It's no secret that air travel can be trying.
It's something that Cranky Flier and Cranky Concierge president Brett Snyder hears frequently from travelers and industry partners: Airports are a pain to deal with; it takes too many stops and too many hours to get to the final destination; and some are only willing to fly in a premium cabin, but it's too expensive.
Snyder has some answers to help travel advisors navigate those pitfalls with their clients. He discussed the topic during Wendy Perrin's recent Global Travel Summit in New York.
First, to make the airport experience more palatable, advisors should encourage their clients to enroll in programs like Global Entry, which enables participants to quickly move through customs. But it has its pitfalls, Snyder said: It can be difficult to attain in that there is a high bar to qualify, and applicants have to attend an in-person interview. There aren't that many interview locations, especially in Middle America. And New York residents have been barred from the service.
In cases when Global Entry isn't possible, travelers should enroll in TSA PreCheck. That will make getting through security quicker. Snyder also recommended downloading the Mobile Passport Control app, which helps clients move through immigration with ease. It's a good, easy and free service, Snyder said.
To further ease the airport experience, he encouraged agents to recommend airline-run services that meet travelers at their car and shepherd them through security and to the gate, such as American Airlines' Five Star Service and Delta's VIP Select. Travelers should also check their credit card benefits in case they have access to lounges or priority boarding.
The airlines themselves are starting to solve the problem of too many stops and too many hours to get travelers from point A to point B, Snyder said.
Regionally, he looked at the number of new routes that have been introduced. Europe, in particular, has a number of them, and it is the easiest international destination to get to from the U.S. Continents like the Middle East and Africa have fewer new routes, but some are being introduced.
Snyder also identified a trend of smaller U.S. cities getting nonstop international routes, including Nashville, Pittsburgh and Charleston, S.C. The same thing is happening on the other side of the Atlantic, too, he said, pointing to cities like Dubrovnik, Croatia, and Palermo, Italy, increasingly getting flights from bigger U.S. hubs. It means that there are a lot more opportunities for travelers.
A new narrowbody plane, the Airbus A321XLR, has the range for direct U.S.-Europe routes and is increasingly being used by carriers, including TAP Air Portugal and Scandinavian Airlines. JetBlue will also use the plane starting next year. That aircraft has a large amount of potential to further open up routes, Snyder said.
Finally, Snyder tackled the problem of a client who is only willing to fly in premium cabins, but it's too expensive.
There are a number of lower-cost luxury products that advisors can look into, Snyder said.
For example, he pointed to the likes of La Compagnie, which flies New York to Paris; Azul Brazilian Airlines, which has nice, lie-flat seats; Copa Airlines, which operates Boeing 737s with lie-flat seats; and Chinese airlines within China, which usually have low-cost seats and good products.
JetBlue will bring its Mint premium class with lie-flat seats to a London route next year and likely will continue to expand that service across Europe in coming years. Snyder predicted other carriers will do the same.