Written by By Nathalie Thomas, CNN
As Thanksgiving approaches, millions of people are making plans to fly over the upcoming holiday weekend. In fact, airlines are expecting their busiest travel weekend of the year this Thanksgiving, with the Thanksgiving Day holiday alone expected to make up around 21% of all travelers this weekend.
And this year, they’re going to have a whole lot of stuff to deal with.
Travelers will need to stay organized ahead of time. Credit: CNN
Fortunately, airlines are finally fully embracing some of the “most important requirements” of air travelers who take part in the most classic travel rituals — book a ticket (so that you know where you’re heading), check and prep for your flight’s early departure, and buy or print out your boarding pass.
“Upgrades have been a frequent item on my list,” said Lauren Schwartz, a global head of marketing for the wealth management business of JPMorgan Chase. “It has been easy in the past to leave the point of purchase before determining if it was a worthy upgrade.”
Part of this shift toward treating air travel more like the tangible items to which consumers and consumers-to-be are accustomed can be credited to Ryanair , which has had its fill of a customer backlash after canceling hundreds of flights. The “cancellation Christmas” travel nightmare that occurred over the winter holidays gave the low-cost carrier a major opportunity to look at how they can better manage customer experience.
But there is more to the story than just responding to the high cost of labor (who wants to check a bag and lose it when you can immediately resell it on a secondary market?) and the potential risk of an enraged customer.
.@Ryanair & @IAI_PR have revealed their Holiday 2018 flight schedule. What are your thoughts on the schedule? 🌈 📺️ #IAAATravel pic.twitter.com/GslucMN3wI — IAA – American Airlines (@IAI) November 7, 2018
The rise of the hybrid airline
While American Airlines may be the only U.S. airline to keep its name, the picture of the future of air travel may not be bright for its competitors.
In fact, those are some of the top concerns for American travelers.
“We are starting to see some of the more known legacy airlines give way to their less well-known, low-cost, brand-new low-cost counterparts,” notes Joseph Spak, a founding director of International Airline Strategy and Research at CAPA. “Both recognize that travelers’ experiences need to be better, faster, and cheaper in order to continue to remain relevant.”
“Our predictions for 2020 are for fewer mainline carriers, more low-cost carriers, and more freestanding or branch-off brands,” says Spak. “Being able to situate your home base, or out-of-network secondary destinations, in a mobile cloud or on a separate aircraft with a different brand, appeals to Americans more than ever.
“America’s leading carriers may seek to own the identity of their home locations as tightly as they do their full-service headquarters. The medium to long-term winners will be those that can meet travelers needs, optimize operational efficiency, and optimize brand connectivity.”
Faced with these new challenges, air travel may need to step up its game. The big issue could be a pilot shortage, which, if anything, is only going to get worse in the coming years.
“There’s a pretty significant shortage of qualified pilots around the world, with it particularly looking like it’s more a U.S. phenomenon than one or two other countries,” Spak said.
There’s a big pilot shortage — and not just in the U.S. Credit: CNN
“There’s no more lenient and easy-to-dispense permits for foreign nationals to become pilots in the United States, and if you look at visa requirements for low-cost airlines, especially, they’re ridiculously high, and I really think that’s one of the things that’s holding it back.”
Having airlines accept that for many travelers, the one-hour wait in check-in has always been the root of air travel’s challenges, a pay cut could encourage more airlines to recognize that a one-hour wait has become increasingly annoying, indeed.