The experience of flying on an aircraft is fairly standard for most of us. You rush to the airport, go through the process of depositing your luggage, get to the gate, board the flight, and then your vacation can begin. Most of us know what to expect from each flight experience we undertake. We’re ready for the fact that the air in the cabin will dry our skin and that the in-flight entertainment is likely to involve a movie we’ve seen countless times and a set of terrible earphones.
As familiar as the above experience may be, there are changes on the horizon. Technology has changed the world as we know it, and signs suggest that aircraft are not immune to these changes. In future, you may find yourself taking to the skies in a very different way, and with very different options for distraction during the flight.
Let’s look through some of the technological advancements that could make flying into the future a very tempting idea indeed…
An easier passage to the plane
At the present time, actually getting aboard the aircraft you’re flying on is one of the most challenging parts of your vacation. You have to arrive at the airport in time, go through check in and security, show your card at the gate, hand your passport to anyone who asks– it’s never a simple process.
Technology could help improve this situation in future. Using techniques that are already well-developed — such as fingerprint scans and even face-recognition technology — getting aboard a plane could be far faster, and safer, in the future. If the only ID you need is literally part of your body, then it’ll also be more convenient too.
If this future sounds tempting, be reassured that it is set to hit the mainstream sooner than you may think. British Airways is already experimenting with biometric self-boarding at LAX, and so-called “e-gates” are in development. If these methods are proven to be robust and reliable, then they will become the norm in the blink of an eye.
As wonderful as air travel can be, it can be problematic from an environmental perspective. At the present time, aircraft run on conventional fossil fuels, which is less than ideal.
We’ve all become used to the idea of electric cars, which remove the need for fossil fuels– so could electric planes be a reality in the future? Plenty of engineers are working to establish if this is possible. Theoretically, it should be possible, and initial tests have proven positive.
As well as helping protect the environment, this could mean that your future travel plans are far more affordable than they are today. Aircraft fuel costs a small fortune; it costs over $70,000 to fill a 767, which is a huge contributory factor in the expense of long-haul tickets. If the use of that fuel can be eradicated, then prices will fall substantially, allowing you to travel further and more frequently.
While electric and solar-powered aircraft aren’t going to be taking to the skies in the near future, the possibilities are undoubtedly promising areas to explore in the years to come.
Virtual reality entertainment
Virtual reality (VR) has been popular in recent years with fans of gaming, but there’s another application for the tech that could make boring flights a thing in the past. Pioneering aviation VR techniques are being introduced to allow passengers to enjoy a huge range of entertainment, allowing you to escape the confines of your small seat and enjoy yourself. VR could allow you to effectively remove the plane from your surroundings and see the world beneath you as you float high above– though this might not be recommended for flight phobics!
VR entertainment has the potential to make a flight a far more enjoyable and immersive experience, so the sooner it hits the mainstream, the better.
Gyms on board
Onto another form of in-flight entertainment now; the future may indeed involve planes that have their own gymnasiums.
The idea may sound like something out of a sci-fi novel, but it’s a reality. “Double decker” planes — where there are two floors within the fuselage — are nothing new in terms of engineering; it’s been over a decade since the Airbus A380, which featured a double deck, took to the skies. If there’s room aboard planes for a second story, then why not use that story to house a gym?
While it may sound like the idea for installing a gym on an aircraft would just be a fancy selling point, there’s a real health benefit to be considered too. One of the biggest risk to long-haul passengers is the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a potentially fatal condition that is caused by the sedentary nature of air travel. If passengers are able to use a treadmill or exercise bike during the flight, the risks of DVT drop substantially, making air travel healthier for everyone.
Sitting waiting for the cart to come around on a flight can be frustrating– and it may soon be a thing of the past. Airlines are already beginning to experiment with self-serve style machines, which can be accessed by passengers whenever the “seatbelts” sign is not engaged. The machines work predominantly like vending machines: you insert the money or a credit card, tap in your order, and receive your choice of food or drink.
There’s no doubt that innovations like this could offer a huge amount of convenience to the average flight experience. You can get what you want, when you want it; and the cabin crew are thus free to attend to needs, ensure passenger comfort, and focus on safety measures.
In the Digital Age, nothing stands still, and aircraft are far from immune from this relentless pace of change. While it may take a few years for most of the ideas above to filter into the mainstream, there’s no doubt that future flight experiences will be very different from the experiences of today– and mostly, that’s a very good thing indeed.