Every Jetsetter should travel in style—whether in coach, business or first. And thanks to improved tech (bye, boarding passes) and plushier classes (hello, business seats), it’s not hard to do so. Here are the airline changes you should know before you hit the sky.
When printed tickets were replaced with electronic boarding passes, it was a sign of the times. Now, the transportation industry is looking to the future to create an even more secure and streamlined boarding process. Enter: facial recognition software. These “biometric boarding gates” would identify travelers by scanning their faces instead of their passports. KLM in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, British Airways in London’s Heathrow, Delta in Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, and JetBlue in Boston’s Logan International Airport have all jumped on board, either using the software at the boarding gate or the self-service baggage drops.
There was a time when first class reigned supreme—but these days, it's all about business. For a lower price, passengers are getting perks like revamped lounges, larger seats, and better meals. United Airlines, for example, phased out its first class and launched its new Polaris business class cabin, which comes equipped with sleep cubicles (seats recline into full beds, with Saks Fifth Avenue sheets and privacy partitions). British Airways is also following the trend, rolling out its Club World business class with new beds (with bigger pillows, a soft mattress topper, and duvet blanket) in July, and a new dining service (think: fillet of cod entree with jasmine rice and aubergine curry) in September.
From peanuts and pretzels to plastic-y, pre-made food, airline meals have been a thorn in passengers sides for decades. But menus are being expanded and improved to include healthier options and fresher ingredients. Delta has paired with Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group to serve its premium classes plates like grilled filet mignon and Gulf shrimp with lemon polenta; JetBlue’s first class passengers can tuck into sous-vide meals (such as fontina gnocchi with black truffle crostini) and sweet treats from Milk Bar; and United Airlines has five-course fine dining—complete with a cheese course and a three-tier sundae cart—in its business class.
Back in March, the Trump administration revealed a new policy that would prevent passengers from carrying on any electronics larger than a phone (iPads, Kindles, cameras, laptops, etc.) in high-risk countries. Officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security shot down the ban, as it would affect roughly 350 flights a day and the airports of concern have since met new security rules. But you should expect added safety measures across all airports--for example, all travelers must now pull out electronics (except phones) and put them in separate bins to go through scanners. FYI: It’s always smart to double check the Transportation Security Administration for updates, so you’ll be prepared before you fly.
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Airbus and Boeing are making waves for their improved plane design (finally, more spacious seats!). The A350 plane, coming to Qatar Airways later this year, is the most impressive as it’s Airbus’s largest twin-engine jet (366 seats), and it can fly 9,000 miles without refueling. Cabins are also quieter and have lower air pressure levels—meaning less headaches and jet lag for passengers. Similarly, the Boeing’s 737 Max, used by Southwest Airlines, uses new engines and wingtips to help with fuel efficiency (it’s estimated to cut consumption by 14 percent).
Premium and Basic Economy seats prove you get what you pay for. Those willing to shell out extra for the premium seats will get priority boarding, more legroom and pre-flight beverages. Both American Airlines and Delta even have separate premium economy cabins to further divide the classes. Meanwhile, Basic Economy is offering less and less to budget-conscious fliers (the FAA is about to revisit the increasingly cramped conditions). Sure, they’ll get a bargain-bin fare, but they won’t be able to pre-select seats or change their itinerary. And in United’s case, they’ll even be charged a fee to put carry-ons in the overhead bins.