2016 might have come and gone, but it certainly wasn’t a smooth ride for vacationers. While some tourist destinations are disappearing, health scares, security risks and price hikes are deterring travelers from buying plane tickets altogether. Here’s a look at some of the worst changes and trends of the year.
Basic Economy Tickets Emerge
Major airlines expanded their offering of basic economy tickets — but it’s not necessarily a good thing. With a basic economy ticket from Delta, for example, your flight is nonrefundable after the cancellation period and can’t be changed. You also can’t choose your seat, and you’ll board last.
The rise of basic economy tickets are largely a way for airlines to compete with low-cost carries like Frontier and Spirit. So, unfortunately, the amount you save on airfare just isn’t worth it.
United Bans Overhead Bin Use
Basic economy flyers on United are now banned from using overhead bins. So, if you’re looking to save on airfare, be prepared to pack light.
Loyalty Programs Are More Restrictive
In order to compete with discount carriers, airline loyalty programs are becoming increasingly restrictive, said Roman Shteyn, CEO of RewardExpert.
“Airlines are trying to sell as many seats as possible, so they have lowered the costs of business and first-class seats with the hopes that they will be purchased with cash instead of miles,” he said. The problem is, this change in fare costs makes it harder to nab upgrades or pick up seats with rewards, since airlines are more stingy about selling seats at less than full price.
Miles Are Worth Less
Travelers now have to pay more in miles to go the same distance, according to Shteyn. “Airline miles have been devalued across the board in the industry, costing travelers more in miles per ticket,” he said.
Your Airbnb Wi-Fi Is Less Secure
Don’t be so quick to log into your Airbnb’s Wi-Fi. Security researcher Jeremy Galloway at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas said home routers at Airbnbs are not only easy to hack, they put future guests at risk. So, the next time you log on at your Airbnb, cross your fingers and hope either the router is locked away or a hacker wasn’t there before you.
Terrorism Slows Holiday Travel
Terrorism is hurting travel and tourism in European countries. On Nov. 21, the Department of State said the holiday season brings a higher risk of terrorist attacks in Europe — Americans are paying attention. Nearly one in four say a fear of future violence is influencing vacation plans, according to the 2016 Allianz Travel Insurance Vacation Confidence Index.
An analysis from STR, a firm that tracks market data for the hotel industry and other sectors, backs that sentiment, too. It showed that European tourism suffers in the months following terrorist attacks.
Zika Spooks Would-Be Travelers
Zika was all the talk this year when it came to travel — especially at the Rio Olympics. Women who were pregnant or hoping to become pregnant were encouraged to avoid risky destinations where Zika outbreaks were reported. As a result, travel to destinations like South America slowed. Even Miami saw fewer hotel and flight bookings after Zika was reported in neighboring Wynwood.
Airport Security Got Worse
This year, wait times at airport security checkpoints delayed flights and left flyers trapped in serpentine lines. Travelers took to social media with #iHateTheWait hashtag to complain about delays. Meanwhile, the TSA instated its PreCheck program, which forces low-risk travelers to pay $85 for the privilege of standing in shorter lines.
A Strong Dollar Deters Travel to the U.S
Although a strong U.S. dollar means Americans can travel abroad for less, the opposite holds true for tourists coming to the U.S., said Hotwire president Henrik Kjellberg.
“A challenge for 2016 has been our very strong dollar making it harder for foreigners (to) come visit the U.S., where we have an excellent product and such a broad variety of travel experiences,” he said.
Airlines Hike Prices
Airlines try every year to increase fare prices — and this year was no different. American Airlines initiated an airfare hike but got a price war instead, according to FareCompare. The airline increased pricing for nearly one million domestic flights, and Delta and other airlines followed suit. The price hike would have been a total success, if Southwest hadn’t rolled back pricing on some of its fares.
Marriott and Starwood Merge
Marriott and Starwood recently joined together, bringing 5,800 hotels under one umbrella. Sound like business as usual? Just remember: Less competition could mean higher prices.