Depending on your political beliefs, 2016 might have turned out to be a pretty rough year. Hell, I think there were quite a few times where almost everyone has been aghast at the state of the world. But because of this, the need for travel, especially internationally, is becoming more and more important. I’m a firm believer that we can only keep this world from destroying itself though in-person exchanges with other cultures in the world. This interaction of different mindsets is what helps turn those “others” in the world, into friends. It’s hopefully how we’re going to heal all that’s been done. However, I’m not going to sit here and sing Kumbaya and preach politics. That’s not what I’m about. I’m here to tell you what to expect (and look forward to in 2017) Let’s take a look what the future might hold, shall we?
POINTS AND MILES
So first off, many of you are heading into the new year and looking to make that trip that you’ve always planned on, but missed out on taking the leap. That’s okay. 2017 is a new year and that’s what New Year’s resolutions are for right? Well, I’m pleased to tell you that that trip is still going to be about as accessible as it has always been. Just doing a quick search on Google Flights tells me that airlines are expecting fuel prices to stay cheap for at least the front end of 2017. There are a ton of great deals, especially from now though May going both across the Atlantic and Pacific, and a lot of the American domestic carriers including Alaska, Southwest and JetBlue are currently having sales. This is great news for the outlook on travel, and also award and mile redemption. There is certainly a theory that you’ll find greater availability when prices are low, and for rewards programs that are price contingent, like Southwest great deals are to be had.
As for the credit card game, the beginning of this year brought sad news, the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s 100,000 Ultimate Reward bonus is ending on January 12th. If you were holding off on applying for this card, now’s the time. It will soon be at 50,000, and although still quite a sizeable bonus, the downgrade of converting that from two trips to Europe (economy and based on dates) to one is definitely felt. The huge plus side to this is that Chase actually gave people the heads up on this move — and for that I tip my glass.
Here’s my hope for looking ahead in the game. Chase’s Sapphire Reserve was a luxury credit card that mobilized the millennial generation in an unprecedented way and many first time premier-type card users applied. Through this they’ve potentially created a following that other card providers are surely going to try and mimic. I’d expect to see a new style of offering from AMEX who’s recently fallen off in drawing the top of the pint customers. I think that although Chase’s Sapphire Reserves bonus is ending, we all need to stay tuned for what is coming next.
But with great offers comes the financial cost to credit card makers and because Chase took such a loss on the Reserve, I would not be surprised to see some of the benefits change, but not by too much. My biggest hope is that they don’t chance the earning rates (highly unlikely) or the 1.5x redemption through the Chase travel portal. As someone who cashes in miles and points for economy flights, this can often be the cheapest option as it’s how I scored my upcoming trip to Europe.
Another thing to be careful of is potential devaluations on some of the legacy carriers. Because Alaska and Delta are parting ways at the beginning of May, I’d expect to see some shift-ups there, especially on the Delta end. Also, I’d expect to see a closer relationship with American and Alaska, which might result in better award availability (hoping for this to do a second trip to Europe this winter). As you look at taking on a travel credit card, especially with a specific airline, I’d read up on the travel hacking blogs (my personal favorite — One Mile at a Time) to make sure that they don’t foresee changes, especially if you are getting the card as part of saving for a trip. Further on cards and and loyalty programs, Southwest has been changing their companion pass, so keep an eye out to see if they’ll change anything back after the amount of upset loyalists that have jumped on social media about the ordeal.
Despite threats of terrorism, and violence abroad (often re-enforced repetitively by what you see on TV), Americans continue to go abroad and for good reason. The world is beautiful and thanks to the New York Time’s annual article on 52 Places to Visit, there are some really exceptional motivating pictures and videos to prove it.
Here’s something to look forward to (sarcasm font need be included?) — More restrictions on baggage. As the legacy carriers seek to compete with budget airlines the amount of luggage that they are charging for is increasing. Over the past year we’ve already seen Delta, United, and others start offering very basic tickets that don’t include carry-on baggage or even assigned seats. I think that we can expect even more un-bundling to what these carriers provide. Despite the changes, the prices don’t seem to have dropped as much respectively, and the greater deals are still found on flights un-bundled and inclusive (mostly international and long-haul). Look to Alaska, JetBlue and Southwest for relief.
So what are the new trends that are helpful for us? I can tell you this much: the budget Trans-Atlantic carriers such as WOW and Norwegian are going to keep helping make low fares. For example: I was searching routes to Europe in February – April and although this is usually a cheap time to travel, the fares were exceptional. Because you can make round trips from Los Angeles or New York to some of Europe’s hubs for less than four hundred, the legacy carriers were trying to compete and fares showed just that. I found $500 round trips from Los Angeles to London on American, New York to Paris for sub $500. These are just a few examples of what these carriers can do to effect your prices in a positive way. I’m really hoping that Air Asia is looking at this, because as a fairly respectable budget carrier for those to the East, their presence over the Pacific would make a world of difference.
Never the less, the Chinese carriers including China Southern and China Eastern are forcing the rest of the Asian airlines to offer cheap flights to and from Asia. As of right now you can find $550 flights to Bangkok, Mainland China, and Japan depending on your dates, from much of the West Coast. These prices actually might be the cheapest I’ve seen in years!
AND WHAT ABOUT THE BEER?
As craft breweries continue to flourish, I’d expect just as much of the same reaction from big beer that we’ve seen in 2016. More behemoths buying the small guys. Luckily, for every small brewery bought out by the biggies, we’ll get another to pop up in its place. That means that it’s important to keep branching out and supporting your local breweries. I’m planning to take a trip up north of San Francisco this year to try out some of the Sonoma County’s breweries including Santa Rosa’s Russian River (the beer lover’s Mecca brewery). I’ll update when I have more on the beer front, but I’d say for now, it looks to be another predictable year of selling out, new tasty brews and drinking foam.
That’s what I’ve speculated, and keep in mind, I know very little. Just thoughts from the sky. What are your thoughts on what the new year has in store for beer + travel?