How Air Travel Will Change in 2019

 

 

by:  Kristen Leigh Painter (Conde Nest Traveler)

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.)

Cathay Pacific unveiled “The Deck,” a massive new lounge, at Hong Kong International Airport, in March 2018.  Courtesy Cathay Pacific

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.

http://video.cntraveler.com/watch/the-best-airport-in-the-world

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.

Learning a New Language: Check out these language apps that make learning not only easier but fun.

Have you ever wanted to learn a new language or brush up on your french and english from high school?  As long as you’re ready to commit, there are a number of language apps that make learning a language accessible but also fun.

Here are a few apps that you should check out….

 

ROSETTA STONE

This popular language learning software is now available on your mobile device.  Lessons can be  accessed from both your desktop and smartphone.  Rosetta Stone offers 24 different languages (Spanish (Latin America & Spanish), English (US & UK), French, Japanese, Italian, German, Chinese, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic,Korean, Dutch, Tagalog, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Irish, Farsi, Polish, Swedish and more.   Rosetta Stone trains you to associate words with imagery focusing on communicating in a real-world context, emphasizing pronunciation and speaking. A  3 day trial is available.  Rosetta Stone online ranges in price from just under $11 a month to just under $17 a month.  Rosetta Stone offers native speaking tutors and is available on iOS and Google Play.

To find out more information on Rosetta Stone, click here https://bit.ly/2ttCReq

DUOLINGO

Duolingo is a free language learning platform that is available on your desktop and mobile device.  Duolingo offers a language proficiency assessment exam to ensure you begin your course at your level. Duolingo offers 85 different language courses in 24 languages (Spanish, French, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian,Irish, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Turkish, Norwegian, Polish, Hebrew, Esperanto, Vietnamese, Swahili and more.  The Duolingo platform has been created to feel like a game where you can track your progress, earn rewards and stay motivated to learn.  Duolingo does offer a free version of their platform which removes ads on your mobile and offers a few extra features. Duolingo Plus costs $9.99/month.

Check out Duolingo here, https://www.duolingo.com

BABBEL

Founded in 2007, Babbel was the world’s first language learning app.  Babble is a platform that  works on your real-life conversation skills.  Lessons are crafted by language experts, and voiced by native speakers.  Babbel offers 14 different languages including Portuguese, Turkish, Norwegian,  and all the popular languages such as French, Spanish, Italian and more. Speech recognition tools test your pronunciation, ensuring you sound just like a native. This app allows you to learn at your own pace with 10-15 minute lessons that you can fit into a busy schedule.  Babbel offers multiple different plans, starting at $7.50/month.  Babbel does offer a free trial as well.

For more information on Babbel, check out https://www.babbel.com

MEMRISE

Memrise offers to unlock your learning superpowers with their language app.  Memrise offers 20 different languages (French, German, Korean, Russian, Slovenian, Icelandic, Chinese and more).  Memrise makes learning fun and easy though brain science, fun and community engagement.  This app is entertainment mixed with real-life, relevant content to assist in your learning.  Memrise offers both a free plan and an updated pro plan which is $5.00/month.  Approximately 30 million users are already using Memrise to enhance their travel experiences.

Additional information on the Memrise app can be found at https://www.memrise.com

HELLOTALK 

If you are looking to learn a language from a native speaker, HelloTalk is an app where millions of members reach each other their native tongue, through text, voice recordings, video calls and so much more.  With HelloTalk you get to learn a new language, explore other cultures and make friends around the world.  HelloTalk allows you to practice in 100+ languages with built-in aids for translation, pronunciation, and transliteration.  HelloTalk has a free version but you can upgrade to a VIP membership that allows you to learn up to three languages at once.  Pricing ranges from $2.49/month, $22.99/year and $74.99/lifetime.

For more information on HelloTalk, click this link https://www.hellotalk.com

BUSUU 

With unlimited exchanges with foreign students you the ability to learn up to 12 different languages with 90 million other learners.  Busuu offers a free option or a premium membership that unlocks features such as grammar lessons, offline mode & vocabulary trainer.  Busuu also offers a McGraw Hill education certificate after passing a knowledge test.  Busuu is developed using Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) and covers the first four stages of the CEFR.  This means you can learn to speak a language from the basics of introducing yourself, up to discussing important issues or narrate or write a story.  Premium memberships range from $8.33/month for three months to $5.41/month for twenty-four months.

Check out Busuu here, https://www.busuu.com

Learning a new language can be fun and there are many applications that you can utilize.  The above suggestions are just a few of the most popular.  Each individual learns in their own way, so be sure to check out all the ones that offer a free trial or free option to see which one will work for you.  Get started today learning a new language and let’s plan an adventure for you to use your new language skills.

 

Flexibility: Be prepared to bend a little.

When we embark on a for pleasure trip, we are often excited, filled with anticipation about the adventure we are about to begin, or the people we are about to see. Whether you are traveling to a place you have never been, or in my case, traveling home to see my family for a special occasion, the feeling of excitement is overflowing and we are generally in a super fantastic mood.  That is, until something out of our control goes wrong and our exciting adventure turns into a little bit of a nightmare.

When we travel there are a number of hiccups that can occur and we need to not only anticipate them but also be prepared for them.  A few hiccups that can come your way are lost baggage, missing flight, weather delays, mechanical delays, or not having the correct travel documentation.  Most of these issues are completely out of our control and some are out of the control of everyone, including the airline.  One of my most recent adventures traveling home to Toronto for my sister-laws bachelorette party was one of those trips where things didn’t go as planned.

After booking my trip, I made sure to assign my seats (aisle of course) for my entire trip immediately, check-in when it was time, arrive at the airport in the necessary time to clear TSA to be at the gate with my carry-on (really the only way to travel) ready for boarding and double checked my connection.
All went smoothly, until it didn’t.  I am one of those travelers that likes to follow the flight path of the airplane when available on the backseat entertainment screen.  Maybe it is because I am an ex-flight attendant and know things can change in the air, or possibly because I am that person that even when traveling to work I like to use my GPS device to see what time I am arriving.  Either way, I was tracking our trip from Daytona to Atlanta and about two-thirds into our trip I noticed that we  did a little bit of a circle and our arrival time had changed.  This peaked my curiosity as I knew I didn’t have much room for error in catching my connection.  We soon received word from the flight deck that there was some inclement weather in Atlanta and landing was not an option.  In addition, we were going to need to land at an alternative airport to refuel and hopefully get back in the air to make our way back to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.  Looking at the time I knew that there was no way that I was going to make my connection.  This was not my first rodeo so I knew that waiting until I arrived in Atlanta to figure out my next course of action was a bad idea.  Utilizing WiFi I determined that there was no other options to Toronto that evening but that their was an early morning flight on another airline that would ensure that I not miss the reason I was traveling home. As soon as we touched down at the alternative airport I was on the phone with Delta making arrangements to get on that early morning flight.  I was so quick that at first the agent I was on the phone with couldn’t see that my plane was going to miss my connection.  I also informed her very politely that although we were unable to land as scheduled, due to weather, we actually diverted to refuel because we were unable  to wait in the air until the airport was cleared for arrivals.  After waiting on hold for an extended period of time and the agent finally receiving word that my flight was not going to arrive as scheduled I barely was able to secure my spot on that early morning flight before having to turn off my phone for take off.

Upon arrival in Atlanta, I was not in a mad dash like the other passengers trying to reschedule their next flights if they were continuing on.  Arriving at the time we did, I suspect that the majority of those connecting missed their connections.  Once I deplaned and in the terminal I checked my email for the confirmation of my morning flight and I scoped out where I was going to hang for the night.  I had been informed that most of the airport hotels were full and leaving the airport for only a few hours to have to return seemed silly.  It wasn’t the first time I had been stranded in an airport, nor would it be my last.  I was super glad that everything I needed was in my carry-on.  I was able to wash my face, brush my teeth, pull out a sweater to keep me warm and utilize my iPad/iPhone charger.  I made friends with a fellow female traveller purchasing a bottle of water and we found a place that the two of us could get a few winks but feel safe.  Surprising enough, the airport is super loud even when there are next to no travelers in the terminal.  Between the cleaning crew, retail & restaurant restocking there wasn’t much sleeping going on.

Before the sun came up I was able to head to the gate of my departure.  After waiting for the gate agent to arrive, I was informed that although I had a confirmation on the flight, the initial airline that I was suppose to travel, had not released me to the new airline.  They informed me that I needed to get in contact with them to do so or I would miss this flight.  In an attempt to ensure I was not going to miss this flight I immediately headed to the nearest customer service area and phoned customer service at the same time, covering all basis.  I was able to get someone on the phone first and my issue was rectified.  Now I just needed to make it back to the gate and hope their were still seats available.  The universe aligned and I made it on the plane to Toronto.  I was the last to board, and was assigned a middle seat but I made it.  Thankfully my trip back to Daytona was hassle free.

Bonus:  After take-off from Atlanta to Toronto, my seat mates asked if I would sit in the aisle seat so they could sit next to each other.

Whether you are a seasoned flyer, or taking your first trip it is important that you understand that things may happen.  Getting angry with the airline employees for something they had no control over, isn’t going to get you any sooner to your destination.  But being prepared and bending a little in a situation that you cannot change, may make a horrible situation a little more bearable.

Even Us Travel Agents Learn Lessons Too: Reminding myself, you always get what you pay for.

My husband, my youngest and myself decided last minute to travel home to Toronto for a few days in early December to celebrate the holiday with our family.  Although my hubby travels most years to celebrate the season with his family in early December, due to factors like the cost of traveling as a family of five, sports commitments, kids school schedules & exams we have not traveled home in December as a family in many years.

When we realized that schedule wise it would work for us to travel with our youngest, and surprise our family, I immediately went into booking mode.  Although in booking mode, I somehow took off my travel advisor hat and went right into traveler mode.  We had a short window of time to book our tickets, I was super busy working on my clients travel itineraries and getting ready for the holiday season, my first instinct was to find the lowest fare possible.  Without even thinking I pulled up a popular Online Travel Agency, aka OTA (sites such as Travelocity, Expedia, Priceline etc) and found a fare that I was super happy with and it was departing out of Daytona Beach to boot.  I quickly compared the pricing to the airlines booking tool and choose to save myself minimal dollars and booked with the OTA.  I was so ecstatic about the price that I proudly sent my hubby a text to tell him what a bargain shopper I was.  (He is a numbers guy and I knew that he would be impressed).  I think my ticket purchasing transaction took me a total of ten minutes.

Immediately after booking my tickets I signed into my sky miles account and attempted to book our seats.  What I quickly realized was I had not read the fine print when I purchased my financially pleasing airlines tickets to Toronto, and seat assignment was not available for this class of service until time of check-in.  Not being seat assigned is a stress that I am not very good at dealing with as I suffer a little from claustrophobia and need an aisle seat when I travel.  I know, I know it seams a little silly that an ex-flight attendant, now travel advisor has issues while flying. But such is the case.

Anyway, I finally received my notification that it was time to check-in and we were able to secure seats (me with an aisle) for the first leg of our trip.  What it didn’t allow us to do was obtain our seat assignments from Atlanta to Toronto, we had to receive these upon arrival in Atlanta.  Now, one of the perks traveling international is that you get to stop at the Duty-Free store and make a purchase or two.  Once we reached our terminal we stopped by the Delta counter to get our seats assigned but were quickly informed that we can only get them from our gate agent.  Our gate was of course the second from the end of the corridor, so the three of us kicked it into gear and headed to the gate to get our seat assignments so that hubby and I could make it back to the Duty-Free store to pick up our libations of choice to enjoy during our trip home.  We arrived at the gate and while we waited patiently for our turn to speak with the gate agent I checked my Delta app to see if by chance our seats had by assigned.  Nope, however we were number 3,4,5 on the waiting list with many more seats still available on the plane.  We were getting on the flight but just need to wait.  It was finally our turn to speak with the gate-agent.  In the time period between checking the app and speaking with the agent, our seats had been assigned and yes I was able to get an aisle again.  We actually didn’t need to be in the boarding area or speak with a gate agent to be assigned, it was done automatically based on when we checked-in. We looked at the time and taking a deep breath we began our trek back to Duty-Free.  We knew what we wanted and quickly headed to the cashier thinking, phew we made it, or so we thought.  What we had not anticipated was that Duty-Free has a cut-off period to make purchases for each flight.  We had just missed that time-frame and our purchases were not allowed.  Feeling defeated we headed to our gate and boarded our plane.

The stress of not being able to obtain seats prior to check-in, not being able to receive seat assignments on multiple legs of a trip, and the Duty-Free fiasco, it was decided by all, never again, will we book the least expensive option when traveling.   For us, it is just not worth the savings.