Carrying aviation into second century

LAURA WALTERS AND ASSOCIATED PRESS
Last updated 05:00 04/01/2014

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This week marks the 100th anniversary of the first commercial flight: a 23-minute hop across Florida's Tampa Bay - and a lot has changed since then. But what new changes do the world's aviation industry experts expect during the next five, 25 and 100 years?

IN FIVE YEARS:

Aviation Industry Association chief executive Irene King said there would be growth in domestic and international travel as Kiwis' wealth grew.

King said New Zealand was about to see the introduction of the "perfect" aircraft for Kiwis, the Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner.

The "goldilocks plane" was not too big and not too small, and would start services in New Zealand next year, she said.

As the global economic focus continued to shift from Europe to Asia, New Zealand would be only "one hop" from the major markets, like "the growth tigers in Asia".

Jetstar chief executive David Hall said fuel costs were already a significant factor for airlines and this was unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

The new 787s were making a big difference to international flying, improving the customer experience in the cabin and helping to reduce fuel costs and keep fares affordable.

The chief executive of US low-cost airline Allegiant Travel, Maurice Gallagher Jr, said the next five years would be about increasing automation and decreasing labour cost.

The industry was already implementing mobile boarding passes, bag drops, even self-boarding, he said.

King said continued emphasis on automation would help keep costs down and improve customer service.

Technology focusing on mobile check-ins and packages with the option to purchase flights, accommodation and rental cars would become more prevalent, she said.

King expected a "tremendous amount" of domestic travel in New Zealand.

There were likely to be growth opportunities in the regional market for third-level or smaller airlines as the big players pulled out of some regional services, she said.

Jetstar's Hall said hubs like Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch would continue to be "crucial ports for the domestic market". He expected Queenstown to grow as a popular destination, particularly on international trans-Tasman services.

Jetstar had introduced the A320 aircraft fitted with Sharklets, extended wingtips which helped improve aerodynamics and reduce fuel burn on its short haul services, he said.

"The focus on the future will be ensuring affordable fares are maintained."

IN 25 YEARS:

King said New Zealand would become the "focal point" of growth in the region rather than being at the "end of the world" - a necessary stopover for goods and passenger travel between the growing regions of Asia and South America.

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James Hogan, chief executive of United Arab Emirates airline Etihad Airways, said the emerging markets of the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia would become established and Abu Dhabi would be one of the uniting global hubs.

David Barger, chief executive of US low-cost airline JetBlue Airways, said in 25 years billions of travellers every year would fly on new, environmentally friendly aircraft.

"In fact, they will be making zero-carbon travel maybe even a reality."

King said as supply, demand and competition forced down flight prices, airlines would make their money from selling entertainment add-ons.

Virgin Atlantic Airways president Sir Richard Branson believed that during his lifetime consumers would be able to fly from London to Sydney in less than two hours, with minimal environmental impact.

IN 100 YEARS:

King said in another 100 years air travel times would be reduced by a third to a quarter of their current durations.

Space travel could be affordable to average passengers, but this would not be possible in the near future, she said.

King said there could be pilotless freight planes in 100 years, but people did not have enough faith in computers for there to be an entirely pilotless commercial passenger aircraft.

There would always be a pilot monitoring the plane even if they were not in the aircraft, she said.

However, the air traffic control industry could possibly become obsolete as planes recognised obstacles and other planes on their own.

- BusinessDay

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