During the past seventeen years, 73% of my predictions have come true! (I improved a little this year up from 71% last year) Over the next four weeks, I will provide you with 60 of my travel industry crystal ball predictions. Here is week 1 of what I think will happen in 2020. Part 2 of 4 will arrive in your inbox next week.
#1- Get ready for the super airfare sale of the century – Everyone has heard of the Boeing 737MAX debacle that has grounded over 800 airplanes until the planes can be re-certified. As you may be aware during the grounding of this plane hundreds of new 737 MAX planes have continued to be built and when the government finally approves that the plane can fly again this will unleash an estimated 800 new planes with thousands of additional daily flights into the airline schedules this spring. To fill those planes I am predicting a massive new airfare sale will be launched to put butts in seats. Wow! Hold onto your seats! This should be fun!
#2- Say goodbye to those mini-shampoo bottles in hotels in 2020 – Many of the major hotel brands are putting in plans to do away with those lovely little plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles in hotel bathrooms in 2020. The move away from plastic bottles will evolve quickly and be replaced with bulk wall units on the bathroom show walls. I support this move but will miss being able to borrow extra shampoo bottles to take home and use at the gym.
#3- Throw away your boarding pass in 2020 as biometrics will be the future of security check-in – The airlines and government have already implemented the use of biometrics (fingerprint, eye scan, etc) as a more secure way to get you through security lines and onto the planes. I think the Global Entry pass and TSA PreCheck will quickly move from fingerprint scans to biometric eye scans this year.
#4- Airline frequent flyer miles will be worth half their value from 2 years ago – All the major airlines are devaluing their frequent flyer miles as trillions of miles have been accumulated on credit cards. Basically, all the airlines are eliminating their frequent flyer award charts that used to show, for example, that 25,000 miles were good for a free round-trip domestic coach airline ticket. Today that same domestic ticket can cost upward of 100,000 points. This is very sad for people hoping to use their miles for free tickets.
#5- This will be a creepy year for personal privacy when traveling –I travel to China several times a year and they do a fingerprint and eye scan (biometric) on you when you enter the country. They also have cameras on every corner and in every building. Combine those cameras with artificial intelligence and basically they can follow you everywhere and know everything you are doing. I hope that countries like the U.S. and those in the European Union put some limitations around what can and can’t be done without my consent.
#6- Male (M), Female (F), Undisclosed (U), or Unspecified (X) will be added as gender options – Airlines will rapidly implement non-binary gender options across all their booking channels. They will also expand the “Mr.” and “Ms.” identification with “Mx”. Actually, I think instead of adding all these options it would just be simpler to eliminate gender identity altogether as part of the travel security process.
#7- United Airlines will be the “Princess” of the airline industry in 2020 – These guys and girls have their act together. They are expanding domestic service from all their hubs, adding new direct international destinations, bringing on dozens of new planes, implementing new regional jets with expanded room and service, upgrading their business class and economy plus seating, adding and upgrading the United Club and Polaris lounges, and most importantly focusing on their customers, operations and service. Three cheers for United Airlines. You have my vote for 2020 Airline of the year.
#8- Forget about a complimentary domestic upgrade unless you are a top elite airline member – There are now millions upon millions of travelers who are silver, gold and even platinum members of the major airlines’ frequent flyer programs. These programs offer complimentary first-class upgrades however, the reality is that even if you are a gold or platinum member there can be 40 people ahead of you on the complimentary upgrade list for your flight. 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 2020 that you will ever be upgraded.
#9- Your butt will get bigger or the airplane seats smaller in 2020 – 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.
#10- Hotels will all require a 72-hour notice to avoid a one-night cancellation fee – The hotel industry is struggling with how to deal with last-minute hotel deals that have offered a deep discount for travelers to fill empty rooms. When hotels have empty rooms they lower the prices and try to fill them. The problem is that savvy travelers were booking hotels in advance and canceling at the last minute to take advantage of lower prices. (sometimes even at the same hotel they were booked in). Hotels launched a 48-hour cancellation window in 2017 and 2018 and will try to move that to 72 hours in 2020 with the hope it will drastically prohibit last-minute re-bookings from happening.
#11- I am selling airline stocks – In 2018 I said to sell your airline stocks as fuel prices were doubling and airlines were spending money like drunken sailors. In 2019 I recommended buying airline stocks based on falling fuel prices. In 2020 I think the economy and fuel prices will drive down airline stock prices. P.S. I am not a stockbroker and am not qualified to advise anyone on investments.
#12- You can pay for your airline ticket using Facebook’s LIBRA cryptocurrency in 2020 – Cryptocurrency ideas exploded on the scene in 2017 and then in 2018 fell like a rock. In 2020 Facebook should be able to commercialize its LIBRA cryptocurrency to the point that you can use it to pay for your air and hotel expenses.
#13- Airlines will charge a $10 service fee for using a credit card (Forgive me for sounding like a broken record) – For seven straight years I have been predicting this will happen and I have been way ahead of my time (A nice way of saying I was wrong). But this year is different as there is too much money on the table for the airlines to keep ignoring this golden egg. Airlines pay anywhere from 2-3% of the cost of your airline ticket to credit card companies when you charge your airline ticket to a credit card. Charging a small fee to use your credit card is actually being done now all over the world. Credit card fees are the next big pot of gold the airlines can attack and capture billions in additional profits.
#14- Airport parking will cost more than the plane ticket – Compare parking your car in the airport garage at $25 a day for a two-week vacation and you will have spent $350 for parking vs. $200 for an airline ticket.
#15- Airlines will start charging baggage fees for international flights – In the past airlines did not charge baggage fees for the first bag for passengers flying international flights. Several years ago the airlines introduced “basic economy” airfares which charged for all bags checked but they did not charge a baggage fee for the first bag checked on all other coach fares. I think in 2020 the airlines will expand the baggage fees for all international coach tickets. This will raise billions of dollars in revenue for the airlines