Four breakthroughs that will revolutionise long-haul flights in 10 years

Thursday 1 February 2018

Qantas A380 ascending in the sky

Current planes that were once gamechangers will be superseded by supersonic jets.

In summary

  • In an opinion piece published by ABC News, Aviation senior lecturer Chrystal Zhang outlines some trends that will revolutionise airline travel in 10-15 years.

Australians love travelling. We enthusiastically jump on planes, seeking out wonders of the world.

But we're increasingly conscious of our wellbeing onboard these long-haul flights. Will advancements in technology help resolve this dilemma?

By 2035, there will be almost twice the number of passengers as 2016, according to the International Air Transport Association, leaping from 3.8 billion to a huge 7.2 billion.

As the aviation industry prepares for billions of new customers, here's some of the trends that will revolutionise flying in the next 10 to 15 years.

1. Long-haul and ultra-long-haul will become the norm

Despite the physical challenges for both flight crew and travellers, legacy and budget carriers will continue to launch long-haul and extra long-haul services.

Why? To begin with, to satisfy travellers' zest for discovering new destinations that are unknown, remote or difficult to access. Virtual and augmented reality technology is allowing travellers to discover secluded, "Instagram-friendly" places, assuring airlines of a sustainable demand for long-haul flights.

Meanwhile, the market for short haul services is rapidly shrinking due to competition from alternative modes of transport like high-speed rail, self-driving cars and cruises. On top of this, technology like teleconferencing and virtual reality is removing the need for domestic in-person travel.

A more relaxed regulatory environment, economic growth and technological advancement are all setting airlines up to tap into new markets.

2. Supersonic aircraft will co-exist with turbojets

While long-haul flights open a door to the world, travellers still face the physical challenge of long hours aboard. But is there an alternative?

Yes — board a supersonic.

For six decades, standard passenger aircraft have flown at a maximum speed of 615 miles per hour. But a sleek new supersonic jet being developed in the US can reduce a journey between Sydney and Los Angeles from 15 hours to just 7.5 hours. Tokyo to San Francisco is five hours instead of 11, New York to London is just 3.5 hours.

The inaugural test flight will not take to the skies until late 2018 and commercialised services won't be available until the mid-2020s. But the breakthrough heralds a new generation of aircraft that will change humans' perceptions of long-distance travel.

Airlines such as Japan Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Delta already have ambitious plans to deploy supersonic on their long-hauls. Not all travellers will be able to afford the fares in the early days, but a price drop is anticipated in due course with an estimated demand for 1,300 — $260 billion worth — of supersonic aircraft.

3. Cabins will get a make-over

Your time in the air will be more bearable as cabins are improved, with more ergonomic design, better menus and enhanced entertainment systems.

While cabins will still be divided between first, business and economy class, even economy will get a facelift:

  • Aircraft will be windowless as all walls and ceiling panels become digital displays
  • You'll board through a hotel-style central double door
  • Cabins will be configured by function, such as family, senior and group zones and booths, and multipurpose spaces for relaxation and self-service

4. Technology will radically change your journey

The development of mass commercial air travel revolutionised how we connect with one-another. Now, the digital revolution is set to make air travel a more seamless experience.

Security measures will operate through artificial intelligence, including facial recognition, retinal and fingerprint scanning. Blockchain technology will ensure the privacy of your data.

Mobile apps will allow for real-time tracking of arrivals and departures. Wearable technology will trace your movements and provide a personalised experience onboard.

Looking forward

The next 15 years will be an exciting time for air travel.

With technology constantly evolving, we can't say for certain what the future may hold.

In the meantime, pack your bags and prepare for a new and exciting destination — your Instagram is about to take off!

 

Written by Chrystal Zhang, senior lecturer and research director in the Department of Aviation, Swinburne University of Technology. This article was originally published by ABC News. Read the original article.