British Airways has asked flyers across 10 global markets what features they would like to see in future air travel, with key responses including hyper-personalisation, immersive virtual realities, 3D-printed health solutions, modular aircraft connected to city infrastructures, hypersonic flying and super-slow ‘flight cruises’.
The report, titled ‘BA 2119: Flight of the Future’ was commissioned by the airline to mark its centenary year, in collaboration with the data-led trends agency, Foresight Factory. The report is based on a global consumer travel survey of 13,000 consumers across 10 countries (methodology below) and consultations with sector experts and futurologists to create a picture of what flying might look like in 20, 40, 60 and even 100 years into the future.
The report found that consumers want far greater personalisation from their flying experience. Overall 46% of people said that they want a dedicated communal space for socialising, with this feature being far more popular with those in emerging markets (Brazil 47%), India 69%, China 55% and South Africa 47%) than with passengers in the UK (30%), Germany (22%) and Japan (20%), who prefer a more private experience.
In the future, greater personalisation could be delivered through aircraft seats that use biological scanners to gather travellers’ physiological and nutritional needs. This data would be used to suggest food and drink to meet individual requirements, which can be 3D-printed on board the aircraft. Don’t miss the upcoming September issue of Aircraft Interiors International, which will look at passenger monitoring as well as 3D-printed inflight catering.
In other ideas, acclimatisation to the destination, whether combating jet lag, or pre-travel care could be a thing of the past, with 3D printers also used to print personalised health supplements.
AI-powered personalisation would enable passengers to bring cloud-based work and entertainment profiles to their seats, while holographic flight attendants would field basic questions and requests, freeing up cabin crew to offer more value-added interactions.
Overwhelmingly, consumers say that the future will see the end of airline ‘classes’, and the rise of bespoke packages where consumers pay for a customisable experience, based on options for space and entertainment.
Consumer demand for ultra-convenience and personal autonomy also emerged as key trends of the study, with passengers especially keen on speeding up their whole travel experience while still on board the aircraft. For example, 73% of passengers said that they want inflight technology that allows them to self-complete immigration and visa control while they are still in the air. 63% of consumers would like an in-flight concierge to organise a hotel for them when they land, and a further 56% would like to book a taxi from the air to pick them up when they arrive.
Such ideas could even lead to an integrated hyperloop-style transit system, which would transport travellers in modules directly to assigned compartments within the craft, configured to their requirements. As the module passes through the hyperloop tunnel, processes such as check-in, VISA check and preferences around food, drink and entertainment choices would be carried out automatically, says the report.
The environment is a key consideration for travellers, with 43% of people prepared to pay more if a flight was more environmentally friendly. These concerns trump the need for speed, with 45% saying they would opt for the slowest available flight if it was the greener option. To deliver on these consumer demands, experts predict we will see planes powered by electricity and alternative fuels, with the ability to recharge in the air using aerial recharging stations, enabling them to travel much longer distances more sustainably.
Although the emergence of next-generation supersonic jets will dramatically cut travel time – with the average flight from New York to London falling from seven hours to three – the report predicts that within 50 years we will see a trend for slow, experiential flights as consumers seek a leisurely start to their holidays.
These flights could take the form of ‘Air cruises’, which would see travellers fly slowly over areas of special interest, such as the Pyramids, while interactive VR guides give passengers an immersive running commentary. Other options available to passengers travelling on air cruises could include on-board yoga, meditation or art classes.
British Airways’ chairman and chief executive, Alex Cruz said of the report, “The findings of the BA 2119: Flight of the Future Report not only offer us unprecedented insight into how consumers across the world feel about flying now, but what they will expect from us, as airlines, in the future. In the last 10 years alone, the airline industry and flight experience has changed in so many significant ways, including improved fuel efficiency, noise reduction, in cabin design and luxury. It is therefore not hard to see how, at this rate of progress, these seemingly unreal predictions will come true.
The concepts in the BA 2119: Flight of the Future Report have been brought to life by post-graduate students at the Royal College of Art in a special exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London which runs throughout August. The exhibition also includes Fly, a one-of-a kind, full motion, virtual reality experience. Built by VR creators and an Oscar-winning practical effects team, Fly enables visitors to become a time-travelling pilot, from the earliest imaginings of Leonard da Vinci and his ornithopter, to the Wright Brothers’ success on Kitty Hawk, to that first inaugural passenger flight to Paris. Users will experience Concorde, the A350 and the imagined flight of future.
Josh McBain, consultancy director at Foresight Factory, which compiled the report said, “Aviation is a sector that is continually at the forefront of innovation, striving to develop technology to make flying faster, safer and greener than ever before.
“The insights we gathered for this report from eight countries and over 13,000 people give the clearest picture we have ever had of what customers expect from their future flying experience and the work we have done with futurologists and aviation experts paint an exciting picture. From air cruises offering in-flight yoga, to solar powered planes and floating re-fuelling stations, the next 100 years of flying will push the boundaries of technology and change the flying experience as we know it beyond recognition.”
The insights and findings presented in the report were derived from a range of research conducted by Foresight Factory, on behalf of British Airways, in 2019. Foresight Factory conducted original quantitative research across 10 global markets in May and June of 2019, namely Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, South Africa, UK and the USA.
In each market, an online sample of aeroplane travellers (people who have ever taken a flight) completed a 20-minute survey. The sample size in each market was 1,000 respondents, except in the USA, India and China where the sample size was 2,000.
National quotas were set on age, gender and region and the data weighted to be nationally representative of age and gender of the 18+ population in each country (18-64 in China, South Africa and India).
The fieldwork was conducted by Dynata on behalf of Foresight Factory. Foresight Factory also conducted interviews with a range of experts between February and June 2019 on all aspects of the current and future aviation landscape.