With 2011’s turbulent year for air travel behind us, let’s look ahead to see what’s in store for business travelers in 2012. From the bird’s eye view, it looks to be a mixed bag of new conveniences and perennial pain points.
Tablet travel apps. Business travelers are adept at using mobile technology to plan and manage travel - 84% of business travelers use smartphones during trips - and are quickly adopting tablets to add to their arsenal of mobile gadgets. Expect to see more apps - especially tablet-friendly ones - to help road warriors manage itineraries, receive on-the-go flight alerts, and get location-based information on the ground.
Merger headaches. United’s transition to Continental’s computer reservation and ticketing system is slated for March - if you’re flying the merged airline this year, expect ticketing, seating and boarding pass glitches for at least a few months.
Faster security for elite-level travelers. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) soft-launched PreCheck, its “trusted traveler program” last October for a small group of elite Delta and American fliers at Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, Miami and Las Vegas airports to expedite the screening process. The pre-flight screening program is expected to expand to Los Angeles and JFK, as well as US Airways and United in early 2012.
Higher airfares. Due to mergers, bankruptcies and capacity cuts on domestic routes, good old supply & demand guarantees higher airfares this year. Another hit to the wallet: new surcharges added to international flights - Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL)tacked on $3 to one-way flights to Europe, with United and American quickly following suit. Industry experts are blaming the recently-passed European Union law that requires airlines to pay for carbon emissions - if so, look for other US-based carriers to add surcharges this year.
While wallets and aspirin bottles may be emptied faster than we’d like this year, there are some forces at work to make travel less of a hassle for those frequenting busy terminals and crowded planes. At least it’s been quiet so far on the winter weather front this season...