New Rules, Rates and Airline Procedures That Could Affect Your 2019 Travel
These travel industry changes - some good, some bad - could affect your travels this year, so read up, before you head out.
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Real I.D. Gets Delayed Until 2020
Originally scheduled to take place at the beginning of 2019, the Real I.D. Act implementation has been postponed until 2020 to give all states and passengers an extra year to become compliant. The Real I.D. Act requires all U.S. airline passengers to use a federally approved form of identification before passing through security. The Real I.D. Act establishes security standards for drivers licenses and state-issued identification cards. Most states have come within compliance for the new regulation, but a few are still in process. The postponement gives these states an extra year to meet the new federal requirements. If those states don’t meet the federal requirements, identification issued by those states will not be accepted at TSA checkpoints, and federally approved documents such as a passport will be necessary.
Eurail's New, Cheaper Passes
Eurail gets cheaper and easier to use in 2019! Also, it now offers service to Great Britain, Macedonia and Lithuania which expands its service to 40,000 destinations in 31 countries. Eurail has retired its Multi-Country Passes for the new Global and One Country passes that offer up to 37-percent discounts, plus there are additional senior and youth discounts, all with a streamlined ease-of-use. For Americans wishing to travel within a single European country or travel between European Union countries, a Eurail pass has become an even better option in 2019.
Travelers may notice in 2019 that security dogs at U.S. airports look different but still, no petting. The TSA has announced that it will phase out pointy-eared breeds such as German shepherds in favor of floppy-eared breeds such as Labrador retrievers because they have a "friendlier" look. TSA officials cited data that pointy-eared breeds are viewed as "intimidating" by the public, especially children. No current qualified dog will be pulled off duty, but TSA has estimated that eventually, only 20 percent of TSA dogs will have pointy ears.
Thanks for the Tip
Tipping flight attendants has long been an item of frequent-flier debate, but beginning in 2019 passengers aboard Frontier Airlines will be given the option to tip their flight attendant directly when purchasing drinks and snacks. Frontier doesn’t offer gratis items in order to keep its pricing down, but customers may purchase items with a credit card. There is now a tipping option on the digital tablet presented to the customer to confirm the transaction, and Frontier will now make sure the tip goes directly to the server.
Flying With Puppies and Kittens
Beginning in 2019, Delta and United airlines won't allow any puppy or kitten younger than four months on any flight and no emotional support animals on flights longer than eight hours. This continues the airline industry trend of tightening restrictions on animals allowed to fly in cabins for the safety of the animals and passengers.
Biometrics and Polygraphs Coming to Some Airports
Facial recognition and lie detector tests have been installed in some airports worldwide for 2019, and are expected to come to more. At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Delta Airlines and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have opened the first biometric terminal in the U.S. in Terminal F. Passengers flying direct internationally on Delta or one of its partners can use just their face to get through security and board their flight. The process is optional and touted as saving an average of nine minutes when boarding aircraft. In Europe, passengers arriving in Hungary, Latvia and Greece from a non-European Union nation will encounter an automated system upon arrival that will ask basic identity questions in the form of a virtual security guard. The system detects stress in the passenger, questioning continues with the possibility of a real security agent being summoned. The system is called iBorderCtrl and is designed to reduce time in the customs line. The system will be optional at launch and overseen by human security agents. Denver International Airport is the first U.S. airport to install a new millimeter-wave system that allows passengers to keep their hands at their sides, as opposed to raising them above their heads. The new system is faster and quieter and is expected to decrease security wait times.
Airlines Ditch Single-Use Plastics
Several airlines have committed to reducing or totally avoiding single-use plastics on flights. Portuguese airline Hi Fly has replaced its plastic cutlery with bamboo and expects to be completely plastic-free by the end of 2019. Delta Airlines is doing away with plastic straws and other plastic items on flights and in the Delta Sky Clubs. American Airlines, Alaska Airlines have announced similar measures, and United Airlines is replacing plastic stirrers and cocktail picks with bamboo.
New Boarding Procedures at Delta and United
Delta Airlines has ditched boarding zones for 2019 and now boards by "branded fare" groups, in which passengers board according to ticket class. United has launched its Better Boarding Process with color-coded lanes based on ticket tier as well. Delta and United join other carriers that have reworked their boarding process to speed up boarding times while still rewarding premium customers.