Recently, we took a stroll down memory lane to look at the past 50 years of air travel. Much has changed in that time, and looking ahead, we can only assume a similar scale of drastic changes will happen over the next fifty years.
It’s theorized that planes of the future will have see-through cabin walls, offering passengers aerial views of the ground 30,000 feet below them. The passengers afraid of heights will have the option of turning their seat into a holographic pod, preventing them from viewing beyond the pod’s opaque walls.
Classed Airlines but Class-Free Flights
Over the next 50 years, it’s likely there will be larger gaps made between travelers who opt for the budget airlines that are getting increasingly innovative on how to cut costs and the more luxurious airlines that will offer all-inclusive style travel. Ironically, once the passenger chooses an airline, unlike the norm today, there will be few options on board that differentiate passengers based on the price paid for their ticket.
Passengers on budget airlines such as Spirit and Frontier already are acutely aware of the “bare bone” ticket price and the potential for being slammed with additional fees, whether one is checking a bag or asking for a glass of water. Budget travelers, prepare for more fees and less comfort in the future. Talks are already underway to charge an extra fee for obese passengers based on either a “per pound” fee, or a flat rate fee for total weight of the passenger and their bags combined. Even more extreme is the discussion about creating specially designed seats for standing room only. The benefit to this potentially uncomfortable situation is ticket prices for such seats could be 44% lower than the traditional sitting seats since more passengers could fit on the plane.
No longer is the first class area for the select few on future airlines. Instead of class zones, airlines will be separated into themed zones to offer a more complete and luxurious travel experience. Passengers of the future can choose spaces that offer amenities like aromatherapy and acupuncture, electronic and virtual games complete with a fully stocked (real) bar, or work zones where one can get business done while in the air.
Weight & Space Saving Techniques
Airline engineers and designers are constantly looking for ways to reduce weight and increase space on their airlines. Every pound less of cargo means increased fuel efficiency and every square inch more of cabin space makes the possibility of adding one more passenger seat that much more feasible. Actions are already occurring that go unnoticed from the vantage point of passengers, such as reducing the size and amount of in-flight magazines to only filling water tanks for drinking water to 60% of capacity. Airlines are further exploring the option of removing life jackets since standards only require cushion flotation devices for airlines staying within 50 miles of shore. AirCanada’s regional airline, Jazz, did this and saved 25kg of gas per flight. Another aspect of future travel will be pay-per-use toilets in an effort to discourage use in flight and encourage passengers to employ the restrooms in the airports before and after flights. The long-term hope is that one or more restrooms be removed from flights due to decreased use, opening up that valuable square footage for additional passenger seats. Things that we give little thought to and take for granted, like added on-board weight, will be remembered with nostalgia on future flights.
The future of airline travel remains to be seen, but it seems it will be quite different from today’s travel, just as the last 50 years of travel have also evolved. From beautiful [or terrifying] scenic aerial views to classed ticket purchases class-free zones once on-flight, air travel will offer a flight for every kind of traveler. From the budget-minded to the luxury-seeking, and from the working person to the vacationer, amenities will be added and lost and norms changed over the next 50 years. Watching it develop will be a ride in itself.