Future of air travel

Andy9gc

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This my first thread, hopefully i have put it in the right place.

What do you think the future looks like for air travel taking into account covid-19 and the climate change?

For me i think the 2030's are going to be tough on the industry. Covid-19's fallout has/will cause major cash flow/capacity contraints going forward. We could be looking at new fleets being delayed/cancelled, smaller airlines will likely go bankrupt or be merged into the bigger carriers. In terms of demand im sure there will be a boost after restricitons are lifted but what are we looking at 60%-80% by 2022/23.

After the announcement that the french government had scrapped paris cdg expansion on environmental grounds,i am starting to wonder what this is going to do to future demand. I am concerned about climate change but i do think aviation gets a bad rap from environmentalists. Also i think aviations benefits are largely ignored. Tourism is extremelly importent to many countries, many of them very poor and tourism brings development and economic growth.

I think demand should be contained in the short/medium term and long term fast growth should be allowed once technology has sorted the greenhouse gas problem. Policies i would use would be -

Frequent flyer levy - 2 free return flights a year then increasing rapidly with a cap on number of flights at 12 return flights per year. Some business should be exempt e.g. news media, governement officals, medic teams etc.

Set co2 standards - to push development of alternative fuels/more efficient aircraft.

Ban flights - on direct routes which you could travel by train in 3 hours or less.

Tax - on distance travelled to discourage trips on long haul 4500km+ (perhaps linked to frequent fly levy some how)

Airport capacity - ban new construction unless it can comply with climate standards. So unlikely until the mid 2030's.

I want to see growth in aviation and available to all people but it needs to change first so that growth can be sustainable. What do you think?
 
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Lucan

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Don't worry, Elon Musk pans to replace ("disrupt" is his preferred word) airline travel with earth-to-earth ballistic space flight. This is after he seems to have lost interest in Hyperloop. At least it will make airline fuel consumption look positively green by comparison (like the passengers' complexions in the zero gravity part of the space trip).
 

Andy9gc

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Hahaha, good old elon musk. Although i do admire what he has achevied with electric cars and reusable space flight, some of his ideas almost certainly wont be economicaly viable or even technicaly acheivable. Hyperloop sounds good but when you look at the technical specifications, the challenges become too great. As for point to point space flight, seems like a massive waste of energy to get to space and back again. Im fairly certain that hypersonic jets would be cheaper, safer and have a lower environmental impact.
 

peteb

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Unless the UK invests heavily on maintaining the existing Eurostar route and service it will be reliant on passenger air traffic into europe for the forseeable future. So in one sense the future looks reasonably assured for air travel, but as the EU promotes land based alternative travel, eg TEE, Sleepers, long-distance international trains, then the UK will seem increasingly isolated..........The question is will the EU in future penalise those regions which encourage air traffic from regional hubs, but reward those which seek to invest in land based transportation eg: electric cars, buses and trains?
 

miami

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Frequent flyer levy - 2 free return flights a year then increasing rapidly with a cap on number of flights at 12 return flights per year. Some business should be exempt e.g. news media, governement officals, medic teams etc.

Why? Does the damage to the environment change whether the person on the plane has had one flight that year or ten?

Charge a carbon tax, and use the money to give enough money to everyone for say a yearly flight to the US/Mid East, or a flight to the Med and a city break, or a return to Australia every 2 years.

Those who don't fly get a bonus, those who fly your 'allowed level' break even, those who go by train or stay in the uk make money.

Hyperloop sounds good but when you look at the technical specifications, the challenges become too great.

They said that about Trains, Planes, tunnels under the sea, electric cars, reusable space rockets, etc.

As for point to point space flight, seems like a massive waste of energy to get to space and back again

Musk doesn't think so - he think price will be in the same ballpark as flights.


Sure, there's plenty of hurdles with such a flight, but the concept isn't a major blocker.
 

Andy9gc

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Why? Does the damage to the environment change whether the person on the plane has had one flight that year or ten?

Charge a carbon tax, and use the money to give enough money to everyone for say a yearly flight to the US/Mid East, or a flight to the Med and a city break, or a return to Australia every 2 years.

Those who don't fly get a bonus, those who fly your 'allowed level' break even, those who go by train or stay in the uk make money.

Yes it does, as the more people fly the higher demand is so the airlines will supply more flights. I agree carbon taxes could be used and in my opinon should be used economy wide including import adjustments. The proceeds then split into dividends for the poorest housholds and some for R&D.

They said that about Trains, Planes, tunnels under the sea, electric cars, reusable space rockets, etc.

In my opinion based on my own understanding of physics/economics I unfortunatly cannot see it happening. However tech breakthroughs or new research may change that.

Musk doesn't think so - he think price will be in the same ballpark as flights.

http://redgreenandblue.org/2017/10/08/elon-musks-suborbital-bfr-space-plane-might-lower-carbon-traditional-jetliners/
Sure, there's plenty of hurdles with such a flight, but the concept isn't a major blocker.

You have to remember he has to sell his vision to investers so he has to speak as if its gospel and will work no problem. Again some ideas will work others will not. This is a very high risk, high reward technology with a very high chance of failure.
 

miami

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Yes it does, as the more people fly the higher demand is so the airlines will supply more flights.

So what causes more demand, 1 person flying 10 times, or 10 people flying twice?

You're proposing the former (10 flights) be taxed, but the latter (20 flights) not be taxed.

(The practicalities of a 'frequent flyer' tax are ridiculous too. If a company sends me on 10 flights in the spring, then I get taxed on my holiday in July. But if I go on holiday in January I don't get taxed?)
 

edwin_m

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So what causes more demand, 1 person flying 10 times, or 10 people flying twice?

You're proposing the former (10 flights) be taxed, but the latter (20 flights) not be taxed.

(The practicalities of a 'frequent flyer' tax are ridiculous too. If a company sends me on 10 flights in the spring, then I get taxed on my holiday in July. But if I go on holiday in January I don't get taxed?)
I think the reasoning for a frequent flyer tax is not to penalise a large number of people for taking an annual holiday (or whatever) which promotes economic activity through tourism and "travel broadens the mind". Statistics show a small minority of people account for most air travel, so a frequent flyer tax would penalise those who choose to take a large number of holidays, often shorter ones where the downsides of the flight are larger relative to the tourism benefits. It would also influence businesses to consider alternatives.

There would probably need to be some kind of system to prevent employers exploiting their staff's tax-free travel "allowance", perhaps taxing all flights at source and allowing each person to claim the tax back up to a certain number of personal flights each year.
 

miami

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Or you could simply charge for the carbon emissions of the flight (and conversely of a car, train etc), and use that to fund a universal "quota" of carbon that you think is an acceptable amount.

This means those who fly from London to Scotland or Paris or Vienna will have an increased incentive to take a train, that those who can't afford to fly to Turkey for an annual holiday will have more money, and those that do fly 150 times a year will pay for it. I'd remove APD as part of this completely too.

Equally those who use a heat pump driven from an increasingly green grid will pay far less than those with a diesel central heating system, it shifts the incentives to "go green" to economic as well as conscious.

It also means that airlines will have an increased incentive to use more efficient planes and fuller planes - the tax on a 747 with 50 people on will be more than on a 787 with 150 people on (opposite of now)
 

Bletchleyite

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Short-haul I see the future as somewhere between "rail instead" and electric and potentially hydrogen (not airships, as a fuel) produced from green electricity.

Long-haul...the future is probably found in the form of Zoom etc, i.e. less travel. I'm not sure pricing people off is going to make much difference, as it's expensive anyway.
 

Andy9gc

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Short-haul I see the future as somewhere between "rail instead" and electric and potentially hydrogen (not airships, as a fuel) produced from green electricity.

Long-haul...the future is probably found in the form of Zoom etc, i.e. less travel. I'm not sure pricing people off is going to make much difference, as it's expensive anyway.

After reading into it some more recently. Im inclined to agree with you on both points. Airbus are working on hydrogen which looks fairly promising, and the aircraft are likely to have ranges of 1500-2000nm which is perfect for domestic/euro travel.

Long haul is heavily dependant on business/first class passengers. Research i have seem shows a 30-50% decline in this travel as like you said why send someone for a meeting in china if it can be done on zoom. Some travel will still be required for important business deals or to oversee a new unit. This will increase prices for economy, i have seen some quote +33% price increase. I inevitably see this reducing some tourist travel also.

I cant remeber where i saw it but one major banks research put long haul recovery to 2019 traffic until after 2030. Hopefully by this time biofuels are playing a larger role to reduce emissions.
 

Irascible

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I think long haul is probably gonig to get too expensive eventually - going to be very hard to supply biofuel for a large long-haul network & hydrogen is awfully bulky ( and we haven't cracked large scale hydrogen production that doesn't involve hydrocarbons yet either ). I'm wondering if we might see the return of the ocean liner at some point ( or more likely the return of multi-leg flights, I suppose ). The regulations for sub-orbital passenger flights are going to be horrendous and I suspect not actually viable in somewhere with a dense population - unless Reaction Engines actually do provide a working bimode engine that makes econiomic CTOL suborbital flight possible.

Not totally relevant, but the thought of trying to inflight-refuel with hydrogen makes me smile a bit.
 
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miami

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Long haul is heavily dependant on business/first class passengers. Research i have seem shows a 30-50% decline in this travel as like you said why send someone for a meeting in china if it can be done on zoom.

Why do people spend the best part of a week, drag themselves 8 hours out of their timezone, spend £20k return on the flights and another £10k on hotels (and the hassle of getting a visa sorted) taking a few people out to Beijing.

Maybe, just maybe, that type of meeting is better done in person.

I suspect not actually viable in somewhere with a dense population

Train to the middle of nowhere (say a platform 20 miles off the north sea) - not much different to going to an airport
90 minutes to board and get to airport outside of Tokyo in the middle of nowhere (like Narita!)
High speed train into Tokyo

Seems very viable from a time perspective
 

Lucan

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Hyperloop sounds good but when you look at the technical specifications, the challenges become too great.
They said that about Trains, Planes, tunnels under the sea, electric cars, reusable space rockets, etc.
It depends on who is saying it. I am an engineer who has dealt with (among other things) large gas ducts (~2 m diameter) at industrial plant, quite similar to the tubes that H-L will use. The arrangements for dealing with thermal expansion require some very expensive engineering and also require frequent inspection. The temperature range that H-L ducts will need to accomodate will require similar arrangements at regular intervals. Of course, the existing H-L test length is relatively short and has free ends, so does not need expansion arrangements, but an actual route would.

That is just one of many problems with H-L, but I'll stop there as I don't want to derail this thread into discussing it. Nevertheless, any engineering challenge can be solved by throwing enough money at it, as long as it does not try to break the laws of physics. Building H-L breaks no laws of physics, and is perfectly possible, but it will require vast amounts of money to be thrown at it.
 

Bald Rick

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I think long haul is probably gonig to get too expensive eventually

It really isn’t.

Long haul is the cheapest it’s ever been - it could double in price and still be cheaper, in real terms, than it was 30 years ago.

To put that into context, when Freddie Laker set up the ‘Skytrain’ operation, the very cheapest fares Gatwick - New York, in low season (1980) were £169 return - £725 in today’s money. It was nearly £1100 in today’s money for a return flight in summer. And that was much lower than the other airlines on the route (BA, TWA, Pan Am, American), and didn’t include air passenger duty as it didn’t exist. And he went bust.

More recently, my first Trans Atlantic return flight was 21 years ago almost to the day. That was low season, and with a hefty ‘mates rates’ discount from the person I was visiting who worked for the airline I flew with. It was £295 (including £20 APD). In real terms, and excluding the discount, that would be about £700 today if you allowed today’s APD rates.


Compare to return flights London - New York this coming summer for about £330, which includes £82 APD.
 

Irascible

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It really isn’t.

Long haul is the cheapest it’s ever been - it could double in price and still be cheaper, in real terms, than it was 30 years ago.

To put that into context, when Freddie Laker set up the ‘Skytrain’ operation, the very cheapest fares Gatwick - New York, in low season (1980) were £169 return - £725 in today’s money. It was nearly £1100 in today’s money for a return flight in summer. And that was much lower than the other airlines on the route (BA, TWA, Pan Am, American), and didn’t include air passenger duty as it didn’t exist. And he went bust.

More recently, my first Trans Atlantic return flight was 21 years ago almost to the day. That was low season, and with a hefty ‘mates rates’ discount from the person I was visiting who worked for the airline I flew with. It was £295 (including £20 APD). In real terms, and excluding the discount, that would be about £700 today if you allowed today’s APD rates.


Compare to return flights London - New York this coming summer for about £330, which includes £82 APD.
I don't know what my first flight ( to Montreal ) cost given I was 8, but my trip to Virginia when I was 16 ( mid 80s ) was about £250 return on BA, I think.

To go down my train of thought -

I can see long-haul getting cheaper in the short term, if international teleconferencing really does eat big holes into business travel - and after that it's not *too* hard to adjust capacity on routes unless they're already at the usable floor for the aircraft & route - but on a nonstop or single stop route there's a limit to how small an aircraft can be & then obviously a floor to it's costs. In the medium term there's a couple issues which are a bit hard to judge the global impact of - emissions laws, which are mostly political obviously, and the availaibility of kerosene. Emissions tax on long-haul flights could so easily be a killer if the operation is already marginal. I don't have enough data or experience to judge what will happen to the supply of jet fuel if/when the demand for surface transport fuel dries up - you could probably rebuild jet engines to use different and now in more supply hydrocarbons , but then you have to fiddle with infrastructure everywhere to handle it all too, so that doesn't seem a particularily quick fix. Also assuming knocking a hole in the demand for a couple of products doesn't knock the economics of refining around too hard ( and of course we don't simply run out of oil ).

I'm finding it really doubtful you can do non-stop long-haul on hydrogen without a radically different sort of aircraft. Certainly short & medium haul, and that's how we used to do longhaul flights in the 50s/60s by doing a bunch of legs, but there's costs there from landing fees, ground handling, extra crew, more landing cycles on the aircraft etc etc. Maybe that can be made to work & not be prohibitively expensive for the masses ( I hope so ) but I can't really feel very confident about it given airlines were cutting operation costss to the bone before covid.

Maybe I'm a bit off & need to take a slightly broader view of the situation.
 

edwin_m

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I don't know what my first flight ( to Montreal ) cost given I was 8, but my trip to Virginia when I was 16 ( mid 80s ) was about £250 return on BA, I think.

To go down my train of thought -

I can see long-haul getting cheaper in the short term, if international teleconferencing really does eat big holes into business travel - and after that it's not *too* hard to adjust capacity on routes unless they're already at the usable floor for the aircraft & route - but on a nonstop or single stop route there's a limit to how small an aircraft can be & then obviously a floor to it's costs. In the medium term there's a couple issues which are a bit hard to judge the global impact of - emissions laws, which are mostly political obviously, and the availaibility of kerosene. Emissions tax on long-haul flights could so easily be a killer if the operation is already marginal. I don't have enough data or experience to judge what will happen to the supply of jet fuel if/when the demand for surface transport fuel dries up - you could probably rebuild jet engines to use different and now in more supply hydrocarbons , but then you have to fiddle with infrastructure everywhere to handle it all too, so that doesn't seem a particularily quick fix. Also assuming knocking a hole in the demand for a couple of products doesn't knock the economics of refining around too hard ( and of course we don't simply run out of oil ).

I'm finding it really doubtful you can do non-stop long-haul on hydrogen without a radically different sort of aircraft. Certainly short & medium haul, and that's how we used to do longhaul flights in the 50s/60s by doing a bunch of legs, but there's costs there from landing fees, ground handling, extra crew, more landing cycles on the aircraft etc etc. Maybe that can be made to work & not be prohibitively expensive for the masses ( I hope so ) but I can't really feel very confident about it given airlines were cutting operation costss to the bone before covid.

Maybe I'm a bit off & need to take a slightly broader view of the situation.
I don't see there being that much scope to cut costs of long haul much further - as Rick points out it's already fallen significantly in real terms. The sorts of economies the no-frills carriers exploit don't read across so much, otherwise someone would have made a success of it already.

There's also the loss of economy of scale if fewer people are travelling, which among other things might indeed go back towards a hub-and-spoke model if there's less volume to justify point-to-point flights.
 

Dominash

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You say that the idea of Elon Musk with a flight to Mars requires too much financial spending, but you forget about how much money countries give each year for the militarization of the whole world. If people stopped spending money on this nonsense, and started investing as much for vaccination or improving the standard of living, then I could fulfill my son's dream and go to Africa so that he could see it https://www.natureswonderlandsafaris.com/safaris/kenya-birding-safaris/, but instead, we sit in quarantine in fear of infecting our loved ones and ourselves. It is a pity that this is hardly possible in this system.
 
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miami

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I hope Elon Musk is serious about this.

Musks goal is to build a self sustaining martian colony. The other things (tesla, solar, cargo to the ISS, crew to the ISS, lunar landing, starlink, p2p sub-orbital, carbon extraction from the atmosphere) are just a means to that end. It makes no financial sense to go to Mars, let alone build a colony there, but it comes with a lot of byproducts. I'd rather the world's rich spent its resources doing that than buying Larry Elison's 15th yacht.
 

ExRes

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,How about banning all non essential airline flights until non polluting aircraft are introduced?

I'm sure all environmentally aware people would stop flitting here, there and everywhere on unnecessary foreign holidays
 

miami

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That's fine, I'm off to Jamaica for 2 weeks to look at buying a boat. That's not a holiday, so good stuff, and I'm not going to buy the boat without looking at it, so essential.
 

Bald Rick

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Pretty simple to me, foreign means not in the UK and holidays mean something that are taken by choice

So flying 400 miles for a holiday in Scotland is ok, but not 400 miles to France?

What happens if I combine a holiday with business? Have to go to Sydney for business (for an hour) so I might extend it by two weeks. That’s ok?

And what happens with all the other aviation in all the rest of the world outside the UK?
 

ExRes

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That's fine, I'm off to Jamaica for 2 weeks to look at buying a boat. That's not a holiday, so good stuff, and I'm not going to buy the boat without looking at it, so essential.

You can do whatever you like as far as I'm concerned, just don't anybody tell me I can't drive around in my brand new diesel car or go on whacking great cruise ships that are supposedly destroying the environment, enjoy Jamaica

So flying 400 miles for a holiday in Scotland is ok, but not 400 miles to France?

What happens if I combine a holiday with business? Have to go to Sydney for business (for an hour) so I might extend it by two weeks. That’s ok?

And what happens with all the other aviation in all the rest of the world outside the UK?

You don't actually need to fly to either, you could use a far less environmentally unfriendly form of transport, as for your other comments as I have just said to @miami you also can do what you want, as I will, I'd be interested to know why you need to go to Australia for an hour though, you must be awfully good at whatever you do, your last point is a bit lame, would it be OK for the rest of the world to say 'stuff electric cars' leaving the UK the sole country pretending to save the universe?
 
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Bald Rick

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I'd be interested to know why you need to go to Australia for an hour though

I don’t, I made it up, to make the point that what you propose is completely impractical.

(Having said that I do know people who have been to business conferences in Las Vegas, requiring a 4 day stay, but with a one hour conference).


However, switching to an electric vehicles is practical for some people now (7% of UK new car buyers so far this year, double that if you include plug in hybrids) and will become more so for an increasingly large proportion of the population over the next few years.
 

ExRes

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I don’t, I made it up, to make the point that what you propose is completely impractical.

(Having said that I do know people who have been to business conferences in Las Vegas, requiring a 4 day stay, but with a one hour conference).


However, switching to an electric vehicles is practical for some people now (7% of UK new car buyers so far this year, double that if you include plug in hybrids) and will become more so for an increasingly large proportion of the population over the next few years.

But was my original post actually a serious proposal?
 

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