What's Ahead for Airlines and Aviation in 2019

Forbes' expert aviation contributors see change in the air next year (2019). From airline M&A to advances in technologies that will change the passenger experience to a slowdown in the torrent of outbound Chinese travel, here are their predictions for 2019.

Samuel Engel, managing director of aviation at the consultancy ICF:

THE BIG TREND: Declining profitability, at least for the U.S. carriers. As the economy slows, it will be hard for demand to keep up with rising capacity and costs.

WHAT TO WATCH: Amazon’s expansion into the aviation space. By the end of 2019, Amazon’s Prime logistics will have all the pieces of a major integrator, like UPS and FedEx (5th largest fleet in the world?): aircraft, distribution centers, last mile delivery, and scalable IT platform and customer contact.

THE UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM: Passengers want biometrics. Biometrics help tighten security and can be used to speed immigration, but it will be several more years before biometrics are consistently able to speed passenger boarding. And overhead bins will still be the constraint.

A BOLD PREDICTION: The boom in China-U.S. travel and Chinese investment in the U.S. are facing potential headwinds, and could significantly deflate by the end of 2019. In travel it’s going to be an inside job on the China side of the Pacific, and not driven by any trade issues between the two countries. Instead, look to the exhaustion of discretionary spending that was created by real estate booms in China, and troubling indications coming from President Xi’s administration that point to restored government intervention in the personal lives of Chinese citizens. It will affect all outbound leisure travel, not just to the U.S., and it’s the Chinese carriers that face the major downsides. BTNewspaper/Glenn Hollister-Forbes