Every year comes with changes – especially to the world’s aviation infrastructure. Airlines launch, shut down or add new products that aren’t always customer friendly to their lineup.
What can you expect to see in 2019? Here are the five trends we predict will change your flight experience for the better and worse this year.
1. The front of the airplane gets better; the back of the airplane gets worse
It’s no secret that the treatment you get from an airline is directly based on how much you pay for your seat. Airlines have conditioned passengers to this behavior since American Airlines first started charging for checked bags in 2008. But this year, the divide could grow even bigger.
» Learn More: How to score luxury travel for less
With the expansion of basic economy fares to international routes and the addition of premium economy seats by American carriers for international routes, the gap between cabin classes is only set to get worse. If you plan on traveling as cheaply as possible, expect to lose your right to check your bags, select your seat and possibly using the overhead bin for luggage. If you are looking for those additional amenities, consider booking a regular economy or premium economy seat.
2. Airports turn to even more technology
The 2019 government shutdown illustrates the need for more technology at the airport. With TSA experiments running successfully, be prepared to see automated technology expand across the country this year. Some of the changes you could see in the near future include:
- Biometric scanning: Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has one completely biometric terminal, which includes facial recognition scanning to enter security checkpoints and boarding aircraft. If successful, it could be expanded to other American airports.
- Automatic bin retrieval: Automatic security bin retrieval has proven very successful in Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York and other major airports. To keep manpower focused on security at TSA checkpoints, more airports may use automation to speed up checkpoint lines.
- ID scanning at TSA checkpoints: At several major airports, ID scanners are used to validate passengers instead of checking government-issued IDs against boarding pass details. With additional testing and validation, it could easily expand to even more airports to reduce your wait at the checkpoint.
3. Carry-on luggage is the new normal
It’s not uncommon to hear gate agents ask for volunteers to “gate check” luggage to the final destination. That’s because more flyers are trying to save money by taking all of their bags on the aircraft instead of checking them for $35. Meanwhile, airlines are adding more boarding groups to their flights, making it even harder for those in the back groups to get all their bags onboard with them.
» Learn More: The airline credit cards that offer a free checked bag
Unless you are boarding your flight in the first groups, carrying on both of your bags may be a difficult proposition. If you are primarily a discount traveler, consider adding a travel rewards credit card to your wallet, which may grant you one free checked bag or fee waivers.
4. Customer service will get less human
While technology is adding even more opportunities to the travel space, it’s also automating many tasks we would trust to a human. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines uses an automated system to sort and respond to customer service requests, which are reviewed before they are sent out. It’s also common to see self-service kiosks replacing customer service agents for flight change requests and seat changes.
Between technology adding more self-service options and biometric technology getting better, expect to see fewer airline employees at the airport. If you need to speak to someone urgently, call the airline directly or seek out a gate agent who can help with your request.
5. Smaller airlines may continue to consolidate
In the opening days of 2019, Air France announced they would shut down Joon, their boutique airline focused on younger travelers. Meanwhile, low-cost carrier WOW Air continues to cut routes, after their planned merger with Icelandair failed.
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Although there appears to be a market for low cost and boutique travel, it’s hard to compete with larger airlines offering basic economy seats with larger networks. Before booking a flight on a smaller airline, consider all the costs that come with the ticket and any alternatives you may have. In some situations, the lowest price may not be the best option because of consolidation or route cuts.
How to maximize your rewardsYou want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:
- Airline miles and a large bonus: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- No annual fee: The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
- Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
- Premium travel rewards: The Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Business travelers: The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
9 easy ways to earn travel rewards you’ll actually use
The top travel rewards credit cards
How to get started with frequent flyer programs