Air travel is always a fun and interesting world to explore. Looking ahead into 2013 it would appear that the pace of change we've seen in recent years shows no signs of slowing down. There are lots of fun and exciting things to look forward to in the coming year, as well as a few big changes which might not be so great.
A Major Merger
It is quite likely that American Airlines and US Airways will announce a merger at some point this year. Pretty much every industry analyst is on board with the idea; the main sticking point seems to be just what the price point will be at which they merge. While the merger will be good in the long term for the industry overall it will also reduce competition, both in the US market and internationally and that could lead to higher fares. Probably not enough to completely change the way people fly but enough that it will be noticed in some markets.
Unbundling and Rebundling
Ancillary fees are here to stay. There is no getting around that. The airlines love them and passengers, while griping, seem to be paying them anyways. Up until now we've mostly seen a first generation of fee structures. But the past few years have allowed the airlines to refine their systems and marketing approach so that we will see an interesting shift in the way the extra charges are levied. Many of the unbundled services, each available for a fee, are now being rebundled into new products. American Airlines has launched their Choices program allowing different bundles of checked bags, fee waivers, and priority screening to be purchased on most flights. Other carriers have bundled things like exit row seating and in-flight WiFi. Look for many more of these bundles to be on offer soon; the airlines are making a lot of money from them.
Connectivity Goes Global
In-flight internet connectivity went from a fun perk to a near necessity for many passengers in 2012. In 2013 that connectivity is going global. Many international carriers—including Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, and more—already have connectivity on some of their aircraft but the US-based carriers have lagged behind on that front. By the end of 2013 there will be hundreds more planes with satellite-based connectivity, allowing more passengers to be more connected while they fly.
Plenty More, Too
New hubs will be sprouting up (watch out, Trenton, NJ) and routes will come and go. No doubt that 2013 will continue to see change in the industry, changes which will be fun to watch unfold.
Photo credit: American Airlines via Shutterstock