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The TPG Staff's Predictions for Air Travel in 2018

Dec. 30, 2017
6 min read
The TPG Staff's Predictions for Air Travel in 2018
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2017 was a big year for air travel. We saw the introduction of outstanding premium products like Qatar's QSuite and an amazing revamp of Emirates first class. Low-cost carriers continued their expansion on long-haul routes and airfares stayed generally low throughout the year. We said goodbye to some airlines, like Air Berlin, and hello to a few more, like Joon and LEVEL. The 747 finished up its service with US airlines, with Delta retiring the Queen of Skies just earlier this month.

While 2017 included lots of big news for air travel, we are likely to see more changes in 2018. We've asked the TPG staff about what they think 2018 holds for air travel:

More insane first class suites

"With the introduction of Emirates insane new first class enclosed suite and Singapore's suite that's practically your own apartment, I think we may see a first class arms race. Your move, Qatar." Brendan Dorsey, Assistant Editor

"As US airlines scale back on their own underwhelming first-class offerings, international carriers are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to develop and build out products that are far more luxurious than anything we could have imagined even just a few years ago. Emirates and Singapore are leading the way, and will continue to add their new suites to new routes throughout 2018." Zach Honig, Editor-at-Large

Low-cost carriers continue to pop up and grow

"WOW and Norwegian have been expanding like crazy, adding new routes and increasing passenger loads. We'll probably see more routes operated by narrowbody aircraft that can now cross the Atlantic, à la Primera Air's A321 and Norwegian's 737 MAX." Brendan Dorsey, Assistant Editor

Norwegian's 737 MAX 8 aircraft can cross the Atlantic with a full load of passengers. Image by Peter Rothbart.

"In 2017, we saw the introduction/announcement of Joon, LEVEL, Jetlines, World Airways, Primera Air and more. At the same time, established LCC carriers have expanded operations, such as Norwegian. As the consumer looks for cheap airfare, the LCC model will continue to be appealing." Emily McNutt, Associate Editor

Basic economy will continue to expand, and more baggage fees

"Delta already announced plans to take its basic economy worldwide in 2018, and AA has started expanding beyond the US. What’s yet to be seen is how the basic economy offering for each carrier will change (if at all) over the coming year." Emily McNutt, Associate Editor

"With Delta now charging for checked bags on transatlantic flights, I think it's only a matter of time before American and United follow suit. Large flag carriers like TAP Portugal and Ireland's Aer Lingus have already started doing this." Brendan Dorsey, Assistant Editor

Biometrics will play a larger role in the passenger experience

"With the successful expansion of CLEAR to get through security fast and with a biometric scan, there is clearly a desire for biometric technology. Delta has been testing out biometrics a lot for boarding, bag-drop and lounge entry. In 2018, we’ll see more airlines test out the technology for a more seamless, speedy and paper-free passenger experience." Emily McNutt, Associate Editor

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Rob Cimino, a representative from Clear, demonstrates how biometrics is used at the Clear express security lane October 17, 2007 at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California. San Francisco International airport is the ninth airport in the U.S. to to offer the express security lanes which have attracted over 6,000 travelers at San Francisco International to sign up for the service which costs $99 per year and allows you to bypass long security lines. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Airbus 380 might officially get cut

"If Emirates doesn't order more, or Airbus doesn't relaunch the project with more fuel-efficient engines, then Airbus might announce the program will end." Alberto Riva, Managing Editor

Dreamliners will continue to fuel expansion and super long haul travel

"US and foreign airlines continue to embrace the efficiencies afforded by adding 787s to their fleets, making it economical to bypass hubs in order to offer more nonstop routes. We just heard about United’s plan to launch nonstop service to Tahiti, Norwegian continues its explosive growth and other carriers around the world are clearly committed to taking advantage of the plane’s economics to beat their competitors to the point-to-point punch." Zach Honig, Editor-at-Large

United's 787 Dreamliner. Image courtesy of United.

"Perth to London. The return of JFK to Singapore. Some insanely long nonstops will happen in 2018, and now they can really make money thanks to hyper-efficient twinjets. (See above, death of A380.) Get ready to stay in the air longer next year." Alberto Riva, Managing Editor

Airline profits will shrink

"Fuel prices will likely rise, so airlines will want to raise fares. But the proliferation of ultra low cost long-range carriers will work to keep prices low. So get ready to see two things: Fare wars to defend market share, and lower airline profits than the record highs seen over the past few years." Alberto Riva, Managing Editor

Cuba will see less service

"One or two US carriers will leave Cuba. Renewed political tensions and low load factors will cause one or two US carriers to stop servicing the country." Richard Kerr, Senior Points and Miles Contributor

More points devaluations

"More airline program devaluations — more carriers will raise award prices, hopefully not eliminating too many redemption sweet spots in the process." Sarah Silbert, Points and Miles Editor

"American miles will no longer be redeemable for Etihad flights. Given the popularity of this one-way frequent flyer relationship and recent troubles making these redemptions, Etihad will pull the plug on this capability." Richard Kerr, Senior Points and Miles Contributor

Illustration by Eirian Chapman.