Time to get my observations/expectations for 2018 Travel Trends with focus on the Central Ohio market. If you are in the early stages of making vacation plans for this year, stay tuned. This week’s focus is on air travel.
Air travel is no longer fun and that is not expected to change in 2018. The costs, the baggage fees and change fees are out of control. I recently read an article that stated, “from the time a flight is first released to the time it actually takes off, the price changes an average of 66 times.” Who can keep up with that? I have recently noticed that the flights I used to get out of Columbus to Miami or Fort Lauderdale have doubled in price. Airlines now make more from the assorted fees they change than from air travel. Recently regulations were relaxed to allow airlines not to disclose pricing. Some change flight fees are running as much as $750.00. These fees will continue to climb in 2018.
There is some good news for the Columbus market. Spirit Airlines will begin service on Feb. 15, flying out of John Glenn Columbus International Airport. The ultra low-cost airline begins initially with flights to Las Vegas and four Florida locations with seasonal routes being added in March to New Orleans and Myrtle Beach. It will be in direct competition with Allegiant Air that flies out of Rickenbacker. If you have flown on one of these airlines in the past, you will already know that everything is extra. You want a seat assignment, it’ll cost you. You want to check bags, it’ll cost you. You want to carry on a bag, it’ll cost you. You can join their “clubs” and receive discounts on these fees, but there is a cost to everything. I’m hopeful that some of the current carriers will reduce their pricing because of this new “disruptor” in the marketplace. If you are flexible on the days you travel and can get away midweek then you will notice the biggest savings.
Southwest is shaking up the Hawaii market. They announced in October that they will begin flying Boeing 737 Max 8 airplanes to Hawaii. While it hasn’t been approved yet by the FAA, the announcement is expected any day with pricing and air schedule. The 737 Max 8 and, perhaps, 737 Max 7 would allow direct flights from as far as Denver into the Hawaiian Islands and is expected to provide some inter-island flights as well. Stay tuned. Hopefully we will see some price drops because of this great competitor. As much as my clients want to travel to Hawaii, all of their vacation dollars shouldn’t be consumed by the flight cost. Southwest will now give us more choices and, hopefully, at a better price point.
The biggest growth for 2018 will be in U.S. air travel to Europe. Two budget airlines are making inroads into the Midwest market. Norwegian Air flies from 14 U.S. cities from underserved airports. Improvement in airplanes now allow you to fly farther. Norwegian is flying direct to Madrid, Milan and Amsterdam from places such as Hartford, Fort Lauderdale and Chicago. Their pricing is a disruptor and great sales can be found. Icelandic budget carrier, WOW, comes to the Midwest this spring. St Louis, Detroit, Cleveland and Cincinnati Columbus airports were in the running and will be offering $99 flights to Europe with connecting flight to WOW’s other European locations beginning at $149.99. Tickets are on sale now for their 12 US destinations including the four newest routes beginning in the Spring. On all four routes, WOW will fly four flights a week on single aisle Airbus A321 to its hub in Keflavik near Reykjavik, Iceland. Connecting itineraries will be available to more than two dozen destinations in Europe.
From three of the new cities — Cleveland, Cincinnati and St Louis — WOW airlines will be one of the few with a trans-Atlantic option. From St. Louis, WOW will be the only carrier flying to Europe. At Cincinnati, only Delta flies to Europe with flights to Paris Charles de Gaulle. And in Cleveland, WOW’s only trans-Atlantic competitor will be national rival Icelandair which just announced its own Cleveland-Reykjavik service.
Let the price wars begin! Might be a great time to celebrate spring in Paris or tulips in Holland. Pricing is better to Europe than it is to San Francisco. Happy Travels.
Next week’s topic: New cruise ships!
Marci DeWitt owns a local travel agency, Anchor and Away Travel, a Dream Vacations franchise. She can be reached by email at mdewitt@DreamVacations.com.