Listen, I don’t blame you for ignoring travel industry news during the pandemic. Who cares if Hilton went bankrupt (it didn’t) or Alaska Airlines joined some alliance (it did) when you aren’t traveling?
If it wasn’t my job, I would've tuned out that stuff, too.
However, many under-the-radar changes did significantly alter the travel landscape in 2021. Beyond the obvious — more cleaning, more masks — other updates rippled throughout the industry, including smaller fees and new credit card perks.
Anyway, it’s good to have you back. Here’s what you missed.
1. Airline change fees (almost kinda sorta) disappeared
Believe it or not, airlines seem to have done us a solid on this front. Many not only waived change fees early last year, but also removed them from most fares indefinitely.
2. Rental cars got bizarrely expensive
This is a weird one, but it could have a major impact on your summer travel plans and expenses. A combination of supply issues and demand spikes have led to the so-called rental car apocalypse, driving costs through the (sun)roof in many popular destinations like Hawaii and Glacier National Park.
3. Your travel credit card had a midlife crisis
Travel credit card perks were rendered moot last year, and these cards scrambled to offer new benefits and features that made some semblance of sense during a global pandemic.
Some American Express credit cards offered perks for streaming services like Netflix, then a $30 PayPal credit every month. Other Chase bank credit cards offered bonuses on grocery spending instead of airfare and hotels. Basically, every premium travel credit card became a premium living-your-life credit card.
4. Other stuff that happened
Alaska Airlines joined American Airlines in the Oneworld Alliance. Most travel companies got huge federal checks in order to stay afloat. The cost of flights dropped when nobody was paying attention. Now, they’re climbing back up.
Some airlines handled the pandemic in a customer-friendly way (hat tip Delta), while others did not. Ditto hotels.
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