With corporate acquisitions, new technologies, and increasing fees, the travel industry is constantly evolving. As we head into 2018, here are some changes that could impact your next trip.
Royal Caribbean hikes auto gratuity
Prepare yourself for higher fees if you plan to take a cruise in 2018. According to USA Today, Royal Caribbean (RCL) will raise its automatic gratuity to $14.50 per person per day, a 7% increase. Those in suites will pay $17.50 per person, per day. Changes take effect on Jan. 2.
This is the third consecutive year that Royal Caribbean has raised prices, and this recent hike surpasses gratuity amounts from competitors like Carnival Cruise Line ($12.95 per person), Princess Cruises ($13.50 per person) and Norwegian Cruise Line ($13.99 per person).
Cruise gratuities, which are automatic, pay the dining room staff, housekeeping and stateroom attendants for their services. If passengers feel like they didn’t receive adequate service, they can change the gratuity amount by visiting guest services onboard.
Passengers who have a cruise booked for 2018 can choose to prepay the gratuities before Jan. 2 to lock in the lower rate. Note that prepaid gratuities cannot be modified later.
Virgin America Elevate Loyalty Program will end
Since Alaska Air acquired Virgin America in December 2016, the airlines have been slowly and strategically merging their services. Up until now, travelers could earn points on both frequent flier programs, but starting on Jan. 1, 2018, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan will become the only frequent-flier program for both airlines.
If you’re currently a member of the Virgin America Elevate loyalty program, the last day you’ll be able to earn and redeem Elevate points is Dec. 31, 2017, and any remaining Elevate points will be automatically converted to Mileage Plan points in early 2018.
Alaska Air ending alliance with Air France
Airline partnerships are one of the perks of signing up for loyalty programs. These alliances let travelers use and earn miles on other global airlines, giving customers more options for when and where they fly. Alaska Air (ALK) currently has partnerships with 19 other airlines, but has announced it will cut ties with Air France and KLM on April 30, 2018.
If you booked travel on Air France on or after Dec. 6 and will travel before April 30, Mileage Plan points can still be earned. If you booked on or after Dec. 6, and plan to travel on or after May 1, no Mileage Plan points will be earned.
Hyatt tightens cancellation rules
Currently, Hyatt (H) guests can cancel their refundable reservation without penalty if it’s 24 hours in advance. Starting Jan. 1, that window will be bumped up to 48 hours. This not only affects the flexibility of reservations, but could cost customers in the way of cancellation fees. Each hotel brand has its own rules regarding fees, so travelers should read the specific rules before booking.
There is a way around this new rule if you are in the World of Hyatt loyalty program. Those with Explorist, Globalist or Lifetime Globalist status will still have the ability to cancel reservations just 24 hours ahead of time without penalty.
According to Hyatt, this relaxed criteria for loyalty members will apply to all Hyatt-owned hotels, excluding Hyatt Residence Club resorts, Miraval resorts and M life resort destinations and excludes pre-paid and non-refundable rates.
JetBlue increases fees
JetBlue (JBLU) made some changes to its fee structure in December that will impact travelers in 2018.
In the past, travelers could change a Blue and Blue Plus class ticket on the same day for just $50 plus the fare difference. Now, customers will have to pay $75 plus the difference in fare. There is no cost for changing a Blue Flex fare.
The low-cost airline has also introduced a new fare for standby travelers. Before Dec. 12, travelers could sign up for standby and take an earlier or later flight on the same day at no cost. Now there is a $75 fee. The good part is that the $75 fee will be refunded if you’re on standby but don’t get on the flight.
Brittany is a reporter at Yahoo Finance.