The global economy is up and business travelers are back in airplane cabins. Most major airlines are posting healthy profits and airlines are scrambling to score lucrative premium-cabin travelers. Just look at JFK-LAX: lie-flat beds in business class are the norm and even JetBlue is getting in on the action with its new Mint service. (I'm actually writing this post from a Mint seat with blazing fast Wi-Fi!)
So with the cash rolling in, airlines are getting stingier when it comes to leisure travelers and the perks bestowed by elite status. Starting January 1, 2015 Delta and United will stop awarding miles based on how far you fly—it’s now all about how much you spend.
Lower oil prices means higher profits for airlines, but what does it mean for travelers? Travel + Leisure's news editor, Amy Farley, addresses price hikes for flights during the holidays, and trends for fares during the winter season.
Another week, another nonstop international flight. Over the last year—and into 2015—many overseas airlines, including Etihad, Emirates, Korean Air, and Cathay Pacific, are enhancing their presence in the U.S. market, launching new routes to and from hubs around the world. One of the latest comes from Qantas, whose new nonstop between Dallas and Sydney is now the world’s longest flight, at 8,500 miles and almost 16 hours.
Virgin Atlantic crewmembers got a quintessentially British makeover for the brand’s 30thanniversary. In conjunction with the reveal of their new Vivienne Westwood-designed uniforms—which feature sharply tailored red skirt suits for the ladies and maroon 3-piece suits for the guys—the airline unveiled a fresh makeup look created by British beauty brand Illamasqua.
There’s a lot to love about Hopper, a data-driven fare finder that recently launched the Flight Tonight app to search for last-minute airfare. The company recently released results from an internal study, which pinpointed the most popular travel destinations for each state based on flight search data as compared to the national average (versus the most searched destinations for each state). Among the discoveries: Those in Illinois mostly search for flights to Poland, 239% more times than the national average—most likely because Chicago has one of the largest Polish populations in the world.
Just because you’re in the back of the plane doesn’t mean you can’t fly in comfort.
Know Your Plane Models
For long-haul flights, look for the spacious double-decker Airbus A380, used primarily by Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Qantas, and Lufthansa. New smaller aircraft, including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 XWB, have larger windows, HD video screens, and lower cabin pressure. Most booking websites, including Kayak, list plane details in the results.
While premium passengers reap the rewards of competition among airlines, it’s a different story in back. One problem, according to Tim Winship, publisher of Frequentflier.com, is that carriers are flying at near-full capacity these days, so you can no longer count on having an empty seat next to you. At the same time, airlines are squeezing in more seats, using slim-line models that are narrower and have less padding than previous versions. On the flip side, new planes do offer better in-flight technology both obvious (touch screens) and less so (humidity controls; mood lighting). Whether this counteracts the increasing claustrophobia of economy is up for debate. One thing is certain: those premium economy seats are looking mighty tempting.
Airlines are treating the bicoastal set to something new: a few hours’ sleep. Carriers have been rolling out new lie-flat business-class seats on their transcontinental narrow-body jets to woo passengers flying between the east and west coasts. Here’s a comparison of the latest offerings.