4 Crazy Travel Predictions That Almost Came True

I began writing a weekly air travel column for ABC News seven years ago this month (you can see them all here). Looking back, I’m struck by what a time of turmoil 2008 proved to be.

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Crazy Travel Predictions of 2008

Soaring oil prices, airlines going bankrupt left and right, the dawn of the Fee Era – it was a pretty wild time – and led to some pretty crazy predictions. Like these:

  • Oil prices are going to kill the airlines.

In 2008, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said, “No airline can make money at $123 a barrel.” Later in the year the price zoomed to nearly $150, but Kelly was wrong. Not only is Southwest surviving, it’s just been named to Fortune’s top ten of Most Admired Companies.

  • Pay toilets on planes

Ryanair’s CEO has also been predicting pay toilets on planes for years with a perfectly straight face, but while restrooms are still free, much is not. Remember, 2008 was the year of the baggage fee; airlines quickly began making millions off them and have been adding fees ever since. Among things coach passengers used to get for free but now must pay for: Meals in coach, blankets and pillows and free stand-by.

  • Bye-bye Wi-Fi

I cited a poll on Wi-Fi use that said most folks viewed it the same as snakes on a plane. The fear: Decibel-shattering noise levels thanks to constant cell phone yakking. No one really envisioned that Wi-Fi might actually make planes quieter, with most people using it to get a little work done on phones or tables or silently enjoying a downloaded movie with headphones.

  • Knee Defender? Good, clean fun

I first mentioned a little gadget called the Knee Defender as a way to get yourself a little more room on a plane because it prevents the guy in front of you from reclining his seat.  Seemed harmless enough, even sort of fun in a school-boy-prank kind of way; if someone complained, you’d simply remove it.

People complained alright; in fact the Knee Defender would go on to star in a 2014 air rage incident resulting in a diverted flight and the two passengers kicked off a plane. Flight attendants are not fond of the Knee Defender and now I know why.

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Updated: February 25, 2015