ON THE ROAD

The future of air travel

10 December 2019

The International Air Transport Association predicts that air travel will increase from 3.8 billion to 8.2 billion passengers by 2037. Getting through the airport can be a seriously slow process already, so how will the world be better equipped to meet increasing travel demands? In GIO’s In the Know series, Strategic Futurist Dr. Richard Hames predicts that air travel will become completely automated, making travel an easy and “liberating experience”.

Here’s what the future of air travel, aviation and aeroplanes could look like:

Automated airport experiences

Using just your face, fingerprint or iris as a ‘biometric token’, it’s likely you won’t even need to prove your identity with your boarding pass and passport. While self-service bag drops that use biometric facial scans are already in the pipeline, biometrics will likely be embedded into every step of the airport journey – from check-in to customs. This would eliminate the need to present your travel documents at every checkpoint, helping to reduce frustrating boarding queues and making movement through airports seamless.

Despite all these advances, it’s still important to get your travel insurance sorted so if something unexpected were to happen, like if your luggage is lost or you get sick and are hospitalised, you can be covered.

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AR and VR in-flight entertainment

AR and VR have the potential to completely transform the passenger experience. Virtual reality (VR) headsets could replace traditional screens, offering travellers a more immersive flight experience where they’re drawn into another location completely, like a roomy cinema or Broadway show. Windows will also have built-in augmented reality (AR) functions that can allow you to zoom in on cities or rural areas below. The immersive nature of these two technologies could help to distract travellers from the fact they’re on a cramped aeroplane in the first place.

AI-facilitated bookings and itineraries

Advances in artificial intelligence could make online travel booking even simpler and more efficient. In the future, you could be matched with tailored itineraries devised by intelligent platforms based on your interests and budget.

Taking this a step further, business travellers could get detailed itineraries created by intelligent virtual assistants, scheduling and sourcing meeting times and locations on their behalf.

It’s likely travellers won’t need to spend hours trawling through booking sites and travel guides to plan every detail of their trip.

Supersonic planes that can get you to your destination quicker

Remember the Concorde aeroplane that could fly from New York to London in about 3 hours? High fuel costs and ‘sonic boom’ noise near airports eventually made Concorde unsustainable. But with better noise reduction technology and more efficient engines, supersonic commercial aviation could make a comeback. Manufacturers like Boom Supersonic are developing prototypes that could cut travel time on long-haul flights in half.

Carbon neutral flying

The aviation industry is currently one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions, but big airlines hope to change that, with Qantas recently announcing zero emissions targets. On the path to carbon neutral flying, Boeing, Airbus and NASA are developing aeroplane engines powered by large electric batteries. These would support traditional fuel engines, similar to hybrid cars. Through lower emissions aeroplanes and carbon offset schemes, the aviation industry has the potential to become completely carbon neutral. 


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