Dan Saelinger

T+L takes a look at trends that are transforming the travel landscape and predicts what the year ahead holds.

Flight Delays

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You won’t have to worry about tarmac delays—but cancellations may be on the rise.

Long waits on the tarmac have decreased since April 2010, when the DOT began fining airlines up to $27,500 per passenger for delays of more than three hours. The downside: airlines seem more likely to cancel a flight rather than risk a fine. In the 12 months before the DOT’s rule went into effect, 63,948 flights were canceled at the nation’s 29 busiest airports. In the following year, that figure increased 19 percent to 75,867. In the five months after the new rule, flights stuck on the tarmac between two and three hours were more than three times as likely to be canceled than flights in the same period a year earlier, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. (The DOT says the GAO figures are flawed.) A bright spot? Even with the increase, cancellations affect fewer than 2 percent of all flights.

T+L Tip: Fly at midday, the least congested time, or on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday, the least crowded days, according to George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog. If your flight is canceled, you’ll have a better chance of finding a seat on another plane.

Most Important Travel Trends of 2012

Flight Delays

You won’t have to worry about tarmac delays—but cancellations may be on the rise.

Long waits on the tarmac have decreased since April 2010, when the DOT began fining airlines up to $27,500 per passenger for delays of more than three hours. The downside: airlines seem more likely to cancel a flight rather than risk a fine. In the 12 months before the DOT’s rule went into effect, 63,948 flights were canceled at the nation’s 29 busiest airports. In the following year, that figure increased 19 percent to 75,867. In the five months after the new rule, flights stuck on the tarmac between two and three hours were more than three times as likely to be canceled than flights in the same period a year earlier, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. (The DOT says the GAO figures are flawed.) A bright spot? Even with the increase, cancellations affect fewer than 2 percent of all flights.

T+L Tip: Fly at midday, the least congested time, or on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday, the least crowded days, according to George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog. If your flight is canceled, you’ll have a better chance of finding a seat on another plane.

Dan Saelinger

Most Important Travel Trends of 2012

Which of these scenarios is most likely to happen to you in 2012? A) At the hotel breakfast buffet, you find congee and stir-fried noodles along with the usual bacon and eggs. B) You book a cruise for the first time ever. C) You crowd-source your vacation.

If you guessed all of the above, you’re on to something. With the way the travel industry is trending, chances are that you’ll encounter all these situations in the year ahead. To help you better prepare for future trips, T+L’s editors and correspondents gathered together the most compelling travel trends of the year ahead.

For starters, expect major developments in two areas that have redefined travel recently: airport security and the Internet. The TSA is introducing streamlined screening for selected frequent fliers—which means a lucky few will be able to keep their shoes, belts, and jackets on while going through security checks.

Related: Most Important Travel Trends of 2015

In general, the promise of shorter lines might persuade passengers to choose convenience over cash. “More of our leisure clients who normally fly coach on international flights are flying business to ensure access to quicker check-in, security clearances, and boarding,” says Mary Ann Ramsey, the president of Betty Mclean Travel and a T+L A-list super agent.

The Internet’s influence on travel will cut both ways. Turned off by unreliable reviews on TripAdvisor and its ilk, more people will be mining their social networks for travel tips. It will also be easier than ever to log in as we travel with fewer—but more powerful—gadgets. Yet unplugging, too, is becoming an increasingly attractive option amid the overwhelming glut of information found online.

“We’re finding more and more a feeling of ‘e-morse,’” says Thomas Stanley, the chief operating officer at luxury travel outfitter Cox & Kings. “It can be difficult to sift through content to find authentic suggestions and advice.” That’s good news for Stanley as travelers flock back to old-school travel agencies and other one-stop shops to tailor their vacations.

Find out what else is in store for travelers by reading all our trend predictions for 2012.

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