by Hugh Morris, The Telegraph, July 31, 2019
Slow, drawn-out “air cruises”, 3D-printed plane food and drinking water drawn from the clouds at 35,000 feet are among the predictions made by British Airways in a new report into the flights of the future.
Speaking at the launch of the project, which also takes the form of an exhibition at London’s Saatchi Gallery, BA chief executive Alex Cruz said the airline has always been an innovator and will continue to do so.
“It is not hard to see how these seemingly unreal predictions will come true,” he said.
The UK flag carrier surveyed 13,000 consumers across 10 countries and spoke to aviation experts and futurologists for its BA 2119 report, which considered the possibilities of air travel 20, 40, 60 and even 100 years into the future.
Among the more curious predictions to be presented, with the help of post-graduate students from the Royal College of Art, was the idea that travellers in the future might enjoy flights like a cruise, with the time in the air as much as a holiday as the destination itself.
“Although the emergence of next generation supersonic jets will dramatically cut traveltime - with the average flight from New York to London falling from seven hours to three - the report predicts that within 50 years we will see a trend for slow, experiential flights as consumers seek a leisurely start to their holidays,” BA said.
“These flights could take the form of ‘air cruises’, which will see travellers fly slowly over areas of special interest, such as the Pyramids, while interactive VR guides give passengers an immersive running commentary.
“Other options available to passengers travelling on an air cruise include on-board yoga, meditation or art classes.”
Respondents also said they would be keen for a “dedicated communal space” on flights, though this idea was far more popular with some nationalities than others: 69 per cent of Indians were keen and 55 per cent of Chinese, compared to 30 per cent of British and 22 per cent of Germans.
In another nod to slow travel, BA said 45 per cent of people asked would happily opt for the slowest flight available if it was the more environmentally friendly option; 43 per cent would pay more for a greener flight.
One of the more eye-catching developments to aircraft in years to come was the ability to harness cloud moisture through permeable sections of the wings and fuselage to use as drinking water.
The future of inflight dining involved DNA testing and “instant body health data” to 3D print meals to exact specifications for individual passengers on a route by route basis. For example, a vegetarian with a penchant for spicy food flying to Bangkok might be served a hot tum yum kung, while a carnivore heading to Buenos Aires could feast on a cut of prime beef.
In a nod to efforts airlines and aircraft manufacturers have been making to leave passengers calmer and more refreshed after flying, Alex Cruz said in the future cabin crew might be instead called “wellbeing consultants”.
Josh McBain, consultancy director at Foresight Factory, which helped with the research, said the report gives the “clearest picture we have ever had of what customers expect from their future flying experience”.
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