Sunday musings: Travel trends, more trends, foreign airlines in America


Today we peek into the future. A European blog looks at in-flight trends. A travel site examines megatrends that will change the travel world. And, an article in USA Today raises the specter of foreign airlines flying routes within the USA someday in the future. Heaven forbid!

Top 5 in-flight trends to look out for in 2014

The airlines are looking for ways to save money, or make more money by squeezing more passengers into the airplane. Do you think that these changes will improve the passenger experience or degrade it? Much of that voting will be coming as various airlines introduce these services in various ways during the coming year.

1 – Personalzation and crew empowerment
Crew members will have more personal information about passengers. This can be good with the unexpected birthday greeting, but bad when it comes to offering airfare prices should airlines decide to take income into account when suggesting flights.

2 – In-flight entertainment on short- and medium-haul flights
Probably only an upside here. Now it depends on whether it is free or paid.

3 – High-quality, home-style onboard broadband
It is about time. But passengers will pay.

4 – Slimline seats
Can the airlines really fit more passengers into planes without making it seem that way? Time will tell. Southwest and United have already approved installation of these “thinner” seats. Will we notice?

5 – More debate about in-flight phone calls
Delta says, “No way.” But I bet some airlines embrace cell phone calls from flights and I bet they will make lots of money. And, I bet that in two years, every airplane will be equipped to handle cell calls and that passengers will be making them.

14 Global Trends That Will Define Travel in 2014

Skift looks at megatrends that they claim will shape travel in the coming year. One of their predictions is that, “The travel industry in the coming year will be defined as much by design and user experience as it will be by the data and its uses.”

We believe these 14 trends, by no means exhaustive, will help define travel and many other interconnected sectors in 2014:

» Rise of The Silent Traveler
» Blurring of Business and Leisure Travel
» Curation Is Coming To Travel Listings
» Visuals are the New Language of Marketing in Travel
» The Rise of Smart Design In Travel
» Substandard Travel Startups Abound
» Continued Rise of Chinese Independent Traveler
» Rise of Local in Hospitality
» Low-Cost Carriers Continue to Eat the World
» The Relaxation of Visa Regulations
» Alternative Transportation on the Ascendant
» Sharing Economy Turns from Disruption to Collaboration
» Airlines and Airports Finally Deliver on Self-Serve
» Continued Rise of Metasearch

Should foreign airlines be allowed to fly domestic routes?
Or, cabotage is a four-letter word

This is a hot topic for anyone looking at competition in the domestic marketplace and a sin to discuss for airlines and the pilots, flight attendants and other union workers of US airlines. They are adamant that they do not want any competition. They come up with plenty of reasons why there shouldn’t be competition in the domestic airline space, but it all comes down to making money and being able to avoid competition.

Christopher Elliott opens this can of worms in a national column. The comments to this column are even more insightful when it comes to hearing from the industry. It seems that even discussing this issue is anti-American and anti-union. Since when have we become so protectionist?

Banning foreign carriers from offering domestic flights might have made sense a generation ago, when the American airline industry was tightly regulated by the federal government, say industry watchers. But today, with only a few megacarriers remaining and the security concerns of the Cold War a distant memory, it’s harder to justify the laws.

“Foreign airline competition and capital investment in U.S. airlines could quickly improve passenger service, lower fares, result in new start-up airlines, and relieve overcrowding,” says Paul Hudson, president of

That may be easier said than done, says Steven Truxal, a professor of aviation law at City University London. He explains that even if we wanted to allow British Airways or Lufthansa to offer flights from New York to Chicago, we’d insist that the EU allow us to do the same, and that would require a treaty renegotiation. “Not an easy task,” he says.

  • BobChi

    The people who oppose the opportunity of competition from foreign airlines in the U.S. have probably never experienced the excellent product and flying experience that many of them offer. I would be thrilled at the opportunity to fly Singapore from New York to LA. Ryanair not so much, but to each his own. Obviously any carrier would be subject to the same safety and security concerns they already must meet just to be able to land and take off in the U.S., so that’s a non-issue. The issue is protectionism.

  • KarenFawcett

    How I wish foreign airlines were flying within the US, if only to prove what can be done in terms of service. I’ve been amazed by how graciously GOOD meals are served during a two-hour long flight – contrasted with the US, where meals are no longer offered between the East and West coasts.

  • MeanMeosh

    Actually, they probably have experienced the superior product of many foreign carriers, which is exactly what they’re afraid of.

    That being said, there is one serious issue out there, and that’s the implicit/explicit subsidies that some foreign carriers receive from their respective governments (yes, I realize American carriers also receive subsidies via various tax breaks). Plus, as the article suggests, fairness would dictate that if the U.S. were to allow foreign-flagged carriers to operate domestic routes, American carriers should also be allowed to operate local routes in foreign jurisdictions (whether or not they would be competitive is a different matter). Negotiating those two issues is likely to be difficult.

  • BobChi

    Yes, I was reacting to some of the negative ideas at the linked article. The issue for the domestic airlines would indeed be the competition. Your points are good ones, and there are also issues with landing slots and gates. But I’d like to see it.