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2005: The Year in Travel

Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers
The 12 Tips of Christmas Travel
TSA Security Changes Could Add Chaos to Christmas
10 Tips for Being a Good Houseguest

As everyone gets ready for the annual year-end holiday travel stretch, a solid 16-day haul this year, here is a look back at some of the biggest stories and most compelling trends in travel for 2005. Happy Holidays, see you next year!

Five of the major airlines in bankruptcy simultaneously.
In mid-September, Delta and Northwest declared bankruptcy within 30 minutes of one another, putting five of the eight major U.S. airlines in Chapter 11 protection simultaneously (the others were United, US Airways and ATA). As a result, domestic flights were flown by a bankrupt airline.

For more on this issue, check the article Bankruptcy Built for Two.

Granted, the big airlines were up against some huge shifts in the industry, including high fuel costs, formidable competition from the discount airlines at which they once scoffed, and their own lumbering style of business. But the fact is that the rest of the industry is doing just fine - airlines like Southwest and JetBlue are truly thriving, as is the rest of the world - check out this article that shows the global airline industry will lose $6 billion this year - mainly due to US airlines losing $10 billion: IATA sees airlines losing $10.2 billion in 2005-06.

Will it get better? It's hard to say - particularly since the people who made the mess in the first place are not only sticking around, but they'll be rewarded for their efforts; check out Anger over $285m stake for bosses of United Airlines.

Loyalty programs became a one-way street.
You can faithfully fly your preferred airline, buy into credit card offers, stockpile miles, and often still get stonewalled when you try to cash in for a free ticket or upgrade. With the supply of award seats and upgrades at an all-time low, and demand increasing with every holiday gift credit card purchase, redeeming miles is harder than ever.

When I wrote about the topic in two parts this summer (Airlines Miles, Use Them or Lose Them? and Airline Miles: Useless? Part Two), I received a heap of mail on the topic, split about 50-50 between those who had the same experience I did, and others who redeemed their miles without problem. However, in most cases, those who could redeem their miles did so on very low-priced flights, which seems to me a waste of miles, or on trips planned months in advance - in at least three cases the full 330 days ahead of time (airlines only sell flights a maximum of 330 days in advance). This tactic reads to me like those Black Friday mall stampedes you see on the 10 o'clock news; if I have to wake up at midnight 330 days before travel to redeem some of my gazillion miles, I still say something is amiss.

The aggregators are here.
A few years back, the booking engine sites (Expedia / Travelocity / Orbitz) were the hot new entrants; then it was the bid and name-your-price sites. In 2005, the aggregator sites rose to the top, assumed the mantle, took the prize; see The Aggregators are Coming. These sites are getting better all the time. Sidestep previously required you to download their software.

This is no longer the case, and the companies are making deals with travel providers all the time, firing up RSS feeds and personalized notification services. Recently, Kayak.com added a multi-city flight search function to its list of capabilities. See our article What's the Deal: Multi-City Flight Searches to see how the various sites stack up on this front.

Less than 10 years ago, pricing for travel services was a complete and utter mystery; now it is one of the most transparent markets in the world.

The return and education of the holiday traveler.
The summer of 2000 was notoriously gnarly season for travel; the economy was still booming, airfares were at rock bottom, and millions of people took to the air every day. The holidays were astounding and brutal times to travel; every holiday brought new record volume, and the airlines seemed anything but up to the challenge. September 11, 2001 changed all that.


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