Q&A: Traveler Editor on Air Travel Today

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The same rules still apply. To save money, you're going to have to spend time looking for the deals. Low-cost carriers don't partner with Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, or any of the other online travel agents. Instead, you must go directly to their Web site—and in most cases, book online. Even the major airlines that list prices on Expedia and Orbitz might still offer lower fares on their own sites. So really the best thing to do is to spend as much time comparison shopping as possible. In the end, it will pay off. Also, always read the fine print. On bidding sites like Priceline and Hotwire you could get a really low rate and then suddenly find out that you're traveling from New York to Miami via Dallas or Denver. Sure, it's cheaper. But you're going to be exhausted by the time you get there. And remember that when you use any independent online travel agent, you're dealing with that agent not the airline. So if something goes wrong, you might still have to pay full price—even if the airline is offering a refund.

What do you predict the airline industry will be like in 20 years?

Overall, there will be an increase in air travel. With business travel, we're going to see a consortium where businesses buy blocks of tickets on routes that people in their companies fly most. Airlines will scramble for market share, more low-cost carriers will be launched, and it's highly possible that some airlines will go out of business. Eventually American travelers will accept how long it takes to get through airport security. European airports have just as many checks and balances as airports in the U.S., and the people there just endure it. And in India, for example, you're inspected at least six times before you can even get on a plane. We've just been really spoiled by years of being able to breeze through security. The cost of flying may even go down if airlines start integrating technological efficiencies that are not yet invented or widely available—like the electric cell batteries that are being tested by Boeing. Another example: Delta plans to spend $200 million over the next three years to develop technology that will "change the way people use airports" and presumably cut the costs of doing business. All bets are off, of course, if we have more terrorist incidents or there is a world oil crisis.

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