In the last year, from hurricanes to mass shootings and flaring tensions with North Korea, there have been a lot of major developments in U.S. travel that should be considered when planning your next trip or vacation.
The “u.s. travel statistics 2021” is a list of the 9 biggest developments in U.S. Travel over the past year. It includes new regulations, changes to airports, and more.
The 9 Most Significant Changes in US Travel in the Last 12 Months
on November 23, 2021 by Gary Leff
Annual trend recaps are normally published at the end of the year, but am I risking destiny by calling 2021 basically over?
We’re back in the planes and laying our heads down on hotel beds, with travel regularly doubling last year’s levels each day and reaching parity with 2019 throughout the leisure-heavy holiday season. International travel is returning, but with significantly more hassles such as vaccination paperwork and testing, albeit most of Asia Pacific remains difficult. And travel agencies – as well as their banking partners – are vying for your business.
- Vaccines, treatments, and re-opening are all on the table. In June 2020, I predicted that a vaccine would be authorized by the end of the year, with mass immunizations beginning in spring 2021, and that we’d need booster shots (“I don’t foresee a ‘one and done’ vaccine that protects you for years”). Vaccines and boosters are now available. When given within three days after symptom start, the Pfizer tablet Paxlovid looks to be 89 percent effective in averting hospitalization. Along with the Merck medicine, it should be authorized shortly, and the inexpensive and widely accessible antidepressant Fluvoxamine seems to be beneficial as well.
We’re less than two years into the epidemic, and we have have vaccinations, small chemical inhibitors, monoclonal antibodies (which can be used for both therapy and prevention), and more. How are we not honoring the scientists who have provided us with these technologies with ticker tape parades? Allowing travel, reconnecting relatives, and bringing about a return to regular life are some of the more mundane effects.
- Bonuses on credit cards are enormous. As issuers strive to refill the funnel, a convergence of factors – most notably, a period when no one was applying for cards (or being authorized) but consumers did cancel cards as they do every year – has resulted in larger card bonuses than we’ve seen in a long time.
- Capital One Venture X is a venture capital firm based in New York City. Capital One made a major splash in the premium travel rewards credit card market, and they also upgraded their mile transfer, allowing them to convert their currency 1:1 into most partner programs. They established a decent travel site, as well as a network of airport lounges. The DFW lounge is the first to open (Denver and later Washington Dulles will follow), and the room is beautiful, the “grab ‘n go” cuisine is fantastic (they really urge you to take something on your trip), and the food quality is unexpectedly excellent. Consumers benefit from more competition.
- Bilt pays off. A brand new loyalty program aimed primarily at renters, they reward signing leases with major high rises in urban areas – and offer a no annual fee credit card with similar points earning as a Sapphire Preferred card (3x dining, 2x travel) that also awards up to 50,000 points per year on rent payments – something you might have had to pay over $1400 to Plastiq.com to achieve previously.
Furthermore, they’ve negotiated points transfer agreements with American Airlines (even 34-year AA partner Citi couldn’t do it until Bilt did, and even then only briefly), as well as Air Canada, Hyatt, and Turkish.
I don’t rent, but I did apply for their credit card in order to get more involved in the program and better cover it. With over 40 million rental families in the United States and a value proposition that no one else can match, this has the potential to be a massive operation.
- Loyalty Points from American Airlines. American AAdvantage, the world’s first modern frequent flyer program, has completely redesigned how elite status is earned, recognizing that a customer who only flies the airline isn’t nearly as profitable as one who also uses their co-branded credit card, shops online through their portal, and participates in their program in a variety of other ways. One of the lowest margin activities they provide is airline tickets.
They’re undoubtedly getting loyalty right by counting activity from many sources towards status, even if some customers who barely sneaked into their level with the lowest spend requirements on tickets in the past, who can’t or don’t want to use their credit card, lose out under the scheme. This has the potential to be industry-defining, as one very senior tourism industry executive told me.
- Aggressive status corresponds. If they haven’t been traveling for business, no one knows who among their previous top customers will be a wonderful client again in the future. If you provide status to someone who doesn’t travel, though, it doesn’t cost much. As the huge array of matches being monitored attests, it’s made a lot of sense to gamble on bringing in former top elites and winning over those clients for the future. The status match offer from Air Canada Aeroplan for U.S. elites is perhaps the most aggressive, but other airlines have followed suit, with American being the most latest to do so.
If you have current elite status (perhaps gained and extended in 2019) and wish to travel with a competitor, now is a wonderful opportunity to request a status match.
- United… Ascending? Before the epidemic, United was doing some intriguing things, such as using a system called ‘connection saver’ to hold flights for passengers when it wouldn’t cause other customers to miss connections. But it’s only been a year and a half since they’ve started to improve.
While middle seats were never obstructed during Covid-19, aircraft APUs were used on the ground to enhance airflow and take advantage of HEPA air filtering even while boarding and deplaning.
They’re betting on supersonic and electric flights, as well as actual environmental technology that can make a difference, rather than merely carbon indulgences.
In addition, United is retrofitting older planes with seatback TV and investing in improved in-flight internet. All of this happened under the leadership of Scott Kirby, whom I previously referred to as an airline destroyer because of his time as President of US Airways and American Airlines, as well as the cuts to United’s domestic first class food service and foreign business class goods when he came.
Kirby claims he’s never been the CEO before, always working for someone else, but everyone I’ve met who’s worked for him describes him as the ultimate spreadsheet guy: if you couldn’t show a service aspect directly contributed to the bottom line, it was gone. But, over the last four years, he’s been straightforward about his vision for the airline; I’m not persuaded he’s been converted, but the current change has been incredibly beneficial.
Of course, United isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Because they were among the first to recognize the pandemic’s gravity and regard it as an existential battle for survival, they were also among the most egregious in refusing to issue refunds for flights they canceled (effectively stealing customers’ money) until the Department of Transportation intervened. And most of what they have planned that has potential is still in the product roadmap rather than being implemented today. I’ll allow myself to travel United on a regular basis until better internet is available aboard in a meaningful manner.
- Businesses believe we’ll learn to deal with it if we pay more for less. Even when they recover price power, travel companies continue to exploit the epidemic as an excuse to supply clients with less. Cold meals in domestic first class are still served on several airlines in the name of Covid safety, despite the fact that galley ovens have been shown to be a key vector of virus dissemination. Meanwhile, we’re informed that business is bad, that finding personnel is difficult, and that many airport eateries are still closed.
Airlines in the United States, like as Delta and American, have been unable to fly their schedules due to a lack of pilots, generating chaos. Other airlines, such as Southwest and American, have been unable to fly their schedules due to a lack of flight attendants, generating chaos. All of this despite taxpayers paying $50 billion in direct transfers to keep everyone employed (which did not happen) and ready to work when travel resumed.
- For business travelers, there is a lot of uncertainty. In many circumstances, business travelers have no idea what their travel life would be like. Many major organizations have postponed their return to the office until next year, and those that aren’t back in the office aren’t putting travelers out on the road.
You can’t see customers at offices that are closed, have capacity restrictions, or only have workers in the office on certain days of the week. And most major events have taken a long time to recover. Indoors, the capacity to host huge convention-style events has been constrained.
Norms have shifted as well. Previously, a group of individuals would travel for a single meeting. A third or fourth person would be present as a warm body only. Bringing a group showed that you were serious about what you were doing. It now seems to be a joke. We’re all set on using technology to attract people into meetings, and it just feels like a waste.
At the same time, new types of travel will emerge, with employees who used to work in their office every day now residing out of state and returning once, twice, three, or even four times a year for team-building activities to get everyone on board with the company’s vision and plan. Nobody knows what it looks like or whether the old “Monday – Thursday consultant week” is still alive.
The unneeded second and third airline bailouts, or how few hotel owners reorganized in court during the epidemic, may have been the true tale. Or how we failed to improve ventilation and air filtering in interior institutions such as hotels and schools throughout the epidemic. However, these seem to be the most significant advances for frequent travelers in the United States. What am I overlooking?
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