Air passengers will increasingly seek customised flying experiences in future decades as technology allows carriers to offer a “hyper-personalised” service, according to British Airways.
Forward-looking research commissioned by BA into the next 100 years of flying suggested new concepts such as scenic “flight cruises”, immersive virtual reality experiences and hypersonic flying could transform the industry.
BA 2119: Flight of the Future Report, put together by research firm Foresight Factory, was commissioned as part of the airline’s ongoing centenary.
Alex Cruz, BA chief executive, said: “I have no doubt the industry’s economics will change over the next 20, 30 and 40 years. The concept of slow flying will be requested by people around the world, while some people will want to make it to Sydney in three hours.
“There will be a huge surge in customisation with different demand for different services, and that will change the economics of the industry.”
Cruz stressed the importance of creating a sustainable aviation industry in the coming decades and described achieving emissions-free flying as being “nirvana” for airlines.
The report also suggested traditional airline cabin classes could be replaced by “bespoke packages” where consumers would be able to buy customised experiences based around their own space and entertainment preferences.
“The idea is that it’s not about the class of travel, but about how we want to travel,” said Cruz.
“Each person will be willing to have a different type of experience. [So] how do we use technology to cater for that highly customised travel experience?”
He added there was currently “a lot of discussion” around the use of artificial intelligence (AI) within aviation.
“AI could be used to do basic tasks to allow cabin crew to offer a better service to customers – cabin crew could become wellness consultants,” Cruz suggested. “We want to do a lot of things involving technology, sustainability and people most of all.”
During a panel discussion at the launch of the report in London, Alison Fitzgerald, chief operating officer at London City airport, said the airport was looking for ways to improve the “speed and efficiency” of passengers moving through the airport.
“We’re using technology to look at the customers’ journey and identify bottlenecks,” she said.
“One of the aspirations is for passengers to step off the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) and stay on that level to go straight through to security. Why do you need to go to check-in?
“We want to create seamless movement into the airport – why do they need to take baggage to the airport? Is there another way to transport baggage?”
During the discussion, Cruz also ruled out BA operating flights to space, as well as dismissing the idea of operating flights with just one pilot.
The report was launched at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea, London, where a special BA 2119: Flight of the Future exhibition is being held throughout August.
This exhibition brings to life some of the concepts explored in the study, as well as offering a “full motion” virtual reality experience.