2019 Travel Industry Predictions (1/4)
Here it comes….the much-anticipated travel industry predictions for 2019. During the past sixteen years, 71% of my predictions have come true! (I slipped a little this year from 73%) Over the next four weeks, I will provide you with 60 of my travel industry crystal ball predictions. This year I simplified by having four sections of predictions. Here is when they will arrive in your inbox:
Here are my 18 Airline Predictions for 2019
#1 – Airline frequent flyer miles will be taxed in 2019 –
The federal government needs money and what is an easier way to grab billions of dollars in revenue than to simply add a 10 percent tax on that free ticket you earned. I estimate a domestic ticket would see a $50 tax; an international coach ticket a $100 tax and international business class ticket a whopping $500 tax.
#2 – Your butt will get bigger or the airplane seats smaller in 2019 –
All the major airlines are trying to quietly put more seats on airplanes so they can make more money on every flight. The seats are getting so small they are actually painful to sit in for many flyers. I am 6’4” tall and it is almost impossible for me to fit my legs between the seats. Even the “economy comfort” seats offered by all the major airlines that offer 4-5 inches more legroom are better but they are also decreasing the width of the seats so a flight that lasts over one hour is like being in a torture chamber.
#3 – You are more likely to get struck by lightning than get a complimentary first class upgrade as a silver, gold or platinum airline elite frequent flyer member –
There are now millions upon millions of travelers who are silver, gold and even platinum members of the major airline’s frequent flyer programs. These programs offer complimentary first class upgrades. However, the reality is that even if you are a silver, gold, or platinum member there can be 40 people ahead of you on the complimentary upgrade list for your first class seat upgrade. If you are not 1K or Global Services on United, Executive Platinum on AA or Diamond Status on Delta don’t hold your breath in 2019 that you will ever be upgraded.
#4 – Airlines will prohibit Elephants from being emotional support animals in 2019 –
Please forgive me as I poke a little fun at how ridiculous it has gotten the past year of allowing almost any breathing animal onto an airplane saying that it is an emotional support animal. I am in full support of people (like our Vets, etc.) who need emotional support animals however some people have gone overboard by trying to skip the cost of shipping their animal by calling it an emotional support animal. The good news is that the airlines are cracking down and we should not see any more emotional support peacocks on the planes in 2019.
#5 – Southwest Airlines tries hiding higher airfares to pay for their “Bags fly free” service –
Over the past five years, the former low-cost airline has dramatically raised their fares. They hide this fact from consumers as they do not allow their airfares to be listed on other airfare comparison sites. Every time I compared their airfare prices with those of American, Delta, and United, all three offered lower fares than Southwest. In 2019 your “bags fly free” on Southwest but as a trade-off, you will often pay a much higher price for your airline ticket.
#6 – Nobody will accept Bitcoin to buy airline tickets 2019 –
The cryptocurrency has exploded on the scene in 2017 and then in 2018 has fallen like a rock. Until the cryptocurrency stabilizes and becomes more mainstream expect the airlines and hotels to stay on the sidelines.
#7 – Airport parking will cost more than the plane ticket to Europe in 2019 –
Low-fare European airlines are invading the U.S. and are bringing with them low airfare prices ($99 one way) that will shock Americans into flying to Europe in 2019. Norwegian Airlines, WOW Airlines, and others are becoming a major competitive problem for the American flagged carriers who have made hay with international routes to Europe. Compare parking your car in the airport garage at $25 a day for a two-week vacation and you will have spent $300 for parking vs. $200 for an airline ticket. (Please note that $99 fares are extremely limited and are only available from certain cities).
#8 – One airline will be required to rename their Airport club lounge the “Sardine Club” in 2019 because of new truth in advertising laws (Now that’s funny) –
There are so many people in airline club lounges today that you feel like you are being packed like a sardine. Several times I have noticed it is more crowded inside the lounge that it is outside the lounge. When you figure a club pass costs about $50 and for that privilege, you get Chex-mix, cookies, crackers, hummus plus a free beer many people will say I will bypass the airline lounge in 2019 and visit the airport Chili’s Restaurant and have a real meal and cold beer.
#9 – Finding a free ticket using 25,000 frequent flyer miles is like finding a needle in a haystack –
Using your frequent flyer miles for free tickets is getting much harder in 2019. In the past, it would take you about 25,000 miles for a free domestic roundtrip ticket. Today finding that freebie ticket for 25,000 miles is like finding a needle in a haystack on some airlines. Recent studies have shown that frequent flyer miles on Delta have been devalued so much that some experts are predicting many people will move from point programs to cash back cards instead. Many domestic tickets using Delta miles require 50,000 to 70,000 miles to earn a free ticket. If a domestic ticket has a cash value of about $450 round trip and you redeem 50,000 miles for it you are receiving less than a penny a mile for your SkyMiles. That is why some predict many people will convert to cash back cards instead of mileage based credit cards in 2019.
#10 – 4 out of 5 air travelers will find their airline frequent flyer miles to be useless –
The airlines continue to make major changes to their frequent flyer programs. So much so that over 80% of the flyers who do not fly enough to gain preferred status will find belonging to an airline’s frequent flyer program is probably worthless. The airlines no longer award points based on miles flown but on how much you paid for your ticket. For the average person, this means you will have to take almost twice as many flights to earn a freebie. If you fly twice a year it could take you 10 years to earn a free ticket. The only way most people will earn enough miles for a free ticket is if they have a credit card that offers 2X – 5X points for the groceries and gas they charge.
#11 – Airplane Wi-Fi will move from sucky to good in 2018 –
Using Wi-Fi on a plane can be an adventure as it often painfully slow and constantly going on and off. In 2018 most major airlines started the process us upgrading the Wi-Fi service so people will actually want to pay for it. In 2019 I think most flights will have much better service.
#12 – Free texting on flights will be common in 2019 –
Delta, Southwest, Alaska, and United all offer some form of free texting. American made the promise over a year ago and I think will add free SMS texting service this year.
#13 – I am buying airline stocks! –
Last year I said to sell your airline stocks as fuel prices were doubling and airlines were spending money like drunken sailors. Sure enough both AA and DL stocks fell last year. This year AA, DL, and UA all look like great values in the marketplace. Delta also pays a nice 2.4% dividend. This year fuel prices have dropped like a rock the last three months. Assuming the economy holds strong you can expect record profits at many airlines this year. P.S. I am not a stockbroker and am not qualified to advise anyone on investments. You are more likely to win gambling in Vegas than listen to my investment advice.
#14 – You will NOT have to pay to use the restroom on flights in 2018 –
I say this “tongue-in-cheek” as all these fees the airlines charge are getting ridiculous.
#15 – The assistant manager at McDonald’s will make more than the co-pilot of that regional jet you fly on this afternoon –
Starting pay for pilots for some regional airlines start as low as $25,000 a year (plus bonuses). This means that the people in charge of the life and safety of 50 people on a jet plane are in some cases being paid less than those asking if you want to super-size your french fries
#16 – Don’t fly Frontier, Spirit, or Allegiant during the holidays or risk being stranded for 4 days or more –
Flying low-cost airlines during the busy holiday travel seasons is just not smart as a simple weather event, cancelation or mechanical problem can leave you stranded for days. During holiday travel windows (one week around each holiday) the plans are all 100% full. This means that if a low-cost airline has weather or a mechanical problem there is no alternative flight to put you on as these airlines do not reciprocate with other airlines to provide alternate flights for stranded passengers.
#17 – Some airplanes are so old they will be AARP certified in 2019 –
I almost fell out of my chair when I looked up the oldest airplane flying on Delta was a McDonald Douglas MD 80/90 airplane that is 31.9 years old. WOW! I also found a Boeing 767 in United’s fleet is 27.8 years old. The oldest plane in AA’s fleet is also a Boeing 767 that is 25.9 years old. Currently, Delta has the oldest fleet of planes averaging 16.1 years old; United’s fleet average is 15 years old. Compare this with American Airlines of 10.7 years; Southwest of 10.9 years; JetBlue 9.9 years; Alaska, 8.2 years; Spirit, 5.5 years; and Frontier at an amazing low of 4.1 years. These numbers are according to Airfleets.net.
#18 – Airline customer service (an oxymoron) is actually getting better in 2019 –
Some will ask, “How could it get any worse?” Actually, I have seen an amazing turn around in airline customer service heading into 2019. Delta Air Lines is leading the pack with its “southern charm”. American Airlines, has a young fleet with much-improved service. United Airlines has made one of the fastest improvements in the industry this past year and is growing with new planes and a strong commitment to on-time arrivals and departures.
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