Travel is one of the largest industries in the world, and one that's undergoing massive changes. Recently, CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg spoke at the New York Times Travel Show about how the evolution of the industry is affecting the way we travel.
As you may have noticed, your flying options have seriously diminished in the past couple of years. This is in large part due to airline mergers and the fact that low-fare carriers such as Southwest Airlines aren't entering new markets anymore. Why? Well, according to Greenberg, they don't have to. Airlines already have your loyalty because they control the markets in which you want to fly. This of course means one thing: airfares are up. And despite lower gas prices, those fares aren't going to drop anytime soon, he said, as domestic airlines are operating in an oligopoly.
Airlines are changing the rules, and not in our favor. Delta and United already run fare-based, as opposed to mileage-based, rewards programs. So if you are still a member of the American Airlines or U.S. Air program, Greenberg's advice is to "run, do not walk. Fly as many flights as you can at discounted fares, because after about May or June this year when they announce they are going to do exactly what Delta and United do, you are not going to get the same kind of mileage."
So why keep traveling via major domestic airlines? In some cases, flying may not even be the fastest way to get where you're going. Say you need to get from New York to Washington, D.C. The Delta shuttle is an option, and if you book in advance the prices are reasonable--but if you don't, the fare can get as high $800 for the 37-minute flight. Now think of all the time it takes to you to drive to the airport, park your car, go through the security screening, wait around at the gate, take off, land, taxi, etc. You can ride a bus with free Wi-Fi and leather seats and get there in just over four hours for as little as $19. According to Greenberg, inter-city bus lines are the fastest growing form of transportation.
But buses aren't for everyone, and clearly are not always the speediest option. Another option that is becoming more and more economically viable is private car sharing. Yes, someone took the Airbnb model and applied it to auto rentals. RelayRides is a great option--unless you live in New York--if you and a few of your business partners need to get somewhere. The service allows members to rent their car out for several days, and you, the renter, can have it delivered to your house.
Greenberg also said we should expect travel clubs like Surf Air to become even more popular. For a monthly free of $1,750, Surf Air members get unlimited private flights. Membership gives you access to private air terminals, as well as free parking and Wi-Fi. The best part? No hidden fees. You get free checked bags, snacks and beverages, and no extra charge for last-minute reservations. For now though, Surf Air services only eight airports--Burbank, Hawthorne, San Carlos, Santa Barbara, Oakland, Carlsbad, Truckee, and Las Vegas.
Although our domestic airlines might be lacking in affordability, a number of international carriers have entered the market as low-fare competitors. Greenberg noted that Norwegian Air offers some extremely cheap transatlantic flights and has hubs in Oslo and Bangkok. A one-way economy ticket from JFK to Stockholm goes for as little as $230 and a flight to Paris with a layover in Copenhagen can go for $284. Airlines such as Qatar and Etihad offer more attractive deals than U.S. companies for flights to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.