Airport 2010: Higher Airfares, More Fees, Debate on Cell Phones

I admit it. At times I am clairvoyant.

Like a year ago, in this column, when I predicted that 2009 would be "the Year of the Airline Ticket Sale" (with appropriate hedging and waffling -- uh -- just in case).

However, I bow to the venerable Chinese calendar for the best air travel prediction ever -- made back in 2008 -- which they dubbed, appropriately, the "Year of the Rat." It was a rodent-like year, all right, one passengers remember as the "Year of Airline Fees and High Fuel Prices."

VIDEO: Airline industry warns new Passengers Bill of Rights could make things worse.

And now it's 2010 -- the "Year of the Tiger." Keeping that in mind, let me pull out the crystal ball again and give you my top prediction: yes, there will be some ferociously great airfare sales -- but, overall, airline ticket prices will be higher -- possibly much higher.

For more air travel news and insights visit Rick's blog at:

Airfare Prices on the Rise

If an airline ticket could look in a mirror, its reflected price would mimic a few key indicators: competition, fuel, seat supply and demand.

None of which, I'm afraid, is trending in the air travel consumer's favor.

The airfares of 2009 were amazing. Roundtrip to Europe for under $300 doesn't sound remotely possible, but it was. We are coming off record lows, domestically and on many international flights -- the lowest prices in decades, in some cases -- so airfares really don't have anywhere to go but up.

Stay Up to Date on the Latest Travel Trends from ABC News on Twitter

What's more, the airlines have been systematically cutting seats by reducing schedule frequency and dumping unprofitable routes -- seats they couldn't fill unless they priced them at or below cost. So those discounts are gone.

Another grim omen on the horizon: the price of oil. This week it crossed the $80-a-barrel threshold, which was just about its price when airlines started adding those pesky fuel surcharges to their ticket prices -- surcharges that hit up to $100 on roundtrip domestic flights back in May 2008.

Oh, and don't forget: the airlines have already added special surcharges to "peak travel days" including most of "spring break." Why? Because they can. And they need and want to make some money.

New Kind of Airfare Sale

But I did say there would be sales, and there will be -- though some won't look like the sales of yore. By that I mean you can look for more lightning sales lasting just a single day or two: we saw a smattering of those in the latter part of 2009, powered in part by social media like Twitter and Facebook -- because that's where the airfares of the future will be advertised.

And watch for more of those "all-you-can-eat" deals. By that I mean a revival of JetBlue's very successful "all-you-can-fly" pass, which was launched back in August and quickly sold out (pass holders could take as many JetBlue flights as they liked in a 30 day period for just $599). There was also United's ongoing bag fee deal – pay $249 and you and your family can check two bags each on all the flights you want for a year. We'll see more of this.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...