Following up on the first article in what will likely be a very long series on the future of travel ::cue grandiose music:: let’s take a look at how aircraft are likely to change how we travel.
Prediction 2: Smaller Jets Flying Farther
The 787s and a350s now flying are opening up routes that weren’t possible just a few years ago. San Francisco to Singapore and Barcelona, for instance.
Up until recently, if an airline wanted to connect two cities that are far apart, it had to fly a big airplane with big fuel tanks, like a 777, a340, 747 or a380. But what if that city couldn’t support 500 or even 300 seats per day. Up until recently, an airline just wouldn’t fly the route.
These new aircraft open up more routes that wouldn’t have been profitable before, but more importantly it shows a trend. Airlines will buy long-range aircraft to put on thin routes. 2x per day with two smaller planes better serves passenger demands than one big jumbo jet once per day.
In the next few years, we’ll likely see newer aircraft that are even smaller and longer range. A 757-sized aircraft that could fly to Asia perhaps. Lower density configurations. These are optimistic predictions, sure, but you’re seeing 747s being retired and a380s not quite replace them, while the a350 and 787s seem to be doing pretty well.
Think of the airline industry currently where cars and buses were 40 or 50 years ago. People took buses more and maybe shared a family car. Now, 2 and 3 car families are more normal. Uber/Lyft is ubiquitous in cities. Transportation and travel is getting more on-demand and personalized. Carriers are all about offering frequency, with many popular city pairs now sporting hourly departures and “shuttle” routes. Commuting to another city daily or weekly is attracting a whole new class of flyers and services like SurfAir and Texas Air and springing up to support them.
So fast forward 20 years, it isn’t inconceivable that single-aisle long haul service will become more common. Embraer in particular has been rumored to be working on a small to midsized aircraft with a longer, more fuel-efficient range, able to do more transoceanic hops.
You will likely see more routes connecting secondary cities point-to-point without forcing travelers to transit through hubs. Norwegian in particular is pursuing this route and it’s not a stretch to think that Air Asia or Jetstar will start eyeing the North American (or South American!) market.
Yes, this prediction is optimistic and assumes air travel will only increase in demand, but I’m willing to make that bet.
Expect more flights out of places like Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Antonio, Fort Lauderdale, Hartford, Baltimore to cities like Manchester, Cologne, Marseilles, Porto, Busan, Sapporo (Chitose), Prague, Xi’an, Brisbane and many other cities.
What routes do you think will get launched in the next few years?