The coming shakeout in the Airline industry should mean lower vacation costs for America’s families. That’s the message of this article from the Christian Science Monitor. Already a coast to coast flight can be had for as little as $180.00 with 14 days advance purchase. A close reading of the situation leaves me with a few concerns, however.
First, if the consolidation of hubs and routes occurs this will lead
to fewer seats in the air. This means less capacity to bring the huge
crowds to Orlando and Anaheim during the peak vacation seasons.
Vacation Destinations had better be looking at alternate ways to get
guests to the gates, more dependance on the international and local
markets, or plan for flatter attendance patterns.
Second, less capacity often results in increased demand. After the
current shakeout settles down expect to see a corresponding rise in
prices, even on the low cost carriers, until some excess capacity is
built back into the system. Also expect there to be less flexibility in
when and where you travel. The days of non-stop to your destination are
waning and the days of two-to-three hour layovers are once again upon
Personally, the low cost airlines have worked just fine for me in my
coast to coast travel. I can usually find affordable non-stop flights.
But they are less efficient going south to north on the west coast.
What should be a 2 hour flight turns into a 5 hour ordeal with lay
overs and a trip on a commuter plane.
I don’t see the country becoming any less dependant on air travel
anytime soon (and neither do the mega-vacation destinations like Las Vegas which keeps building new hotels). High Speed Rail is still a very expensive alternative
and, so far, impractical when large elevation changes exist. Gas prices
and time make driving much more than 6-8 hours in any direction less
efficient than flying and renting a car.
Finally, there is one technology that might shift the balance of
travel. The radius at which it becomes less expensive to fly and rent a
car could change dramatically with the wide spread use of fuel cells in
cars and dual hybrid/plug-n-go configurations. The complete economic
ramifications of this are left to those with more experience than I,
but it will make the next five to ten years interesting to watch.