Have you ever wondered how air travel will look in future? Here are 3 predictions that might not take long to be reality for airline companies and travelers.
What’s the one thing airlines can’t deliver? Faster travel. I’m something of an expert, since I travel 300 days a year. I’ve experienced just about everything airlines have to offer (except a crash!). I’ve seen Aeroflot personnel use chewing gum to stop the ice-cold wind from entering the cabin. I’ve also experienced Singapore Airlines, where the pampered traveler starts to believe the marketing hype: The sky is the limit!
Let me make three predictions about the future of air travel:
Luxury and discount redefined
The airline industry has separated into two camps: the ultra-plush and the ultra-squeezed. Just like Whole Foods and Louis Vuitton deliver high quality and service in exchange for a premium price, so do a few airlines. All the rest are still trying to squeeze most of their customers in like cattle while offering a modicum of comfort for those willing to pay. But mark my words. These be-everything-to-everyone airlines won’t last, for the simple reason that unions, infrastructure, and marketing costs will force every airline to make a stand. Each must either go discount or go luxury.
On the luxury end, Etihad Airways now offers a two-room-suite with a full-time butler. Emirates Airlines is following suit. Expect to see airborne laundry, spas, and casinos.
Discount flight will also be redefined. Believe it or not, passengers may be asked to work in exchange for discount tickets. “Microwork” is already in the testing stages. People waiting for a subway or riding on the bus spend that “wasted” time completing simple tasks like matching photos with texts or monitoring content for inappropriate phrases.
In the future, an airline like EasyJet or Allegiant may offer you an obscenely cheap airfare in exchange for completing a certain amount of work during your flight.
Welcome to a fourth alliance
There’s a new wrinkle in airline pricing: auctions. Airlines like Air New Zealand and Virgin Atlantic have already introduced auctions for economy ticket-holders to upgrade to business class or first class. Now travel websites are lining up airlines to sell seats by auction.
These days, the three major airline alliances — One World, Star Alliance, and SkyTeam — contain a mixed bag of airlines, but the alliances contain very few truly discount airlines. Ideally, discount airlines should team up to share marketing, distribution outlets, and an audience which currently jumps from airline to airline without much loyalty. Walmart shoppers are loyal, so why not discount travelers?
The discount market represents a neglected segment in the air and on the ground. Customers willing to search the Internet to find the cheapest airline ticket are likely just as obsessed with retail coupons. This worldwide in-the-air-and-on-the-ground alliance could utilize retailers’ databases to promote travel. In return, the airlines would promote all the good stuff available on the ground.
As the world becomes ever more interconnected, niche segments begin to make sense. Airlines should be paying attention to all sorts of “frills.”
Who has a good word to say for airline food? It’s too carb-heavy, it isn’t gluten-free, it ignores your Paleo or South Beach diet, it’s not filling, or it’s just plain awful. These days, I’m seeing lots of passengers bringing on their own picnic lunches. They are the same consumers willing to pay a premium price at Whole Foods and Eataly. Should airlines see an opportunity here?
What about dog and cat lovers? In Japan, you’ll find cat cafés, dog spas, and cat hotels. Don’t you think these pet owners would pay for a decent airline trip for their pet if it were available?
And what about bacteria? Consider how many people have leaned against your armrest? Or consider the chances — in my experience, nearly 100% — that the person seated beside you has a cold.
Soon, I predict, there’ll be a market for sterilized seats, virus screens, extra-clean lavatories, and a whole array of frills the airlines haven’t even thought of yet.
Science-fiction movies once predicted two-hour trans-Atlantic flights. New York to L.A? An hour or so. Yet we’re flying hardly faster than we were 50 years ago — and even less comfortably.
So keep an eye out next time you buy a ticket or board a jetliner. You may not be going any faster, but I’ll bet you’re going to see all kinds of changes.
DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation in writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.
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