How air travel travails spell trouble for hoteliers


Sure, your hotels are doing great, and your staff is equally amazing. But the airline business and their brethren in dread, the TSA, have the potential to muck it up for you.

I know I sound like a comedian straight out of the 1980s by taking a moment to complain about air travel; it’s overdone, I get it. 'Boy that airline food is so bad! I feel like a sardine, it’s so tight in here!'

Airlines are spoiling it for everyone by essentially doing everything they can to make the life of the non-frequent flyer as painful and expensive as possible. Now, we’re close to the breaking point for frequent travelers, too.

People—your customers—are ready to give up and stay home. Not all the time, but more often. And that will cause real danger for all of you out there busily running, owning or developing hotels.

This is what has happened to air travel

Why This Matters

The hotel industry must no longer see itself as a completely separate entity, untethered from the painful reality of air travel. Hoteliers must get more involved to ensure traveling through airports is easier and the experience of flying becomes less arduous. Did I mention how tight those seats are?

Right now there is a softening of business travel, and the expectation of future business travel. And while the ups and downs of Wall Street are partly to blame, I am convinced that business travelers are finding ways to eliminate some of the trips they’d have gladly taken a year ago. That could spell danger when the bloom of the summer travel season rose burns off come fall conference season.

According to a recent earning’s call, Delta Air Lines will cut seating capacity if it can't push fares higher. And the company indicated capacity reductions could happen as soon as this fall. While that will help raise fares in the short term, there will be less people to stay in your hotels and higher fares may turn off additional travelers.

Meanwhile, American Airlines’ CEO Doug Parker told CNN Money: "We're not pleased where we are now. None of us projected these kinds of revenue declines."

How Did They Miss This?

Why they didn’t see this coming is insane.

First, you have the TSA, which is simply unable to process people through security quickly and easily because of severe staffing issues. I think the TSA is amazing by the way and does a great job. There is no one better at doing what they do. (Note to TSA: perhaps you will see that amazing suck up and help me fix an issue I am having with getting TSA Pre✓ ®; I rarely get it though I have Global Entry.)

Then, you have the complete disdain by airlines for most of their customers that have been forever loyal, but have seen their benefits slashed in recent years. Airlines have made it clear they only care for flyers that buy business-class tickets very close to date of departure. The rest of us are left wondering what happened.

People are becoming increasingly frustrated, and during the previous six months, I have heard more cries from friends, colleagues and frequent travelers; they are starting to snip trips they gladly would have taken a couple of years ago.

Then there is the consolidation issue. With Virgin America going bye-bye after a purchase by Alaska Airlines, more competition is vanishing. That will hurt customer the experience while creating higher airfares.

The inevitable hotel industry downturn will happen, but we needn’t usher it in quicker by pretending the airline business is unrelated to the hotel industry. So get out there and tell Congress to do their jobs and fix these problems.

Air travel is critical to the country’s overall economy, and a handful of companies cannot be trusted to do the right thing. They have already proven themselves incapable of that and the hotel industry must get involved.

What do you think the hotel industry should do to force the airlines into doing the right thing? Perhaps you feel they are free to do whatever they want and I am crazy to think otherwise. Drop me a line at [email protected] or find me on Twitter and Instagram @TravelingGlenn.