I am officially announcing that the COVID pandemic is over for the travel industry

I am officially announcing that the COVID pandemic is over for the travel industry

If you look at all the airlines, hotels, car rental companies, and travel companies everyone is announcing they have surpassed the revenue they generated pre-COVID in 2019. Airline prices and profits are strong. Hotels have high prices and strong revenues and car rental companies can’t find enough cars to rent. By all metrics, COVID’s impact on the travel industry is now in the rearview mirror. It is time for the travel industry to move forward and focus on improving service and stop making up excuses for offering poor service to travelers.

Now is the time to book business class to Europe using frequent flyer miles – This morning I was checking the United Airlines’ website for the miles needed to redeem for business class seats to Europe this winter and early spring. Amazingly I found one-way business class seats for as low as 60,000 to 80,000 miles from Omaha to London.  I checked the schedule and found that the lowest redemption business class tickets are available until May 22, 2023. Basically, this is less than half the price of what business class frequent flyer seats cost during the rest of the year.  To put this in perspective, if you purchase a roundtrip business class ticket from Omaha to London the price is $8003 on United or if you use 120,000 frequent flyer miles for that same trip you get a value over 6 cents per mile. That is a home run!

You won’t believe what I am about to say – The airlines need to increase the number of dollars frequent travelers spend to earn elite status in their frequent flyer programs. There are so many people that are qualified for the programs that they almost become meaningless. For example, I have earned 1K status on United Airlines because I spend over $15,000 a year with the airline. This normally allows you to earn complimentary upgrades to first class on domestic flights and several other perks. There are so many people who are now at this elite level that on many flights it is not possible to upgrade, thus diminishing the value of the program. On a recent flight, I counted 32 people on the complimentary first-class upgrade list. It reminds me of the famous quote, ‘When you try to be everything to everyone, you accomplish being nothing to anyone”. Even though many people won’t like it, I think the best thing for most airline frequent flyer programs is they raise the requirements to get into the elite status of their frequent flyer programs, thus maintaining the benefits that people expect.  

I just got back from a trip to Los Cabos, Mexico – Great resorts all over the place. Amazing food, and a very popular destination for many in the western U.S. Most of the travelers we see vacation in Mexico head to Cancun as they have amazing prices for hotels and airfares, plus early morning flights get them on the beach by lunchtime. The all-inclusive vacation is very popular as people like the idea of leaving their wallets in the room safe and not having to worry about the prices of food and drink and fun.  I am amazed that other ”sun and fun” destinations like Hawaii and Florida have not offered all-inclusive pricing to attract people away from Cancun and Jamaica.  

Luxury hotel brands are now expanding into luxury cruises – Ritz Carlton this past week launched their first cruise ship with plans for more to come. This is a great way for them to leverage their frequent customers and provide a small ship and high-luxury service to the cruise industry. I think a lot of people want to find a cruise ship that offers an intimate service instead of the mega cruise ship with 4000 passengers. I expect them to be very successful.

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