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How Will Air Travel Change in The Next 20 Years?

Apart from going to the DMV, there are few things as stressful as flying.

The entire process from arriving at the airport hours before the flight, getting through security, then waiting anxiously for your bags to come around the conveyor belt (hopefully!), getting from point A to point B on an airplane is not something many people look forward to.

Luckily, like most industries, these pain points are being solved by innovative entrepreneurs and companies.

Air travel as we know it is changing but it’s not entirely clear just what that future will look like.

So, we chatted with industry leaders and asked the question:

What’s the future of air travel?

Here’s what we learned….

Claire Bennett, EVP & GM of American Express Travel & Lifestyle Services

“As increasing elements of the flying experience have become revenue streams for airlines, from boarding times and seat preferences to lounge access and baggage allowance, there has been a significant uptick in first-class bookings, increasing 208% YOY. We’ve noticed that weary air travelers are opting for the convenience and value of paying one first-class fare to get it all, enhancing their overall experience and making first-class air travel the new version of the luxury all-inclusive frontier.”


William Herp, CEO of Linear Air

“Air taxi will be the dominant mode of regional travel in 20 years by offering a markedly better fourth option to worsening airline service, tedious driving and extravagant private jets. Since 2013, Linear Air Taxi has grown 10x, connecting travelers across the US, Canada and the Caribbean with a sophisticated yet affordable air travel experience, offering service to thousands more airports than the airlines and utilizing the same private terminals as private jets but at a fraction of the cost. Three factors will continue driving this trend: 1) along with consumers in general, travelers will continue shifting to online platforms 2) companies like Linear Air Taxi will invest in platforms to create frictionless connections between travelers and air taxi operators 2) air taxi manufacturers will produce ever more cost effective and capable aircraft, such as the currently in-market Cirrus Vision Jet and, more futuristically, the EHang 184 passenger-carrying drone.”


Chris Lopinto, President & Co-Founder of Expert Flyer

“It’s always easy (or equally difficult) to predict trends in any industry 15-20 years into the future but future trends and projections should really be based on early stages of new technologies and applications that are being tested today or in R&D.

For example, I believe that Supersonic air travel will return in some form over this period. Currently there are several companies working on the next generation of faster-than-sound jets and hopefully one (or more) of them will succeed.

As new planes become more and more fuel efficient, longer and longer routes will be possible to connect any two cities on the planet non-stop (London to Sydney non-stop is the Holy Grail). Qantas just announced a London – Perth, non-stop flight using the new 787-9 aircraft, so I believe that long, non-stop flights not possible today, will happen soon.

Lastly, I believe that new seat configurations will lead to non-cattle coach cabins (hopefully) in the future.”


Alexander Robinson, CEO & Co-Founder at Airly

“Modern air travel is inefficient as a result of increased congestion; growth in population, city sizes and economies; and with more people travelling and commuting by air. Compounding this, airports and infrastructure have not grown in proportion to these measures, and airlines are not optimised to differentiate services to frequent or infrequent travellers.

Membership-based and mobility-as-a-service travel heralds efficiency gains in air travel. Where aviation has evolved from commercial air travel to private jets through to fractional ownership and charter, subscription services will offer multimodal connections and differentiated services that leverage consumer technology gains. Think how easy Uber is from a UX perspective, then apply that to air travel, but with an improved business model overlaid. Frictionless, easy-to-use and seamless are qualities consumers and users now expect, and air travel to date has not delivered.”


Patrick Smith,  Airline Pilot and Host of Askthepilot.com

“Changes over the coming two decades are likely to be incremental. The most significant aspect of the coming twenty years will be — or should be — industry stability. Consolidations, better capacity control, and a more wary management style overall, should help to avoid the wild, cyclical swings of loss and profit that were the hallmarks of the post-Deregulation industry. For consumers, a more stable airline industry means safer, better, and more reliable service.”


Jonathan Rodriguez, President & CEO at BitMar Networks

“The first thing to keep in mind is that almost every change to come (from the Air Travel industry) will involve Technology, at the consumer-end. It is evident that Consumer Technology is becoming a part of flying; more and more.

Long-gone are the days in which people tolerated hours of sitting, doing virtually nothing. The traveler of tomorrow will require that airlines provide a means of personal entertainment (i.e. broadband connectivity) – and not just the airline’s entertainment system.

Unlike the passengers of the past, people now expect to use their own devices; for entertainment purposes. The reasons could be many, but it mainly comes down to user privacy and device familiarity.”  

About the author

Nick Hastreiter

I write about the future of business. I approach this by interviewing founders, CEO's, and other game changers to share their vision for the future of their industry.

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