From online booking and paperless tickets to those frustrating TSA screening lines, the
travel landscape has shifted dramatically over the past quarter-century.
The USA TODAY travel team picks 25 pivotal changes that transformed the way we
1. Online booking
Computer geeks with an affinity for alphabet-soup fare codes could access flight
information as early as the mid-1980s. But PC Travel’s nationwide debut in 1994 helped
jump-start the growth of online booking sites such as Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz and
dozens of others — including Priceline and its revolutionary “name your own price”
concept. This year, Internet sales will represent more than half of all travel bookings.
Tim Dillon, USA TODAY
2.TSA airport security
Created after 9/11, the Transportation Security Administration drastically altered the carry-
on rules. Now passengers wait in line, shoeless, jacketless and clutching toiletry-filled
3. Airline e-tickets
Ticketless air travel began in October 1993, when ValuJet, a predecessor of AirTran, sold
the first paperless airline ticket. A family from Washington state bought the first paperless
tickets ever sold via the Internet from Alaska Airlines in December 1995.
Working out of his garage in 1987, Northwest Airlines pilot Robert Plath affixed wheels
and a pull-out handle to a suitcase, creating the first rolling, vertical carry-on. Available
only to the airline industry at first, he mass-marketed his Travelpro Rollaboard in 1991.
Northwest Airlines became the first major U.S. carrier to ban smoking on its North
American flights in 1988. At the same time, a federal regulation took effect to bar lighting
up on flights of less than two hours. In 1995, Delta was the first to ban smoking on all
6. Boutique hotel chains
In 1983, Bill Kimpton opened his second San Francisco hotel, effectively launching the
USA’s first boutique lodging group. Kimpton Hotels jump-started the move toward high
style, personalized service and individual design in small- to medium-size urban lodgings.
Jack Gruber, USA TODAY
7. Airports as malls
Pittsburgh’s airport pioneered a revolutionary concept in 1992: guaranteed street pricing
in its shops and restaurants. This brought in major chains and led to the “mallification” of
8. Indian casinos
Once considered illicit outlets for crooked mobsters, casinos spread nationwide after a
1988 federal law sanctioned Indian gaming on reservations and tribal land. Today, about
40% of the nation’s 562 tribes run gaming operations in 28 states.
9. GPS car-navigation systems
We were lost, and now we’re found, thanks to these all-knowing devices, which began
popping up in cars in the 1990s. Tapping U.S. satellite signals, they offer befuddled
travelers turn-by-turn directions.
10. Self-service ticketing kiosks
Do-it-yourself ticketing kiosks started appearing in airports in 1994, although Southwest
had a rudimentary self-ticketing machine as early as 1979.
Pierre Verdy, AFP/Getty
11. Airbus A380 SuperJumbo
This mammoth airliner, introduced this year with a capacity of 853 passengers, ended the
Boeing 747’s 38-year reign as the world’s largest passenger jet.
12. Airline code-sharing
Begun in the mid-1980s, it allowed one airline to sell seats on flights operated by partner
airlines. As a result, passengers could book flights on their preferred carrier and accrue its
frequent-flier miles without ever actually boarding one of its planes.
13. Seat-back entertainment systems
When Northwest Airlines tested the first in-seat video system in 1988, it launched an arms
race in seat-back entertainment that continues with the rollout of video-on-demand and
14. Yield management
Yield management — dirty words to travelers who discover that their seatmate paid half
as much as they did — was developed in the mid-1980s by American Airlines and now is
used universally by airlines, hotels and rental car companies. It allows them to adjust
prices in real time based on various factors affecting demand.
George Frey, Bloomberg News
15. The Mirage, Las Vegas
Las Vegas tourism was sagging when Steve Wynn opened the $630 million, 3,049-room
Mirage casino/hotel — The Strip’s first mega-resort — in 1989. It revived Sin City and
helped propel it into the most-visited city in the USA.
16. Westin's Heavenly Bed
Westin Hotels scored an overnight sensation in 1999 when it introduced the pillow-top
mattress shrouded in three high-thread-count cotton sheets and topped with a down
blanket, duvet, comforter and five goose-feather pillows. Other major lodging chains soon
beefed up their own boudoirs.
17. Trip Advisor
Tens of millions of consumers got to voice their views on where to stay and what to do
after TripAdvisor created its Internet forum in 2000. The website set the standard for user
reviews of hotels, restaurants and attractions.
18. Flights without meals
Airline passengers suddenly faced in-flight hunger pangs when on Sept. 14, 2001,
America West said it would stop serving meals because of 9/11 security measures.
Others soon eliminated free coach-class meals to save costs.
19. Sovereign of the Seas
Royal Caribbean reinvented the cruise business in 1988 with the launch of what is often
billed as the world’s first mega-ship. It featured unprecedented resort-like amenities and
carried a then-astounding 2,852 passengers.
20. Ascent of low-cost airlines
The low-cost concept, with its simple fare structure, single passenger class, limited in-
flight service and use of secondary airports, soared when Southwest Airlines expanded
nationwide in the early 1990s. Low-cost carriers now fly worldwide.
21. Affinity credit cards
American Airlines and Citibank revolutionized the way we earn miles in 1987 with the first
mile-earning credit card. The basic concept, 1 mile for every dollar charged, still is the
rule. It allowed even non-!frequent fliers to accrue miles.
Al Behrman, AP
22. High-tech roller coasters
The inverted coaster, pioneered at Six Flags Great America in 1992, literally turned theme
parks’ biggest attractions upside down — and spawned a new generation of !stomach-
churning scream machines.
23. Queen Mary 2
The age of grand ocean liners was over. Or so people thought before Cunard brazenly
(and successfully) launched the 2,592-passenger Queen Mary 2, the largest, tallest and
longest ocean liner ever, in 2004.
24. Flying beds
Air France introduced the first 180-degree flat-bed seats in its first-class compartments in
1995. Four years later, British Airways was the first airline to install beds in business
Mike Tsukamoto, USA TODAY
25. End of commerical supersonic travel
Doomed by high fuel costs and environmental opposition, the Concorde made its last
flight in 2003 after more than three decades of service. It remains an icon of aviation
design and engineering.