With airlines saving money, they have more to invest in their product. Outdated baggage systems have been updated, including a new bag tracking app introduced last year by Delta. American, Southwest, and United are purchasing hundreds of new planes apiece; United has already added the technologically advanced, but currently grounded, Boeing 787 to its fleet. Many carriers have spruced up their airport lounges and added lie-flat seats for international business class travelers
In Boston, mergers have helped bring in new international carriers, which rely on global alliance partners to generate passengers. Copa Airlines , which will start flying out of Boston to Panama City in July, was probably more confident about starting service here after its alliance partner United beefed up its presence in Boston following the Continental merger, Thomas said. “It would be suicide if they just did it by themselves,” he said.
Still, despite the benefits travelers get from the era of consolidation, the days of air travel woes are far from over. MIT’s Swelbar says travelers will still find plenty to complain about, from the tight squeeze in coach to the price of tickets at peak travel periods to the inevitable delays.
Swelbar is confident air travel horror stories will remain a popular subject of cocktail party conversation: “They are making all of this money, and they still make me pay for my checked bag.”