"A lot of people who don't like this trend have in their minds the way it used to be," said Snyder. "They think that's how it should be."
If the low-cost model becomes the standard for success, Snyder warns, other airlines seeking profits will follow, triggering a "race to the bottom," as every airline tries to "slash and burn costs and do everything they can to make more money by cutting back. I think that would be really unfortunate."
Denver-based Frontier Airlines "is the hope for the future," said Snyder. "They're trying to become a low-cost carrier, but they have more amenities on board, although you do have to pay for them, such as live TV and extra legroom. They're trying to offer a bit more to people."
Expect more air passengers to demand Wi-Fi and personalized entertainment choices in the coming years. Airlines may provide access to movies stored on a digital media server aboard the aircraft, or, a third-party website where passengers can watch video now or later after they de-plane. Power outlets for personal devices ought to become standard on all passenger seats, say experts, not just in first class.
But some choices, such as seating, shouldn't be limited to all or nothing. Regular carriers, say analysts, should offer more "in-between choices," like Delta's Economy Comfort or United's Economy Plus, with more legroom and other amenities for a few dollars extra.
The coming 10 years will also affect airports. Some larger markets are developing additional airports which will ease traffic congestion. But smaller cities may be at risk. Many regional airlines may abandon some small towns, as tiny airports get squeezed by rising fuel prices and shrinking profits.
What can pilots expect? Changes in federal rules will require additional and more expensive training for new pilots, many of whom will earn a starting salary of about $20,000 a year, said Miller. Experts fear the result will be a temporary shortage of airline pilots, which might force airlines to take on the cost of pilot training. That expense likely would be passed on to consumers.
On the bright side, the coming decade will bring more fuel efficient aircraft. Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner started U.S. routes this month.
Canadian aircraft maker Bombardier's much anticipated CSeries boasts a variable speed, multi-gear engine that aims to save 20% more fuel than its competitors. The first CSeries plane is expected to begin service in 2014.
But what about a little further down the road? At NASA, experts asked a handful of top aircraft designers for their ideas on green airplanes of the future.
Firms like Lockheed Martin offered cool box-shaped wing designs while Boeing and Northrop Grumman played with fascinating "flying wings." Although the NASA program was really just an idea-sharing brainstorming project, some of these futuristic design ideas could very well make the jump to reality by 2025 NASA said, if economic conditions allow.
Whether fuel savings from efficient airliners will be passed on to consumers in the next 10 years depends on a lot of factors. It's possible, said experts, as long as passenger traffic is high and fuel prices are stable.
Letting go of the wheel
California and Nevada have passed laws authorizing driverless or self-driving vehicles, signaling the beginning of a new era.
These computer-controlled cars and trucks are coming, whether or not we feel comfortable about it. The idea is to allow computers to coordinate the safest and most efficient speed and route for each car, thereby reducing wrecks and traffic jams. Nevada and California require the cars to have a human behind the wheel who can take control of the vehicle at any time.
In five years or less, non-experimental self-driving cars are expected to hit California's public roads, says driverless car developer Google. Computer-coordinated vehicles could help cut the estimated 4.2 billion hours Americans spend each year stuck in traffic, according to the society of engineers. All that time costs $710 per driver.
Volvo is working with the European Union on what it calls Road Trains, several self-driving cars connected and coordinated by a wireless signal from a lead vehicle, which is driven by a human. The idea aims to cut highway congestion and save fuel. Bottom line: fewer traffic jams, less pollution, cheaper travel. Road Trains could hit Europe's highways as soon as 2022, according to the European Union.
For Volvo scientist Jonas Ekmark, the driverless era began when he was testing the Road Train. He remembers what it felt like the first time he took his hands off the wheel, effectively putting a computer in the driver's seat.
"That was really a strange experience," Ekmark recalled with a chuckle. "I let go and then after 30 seconds I was like, 'and now what?'"