As part of their centenary celebrations, British Airways has released the BA 2119 Flight of the Future Report, one of the largest consumer studies of its kind. Surveying more than 13,000 consumers across ten countries, the report brings to life some of the key visions for the next 100 years of aviation. One of those visions is the development of slow, experiential flights, like cruise ships of the skies.
Earlier today we reported from the BA 2119 Flight of the Future Exhibition, which was opened by Alex Cruz, CEO of British Airways. Alongside this exhibition, the carrier has released a complementary report, developed in partnership with Foresight Factory.
The report delves into the minds of consumers, industry experts and futurologists to give us a picture of what aviation will look like in years to come. Commenting on the report in a press release, Cruz said,
“This is a really exciting way to mark our centenary, which has seen us remember the past, celebrate the present and predict the future in collaboration with fantastic partners from across industry and academia.”
Slower, more pleasurable flying
We’ve heard a great deal about future developments in supersonic flight. Companies like Boom are looking to bring next-generation Concordes to the world, reducing the flight time between London and New York from the current seven to around three hours.
However, British Airways’ research identified another option too. As well as super-fast flights, consumers might be driven to slower aircraft if they can see a value in taking more time to reach their destination. They see these as cruise ships of the skies, building in additional inflight activities and entertainment to make the travel itself as much a part of the holiday as the arrival.
Traveling more slowly could come with environmental benefits, something that 43% of BA’s surveyed travelers cited as a key consideration. 45% said that they would even go so far as to pick the slowest flight possible if it was a greener option.
What would an ‘air cruise’ look like?
British Airways’ vision of a flying cruise is detailed in the fourth scenario of the report, entitled ‘Air Time Reimagined’. They predict that current inflight entertainment options, such as movies and music, will become outdated and less engaging as consumer expectations change.
They imagine that, using some new advanced stabilization technology, passengers would be able to stay out of their seats for the entire flight duration, with no worries about turbulence. This would free them up to wander around the aircraft, enjoying a variety of pastimes and entertainment options while on the move.
Some of the ideas proposed include experiential learning about the destination they are visiting, perhaps using VR headsets and a holographic tour guide to show them the sights. Hollywood style movies would be updated to a more interactive and immersive entertainment option, using holograms and extended reality to bring IFE to life.
A health zone could also be present, using a variety of techniques to help passengers arrive feeling better than they did when they took off. This could include yoga or even a virtual gym, using VR to enhance the treadmill experience. As well as this, live plants would be present, having been specially selected for health benefits such as air purification or anti-anxiety benefits.
How realistic is this idea?
Clearly, an aircraft which would be large enough to accommodate all these zones and fly slow enough to facilitate both stability and enjoyment is not your average Boeing or Airbus. Prof. Hervé Morvan, Chief of Future Platforms at Rolls Royce suggested that airships would be a possibility, saying,
“…we’ve seen some airship developments. Indeed, they can stay in the air for several days and not even need anything more than a mooring. So if you’re in a moored area, why not have some air cruises? There are beautiful parts of the world where I would love to have an air cruise like this for a few days. I could imagine this being an opportunity.”
There’s also a great deal of technological development to be done in order to deliver the types of facilities BA are talking about. However, as they’re talking about a future which is 50 – 100 years from now, there are likely to be massive leaps forward in the fields of VR and holograms, which could make this type of trip a possibility.
Would you go on an air cruise? I know I would!