We are in the midst of an air travel revolution. Between ultra long-haul flights and biometric boarding, the way we fly is changing at a faster pace than ever before. That’s now, but what about in 5, 10 or 20 years? Let's take a look:
Aviation technology experts says eight out of 10 airports are planning to install major biometric ID management programs that will allow passengers to board planes using only their face as proof of identity by 2021. Seven out of 10 airlines are also investing in biometric research and development. The technology is already being trialled at London Heathrow, Los Angeles International and Orlando, to name just three, with the aim being to do away with the need for passports and boarding passes and allow airlines to turn planes round for departure in record times.
You might not have noticed but plane windows are getting bigger - and more advanced. It was the cabin portholes on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner that first caused a stir, with dimming technology that allows the digital shades to be drawn with the push of a button. The largest windows in the business (65 per cent bigger than an average plane window) have electrified gel sandwiched between two thin pieces of glass that lets passengers control the amount of light that comes through without shutting out the view altogether.
Airlines struggling to balance the books while wrestling with how much they should charge for baggage, priority check in and other such extras might soon stop charging passengers and instead pay them to come on board. The idea was mooted by Icelandic low-cost carrier Wow and is based on the premise that airline revenue from additional services, like car hire and hotels, could eventually become more valuable than the fare an airline charges for seats. Passengers who are likely to share their experiences of an airline on social media could be the first to benefit.
The experience of waiting in an airport can be hellish. Yet, slowly, improvements are being made. Singapore’s Changi airport - with its own patch of rainforest - is a shining beacon for what could be achieved. In 2019, the airport’s $1.7 billion Jewel extension at Terminal 1 is expected to wow fliers with a five-story garden of forests, an indoor waterfall, hotel and hundreds of restaurants and shops inside a huge glass dome. Airport developers are increasingly concerning themselves with how they can improve the reputation of their terminals.
The idea of squeezing more passengers onto flights - and reducing fares - by letting people stand just will not go away, which leads one to believe it might eventually happen.
Vertical seating – or “bar stools with seat belts” was originally touted by Airbus in 2003. The idea was then developed by Italian firm Aviointeriors, which in April released its second incarnation of the Skyrider. Skyrider 2.0 has more cushioning than its predecessor, weighs 50 per cent less than standard plane seats and allows 20 per cent more people into the cabin.