espMore fees, plane crashes, and diversifying terrorists make my predictions for 2009 a bit darker than they had been back at the beginning of last year. In January 2008 I predicted quite a few things to be hopeful for – but the slowing global economy will begin to effect the travel industry, and ultimately travelers, in an increasingly negative fashion.

Here’s a look into my cloudier crystal ball this time around.

  • Fees, Fees, and More Fees for Everything – Although jet fuel prices dropped dramatically during the second part of 2008, most airlines have maintained additional ‘fuel surchages’,  baggage fees, and $2 cans of soda. Airlines will not only keep these fees around and expand them to include more (currently free) services, they’ll increase existing prices as well. Think paying $15 for your first checked suitcase is bad, it will likely double by the end of 2009.
  • More Delays and Plane Crashes – Business cuts from employee paychecks, quality control, and security generally lead to a general decline of service in any industry. With the airline industry in an already weak economic state at the beginning of 2008, and now the overall world economy in recession, things will get worse.
    • Airlines will begin to layoff employees causing fewer, less paid personnel to do the same amount of work. The result will be more lost baggage, overbooked flights, and fewer planes in the sky. All of these factors mean that you’ll probably be stuck at some airport during your travels. Here are 3 fun things to do and the best places to sleep.
    • Being involved in a plane crash is an extremely unlikely event, even for frequent travelers but expect a few more than ‘average’ this year. Budget cuts are already caused Southwest to skimp on FAA required inspections in 2008 and sooner or later it will catch up with the airlines and some unfortunate travelers.
  • Increase In Terrorist Attacks On Alternate Modes Of Travel – Expect various terrorist groups around the world (I’m bunching in all of them here) to begin targeting cruise ships, trains, and even car drivers. While airplanes are still a high-value target, frozen assets, better intelligence, and waning popularity of (especially Islamic extremism) is going to lead to different, lower-budget attacks.
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  • Economic Implosion of the US Airlines – Terribly mismanaged and hanging on by a shoestring, the major US airlines are going to run themselves into a financial conundrum. Looking back on my prediction last year that the US airlines would merge to survive, which they’ll continue to do, eventually the merged companies will (still) tank. The US airlines will be saved from bankruptcy by the US government leading to a radically different airline landscape. What this ‘airline future’ will looking like is a prediction for 2010.
    • Expect the smaller US airlines (Southwest, JetBlue, etc.) to fill the space at the top and start to resemble the pitiful United, Delta, and USAir.
  • Europe Will Become Cool Again – No, not the reversal of global warming, but rather that Europe will become popular with adventure and backpacking travelers again. Up and coming new places to travel on a weak dollar and a cheap sections of Mediterranean coast will attract the many of us that feel Europe is ‘done there and done that’.
  • Unlikely Destinations Will Make A Rise – Nations unpopular with most foreign governments will hit the mainstream will many adventurous travelers. Booking a flight to places like Tehran, Pyongyang, and Tripoli won’t seem insane to your friends anymore and the governments of these countries will make it more enticing for you to visit. As I’ve said many times, a tourism industry can be quickly fostered since it requires a minimal infrastructure and actually thrives when the local economy is hurting – no matter the rhetoric, almost all governments recognize the potential for revenue and more will take advantage of it.
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Admittedly this years list is less optimistic than last years and I’m not happy it’s that way. I’d prefer to see more bright spots for the upcoming year and would like to hear your opinions on what those might be. While I am optimistic about the state of travel in 2009, what specific things do you predict we should look forward to in 2009?

[photo by: +fatman+]