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The Future of Air Travel

This is the final article in a three-part series on the Future of Airports. To view the main page, click here

From commuting to work via personal air taxis to stepping into a virtual world as you jet around the globe, the future of air travel has the potential to be vastly different from what passengers experience today.

Globally, the number of air travelers is expected to nearly double by 2036, increasing from 4 billion annual passengers to 7.8, according to The International Air Transport Association (IATA). As a result, commercial airlines are investing in new technologies to remain competitive as demand increases. Additionally, global manufacturers and tech startups are unveiling new aircraft that claim to help minimize ground travel congestion, increase passenger convenience and create luxurious travel experiences around the world.

In many ways, emerging aerial concepts such as autonomous technologies, vertical take-off landing (VTOL) and hybrid electric propulsion can completely reinvent air travel.

Air Taxis: The Rise of Personal Air Travel

Air taxis could be coming to a major city near you.

Airbus and Uber are developing personal air taxi programs. CityAirbus is planned to complete its first flight by the end of 2018. Uber Elevate expects to demonstrate its programs in pilot cities – which currently include Dallas, Los Angeles and Dubai – by 2020. Both programs will provide urban air mobility – essentially freeing up ground congestion and increasing customer convenience by offering personal air travel in major cities.

Brian Tillotson, Senior Technical Fellow at Boeing, sees air taxis as an efficient way to get to the airport.

“A flying vehicle will come pick you up and your workplace or home, and it will probably land and take off vertically without a runway.” Tillerson told Travel + Leisure. “With three dimensions to play with, you’ll have a lot less traffic and congestion, so you’ll no longer need to budget two hours to get to the airport on time.”

Commercial Air Travel in the Future

Emerging technologies in development today will deliver new-generation aircraft that will feature luxurious airline cabins and ultra-fast travel – cutting an international flight from New York to London in half, Forbes reports.

Supersonic Travel

Several major global organizations are designing and testing supersonic technologies to create faster, sleeker jets that reduce travel time for premium travelers. Boom Supersonic Technologies, for example, is developing a 55-seat jet that travels up to 1,400 miles per hour, according to Boom Supersonic. The Denver-based startup has 76 pre-orders with airlines, including Virgin Group and Japan Airlines, Reuters reports.

Kevin Bowcutt, another Senior Technical Fellow at Boeing, told Travel + Leisure that “In 100 years, you’ll be traveling at Mach 5 speeds – that’s five times the speed of sound.” 

Airline Cabins in the Future

Next generation aircraft will feature sleeping pods, personalized in-flight entertainment, added comfort and even virtual reality. From first-class to economy seating and everything in between, passengers will enjoy enhanced experiences and services throughout their flights.

For example, the “Airspace by Airbus,” which is new cabin design being rolled out in select Airbus aircraft today, can provide a glimpse of what all future airliners should consider when replacing fleets and upgrading airplanes.

The Airspace by Airbus focuses on the leading elements within four key areas – comfort, ambiance, service and design. Enhances features include quieter cabins, ambient LED lighting and more personal space, such as wider seats and shoulder space.

In the future, in-flight entertainment and connectivity will allow passengers to have more control over their entertainment experience. Qantas Airlines has already implemented virtual reality headsets for first class travelers on select international flights, CNN reports.

Panasonic’s Waterfront system, which are luxury pods, allows passengers to travel in a connected seat with a 24” screen, camera, mobile app and system that wirelessly charges and connects to your phone, allowing you to pick up watching a movie at the exact moment you left off on a previous flight or video chat with a family member while you’re traveling. The overall product is meant to create a personalized experience for every passenger.

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