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How is air travel going to look like towards 2030?

Updated: Mar 19, 2021

Earlier, we looked at some airline industry trends, wondering whether airline pricing optimization would evolve by 2020, as digital developments in areas such as Big Data, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence are reshaping the way airline pricing analytics works.

A couple of weeks ago, Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Airlines, called for an exciting challenge on LinkedIn. He asked people how they think air travel will have changed in 10 years’ time.

We don’t know who Richard awarded for the best idea, but despite the prize wasn’t enough to become a millionaire (a $500 Virgin Australia voucher; well, I wouldn’t mind…), we see that he got over 5.000 thousand public answers (you can still check on his “activity” timeline of about two weeks ago on Linkedin). As an act of curiosity, we gathered some of the most common answers to Branson’s challenge participants. Here a summary for you, and, sure enough, you’ll also find our own ideas below. Enjoy!

1.  Personalization and flight experience

Many people believe air travel “will be enjoyable and relaxing for more people,” providing a more personalized and comfortable experience with the use of technology to customize their journey, get detailed flight information, or predicting their travel habits. With personalization, people believe that their flight experience will be better and, with the use of Information Technology, airlines could cater to the specific factors most important to individual customers- as a boutique-like experience -at a lower cost.

  1. “It will provide personalized first class service and the autopilot will engage with passengers through their integrated wearables.”

“Passengers will choose their level of comfort to fit certain budgets…. for the traveling family to the jet-set executive.”

“The experience will simply be like a tap and go – similar to the London Underground.”

2. Intelligent pre-flight security

This is a common suggestion from many people. Facial and biometric recognition is a trending comment: optical scanning or fingerprint readers, against a “globally shared database” can be used for “immediate security screening right at the gates”, as it is noninvasive and it would eliminate the need of physical check-ins. This would make pretravel processes much shorter.

“Recognition using Science and Technology – Eyes, fingerprints, even DNA used to augment security.

“Passport and security checks will be done in advance at home to avoid delays at the airport.”

3. Energy efficiency

This topic has a significant number of fascinating suggestions. The use of fuel is a significant concern, to reduce costs, carbon emissions and the environmental footprint. Making air travel, greener, and energy efficient, though a wide range of new technologies, such as engine design, lighter composites, hybrid and clean energy sources. Not only fuel but automatic infrastructure. Airlines will use new technologies to make planes quicker and cleaner.

  • “There a way to capture energy in flight that can be transferred to the electrical grid while sitting at the gate.”

  • “Solar and wind assisted renewable energy sources:  fuel reduction by 75%.”

  •  “Electromagnetic energy will offer both electricity as well as magnetic antigravity energy.”

  • “Greener plasma propulsion technology, replacing the current hydrocarbon fuel based propulsion.”

  •  “Hybrid electric fleets; Greater efficiency, cheaper flight fare. Smaller capacity, quicker boarding.”

4. New uses of Artificial Intelligence

People predict that the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be widespread in new ways: from drone inputs, automated planes, to organic management responses to flight conditions, such as air quality.

  • “Air Travel will dramatically change by using drone technology and go unmanned thus allowing operators to control multiple planes.”

  • “Dronic input and robotic advancement will revolutionize transition whilst material and engine technology will diminish travel time and increase.”

  • “Vertical landing and launching, a hybrid system mixing jets and choppers technology, will have been incorporated into commercial flights.”

5. New pricing optimization techniques

Regarding airline prices, the sky is no longer the limit. For some, pricing could embrace one charge covers. For others, there should be tiered pricing for express vs. slow planes. Many other people want to integrate subscription-based pricing models and create Uber-like companies for regional travel.

Others predict that airline ticket prices could go down, either with the use of hybrid fuels and the use of electric sources, the merger of airlines or the use of bigger aircrafts.

  •  “Looking back at the past 10 years what has changed? More players meaning lower prices and better on board experience.”

  • “Due to heavy traffic congestion on ground, Intercity Taxing will be available, for a reasonable Price.

  • “Comfort, speed and price will be the focus of competition.”

Personal suggestions

I also stepped to the plate with some ideas:

1. From mega-airports to small “landing stations”

I think airports, as we know them today, will become obsolete, given the huge inconveniences and costs they produce, such as security, infrastructure, transporation, pollution, land displacement, etc.

They will be replaced by much smaller, distributed landing stations in much more convenient locations within urban or suburban radius fully connected to convenient public transportation. There will be many of them within the city radius, wich will lead to more competition, lower landing and service costs and more convenient choices for consumers and travel suppliers.

2. Mega zeppelins for leisure travel and air cruise

They will be slower (around 60-70% slower) than current airplanes, but they will have big advantages. They will offer much more fun on board (casino, shopping, and other “ancillary” activities that will allow the travel suppliers substancially reduce the “base” ticket prices) and beautiful sightseeing.

On the other hand, as zeppelins won’t need long landing tracks, they will land in the cities, on skyscraper rooftops or other kinds of urban landing stations conveniently located. So, part of the loss in speed against current airplanes will be recovered by having smaller distances to landing stations.

Finally, through the use of solar and other clean energies to power propellers or other propulsion methods, zeppelins will cause near zero air pollution compared to current airplanes.

3. Full business airplanes

Business passengers will travel mainly on business airplanes. These will offer full Wi-Fi access (or whatever the real time, large bandwidth, global connectivity access that may have succeeded WiFi at the time will be named), video conference screens, meeting rooms onboard, so business travellers can work and do business during a day travel without disrupting their workday, and then sleep in a real bed at night after landing.

4. Business airplanes with vertical landing

Vertical landing will structurally change business travel -as zeppelins will do with leisure travel-. Business airplanes will be able to land in the city or within the suburban radius, in small landing stations, conveniently located, directly connected to public transportation or parking lots, without the need for big and far away airports required for landing. As we explained in Nr 1, there will be several of these landing stations within the urban radius where the traveller may choose from.

5. Artificial Intelligence-empowered security

High precision individual bio and image recognition, pre-profiling and artificial intelligence to expedite all security processes at boarding. The passenger that doesn’t want to be automatically recognized -should the law allow him to choose- will have to go through the old hassle.

6. Artificial Intelligence-empowered business management

Artificial intelligence will empower most -or even take over some- of the complex airline decision processes, substantially increasing productivity, revenues and customer service.

How do you dream commercial aviation will be by 2030? Send us your proposals!

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