can expect to see greater use of human biometric data—like facial recognition and other physical characteristics—to board airplanes, pass through customs, and drop bags in 2019. Delta Air Lines led the movement, opening the first biometric terminal in Atlanta this year, but others, including JetBlue and Lufthansa, have piloted biometric boarding processes in Boston, Detroit, and Los Angeles. Delta is also testing facial recognition technology to self-check bags at Minneapolis-St. Paul. Orlando International Airport plans to use facial scanning on all inbound and outbound international flights by the beginning of the year (U.S.citizens can opt-out, though that’s not widely advertised). Clear, a biometric technology company, is now in more than 25 U.S. airports and has partnered with Hertz to speed up car rental pickup and with Delta for quick entry to its airport lounges with a thumbprint ID. But with the growing prevalence of biometric data, privacy concerns will continue to bubble, too. (Read more about that here.)

Tailor-Made Everything Is The Thing
Travelers will have more options than ever before—including basic economy, standard economy, premium economy, business class, or first class—to customize their flight experience in 2019. Premium customers will see the rosier side of customized travel. Carriers are investing heavily in upgrading airport lounges at hubs across their networks and adding more luxurious, front-of-plane cabins, like United’s Polaris, American’s Flagship First, JetBlue’s Mint, and Delta’s One suites. “Airlines are curating and tailoring their pricing and experiences based on loyalty and frequent flying,” says Katie Raddatz, a senior director with Carlson Wagonlit Travel, which manages business travel for companies. “The days when people pay different costs for the same experiences are going away.”

But with more delineation, certain things we’ve come to expect as included in our fare just won’t be. (And it’ll likely cost more.) Spirit Airlines, for one, has pioneered “dynamic pricing” for its bag fees, which—in simplest terms—means customers will pay more for their luggage during more desirable times of day (like Monday mornings or Friday afternoons), seasons (winter when travelers tend to pack bulkier items), or for longer trips. There’s even no longer a luggage price matrix to reference on Spirit’s website because there are too many variables on an individual’s flight itinerary that must be calculated.

Who will follow? “I think more airlines will try it this year because, quite bluntly, there’s a lot of money in it,” says Bob Mann, a Port Washington, New York-based airline consultant. Though legacy airlines used to turn up their noses at the ultra-low-cost carriers like Spirit and Allegiant for nickel-and-diming customers with fees, those same carriers are now adopting and adapting many of these methods, from the rise of basic economy to higher bag fees, and calling it "customization." These incremental changes will increase in 2019 as airlines leverage data to promote special offers, upgrades, and add-ons to customers based on their flying history.
See the video.

Airfares May Get More Expensive (Sorry)
Fuel is a major expense for airlines, and ultimately affects the cost consumers pay to reach their destination. As airlines in recent years benefited from low fuel prices, which bottomed out in early 2016, they were able to price tickets more competitively. That all looked to be changing this summer as crude oil rose to its highest level since 2014, and experts began to brace consumers for rising airfares next year. But then the cost of oil dropped again this fall, creating volatility and leaving airfare forecasts in flux, says Raddatz. Moral of the story? Stay tuned.

The Ultra-Long Haul Flight May See Some Struggles
This fall, much fanfare was made about Singapore Airlines’ relaunch of the world’s longest nonstop flight—18.5 hours between Singapore and Newark. And competition is heating up: The advent of more fuel-efficient planes has led several airlines to start new ultra-long-haul flights, defined as more than 8,000 miles one way. In the past few years, United launched its 17.5-hour Houston to Sydney flight, Qantas Airways started flying 17 hours from Perth to London, and Cathay Pacific Airways began a 17-hour nonstop from Hong Kong to Washington, D.C. In 2019, United will fly nonstop from San Francisco to Delhi and Singapore Airlines will fly nonstop from its home country to Seattle. “There was a thirst for it and there was a lot of great marketing and promotion behind it,” says Raddatz of Carlson Wagonlit. She calculates there are currently 19 in service around the globe, which is three times as many as a decade ago.

But an airplane on a 15- or 16-hour flight uses nearly 40 percent of all its onboard fuel just to carry the weight of the fuel it takes to go that far, Mann says. Both Raddatz and Mann agree that for these flights to make financial sense, an airline needs to be carrying predominantly premium-class passengers to pay the heftier fees to cover the fuel costs. Singapore Airlines has configured its long-haul aircraft with just premium economy and business class seats—something Qantas is now taking into consideration for its ultra-long-haul aircraft of the future. If fuel prices rise too steeply next year, we will probably be saying “sayonara” to some of  these super-long-haul flights.

New Air Travel Rules You Need to Know About

Lauren Cahn
12/13/2018

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More new rules? Why now?


A shoe bomber. Liquid explosives. An underwear bomber. A plot to detonate explosive cargo. These are just four of the threats the American aviation industry has thwarted since September 11, 2001, according to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly. But for every threat, the DHS comes up with new rules to keep us safe, including these which began rolling out in 2017 and are now in full effect at all U.S. airports, according to this press release from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

TSA raising aviation security baseline with stronger domestic security measures

 

New U.S. airport screening procedures for carry-on bags to better focus on threats

National Press ReleaseWednesday, July 26, 2017WASHINGTON – To ensure the security of airline passengers and the nation’s airports, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is implementing new, stronger screening procedures for carry-on items that require travelers to place all electronics larger than a cell phone in bins for X-ray screening in standard lanes. Following extensive testing and successful pilots at 10 airports, TSA plans to expand these measures to all U.S. airports during the weeks and months ahead.
 
Due to an increased threat to aviation security, DHS Secretary John Kelly announced in late June new security requirements for nearly 280 airports in more than 100 countries. In an effort to raise the baseline for aviation security worldwide, TSA continues to work closely with airports and airlines to enhance security measures and stay ahead of the evolving threat.
 
“Whether you’re flying to, from, or within the United States, TSA is committed to raising the baseline for aviation security by strengthening the overall security of our commercial aviation network to keep flying as a safe option for everyone,” said TSA Acting Administrator Huban A. Gowadia.
 
As new procedures are phased in, TSA officers will begin to ask travelers to remove electronics larger than a cell phone from their carry-on bags and place them in a bin with nothing on top or below, similar to how laptops have been screened for years. This simple step helps TSA officers obtain a clearer X-ray image.
 
It is possible that passengers may experience more bag checks, however, through extensive testing, TSA identified ways to improve screening procedures with quicker and more targeted measures to clear the bags. The new screening procedures in standard lanes are already in place at the following 10 U.S. airports with plans to expand to all airports during the weeks and months ahead:
  • Boise Airport (BOI)
  • Colorado Springs Airport (COS)
  • Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)
  • Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
  • Logan International Airport (BOS)
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  • Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport (LBB)
  • Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU)
  • McCarran International Airport (LAS)
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)I

In standard screening lanes, TSA officers will be stationed in front of the checkpoint X-ray machines to guide passengers through the screening process and recommend how best to arrange their carry-on items for X-ray screening. Travelers are encouraged to organize their carry-on bags and keep them uncluttered to ease the screening process and keep the lines moving. There are no changes to what travelers can bring through the checkpoint; food and liquid items that comply with the 3-1-1 liquids rule, electronics, and books continue to be allowed in carry-on bags.“It is critical for TSA to constantly enhance and adjust security screening procedures to stay ahead of evolving threats and keep passengers safe. By separating personal electronic items such as laptops, tablets, e-readers and handheld game consoles for screening, TSA officers can more closely focus on resolving alarms and stopping terror threats,” said Gowadia.The stronger security measures do not apply to passengers enrolled in TSA Pre® who are using TSA Pre® lanes. TSA also marked another milestone earlier this month with TSA Pre® now available at 200 airports nationwide. Travelers enrolled in TSA Pre® do not need to remove shoes, 3-1-1 liquids, laptops, electronics, light outerwear, or belts. The program allows TSA to focus resources on passengers who may pose a high risk to security while providing expedited screening to those travelers who have been identified as low-risk, trusted travelers.
  • Early summer: Fares in the first couple of weeks of June remain relative bargains compared to peak summer season pricing, but this is followed by two significant price hikes: June 13 is the first, followed by another on June 23, which marks the start of peak season. Late June fares will run about 20 to 25 percent higher than the start of the month.
  • Winter: January to March is a cheap time to fly to Europe but seasonal deals give way to sharp increases starting March 20.
  • Spring: Weekend fares in April become increasingly expensive, but spring prices are cheaper than summer so try to fly before the early summer season begins on May 23.
  • Summer: If you fly in late June, your ticket will cost on average from 60 to 70 percent more than you would have paid in January. The good news is, prices actually drop a bit in July, and drop again in late August and early September. To save on summer, simply avoid flights in the second half of June.

Cheap days for other regions


• Caribbean: A cheap time to fly is Jan. 20-30.
• South America: January is a relatively cheap time to fly, but look for a few cheap dates in April and May as well.
• Asia: Not much seasonal price variation but you can often save by flying midweek days.
• Australia: The month of May, just before the start of Australia’s winter season, is generally a cheap month to fly.

How to find the cheapest flights any time of year


Simple advice on finding the cheapest flights year-round: Always compare airfares from multiple sources! Yes, this is a no-brainer but you’d be surprised how many people skip this step and go directly to their favorite airline to book tickets. The problem is, no airline always has the best deal and if you don’t compare, you could pay too much. Don’t be the person who pays too much in 2019, OK?