Flying is a staple of business travel. But how will the future of aviation transform the flying experience?
We’ve come a long way since the Wright Brothers first took flight at Kitty Hawk. In 2019, the last “normal” travel year before COVID-19, business Travelers accounted for 464 million business trips. While business travel accounts for only 12% of all flights, business Travelers drive 75% of airline profits.
Business travel and aviation are intertwined. As one evolves, the other is affected. So what is the future of aviation and flight? And how will it impact business travel? As National Aviation Day approaches on Aug. 19, here’s a look at four emerging trends and developments related to the future of aviation that all Executives overseeing travel programs should be aware of.
1. Boeing’s Struggles
The pandemic has affected all sorts of travel industry vendors, including a brand that’s synonymous with jet manufacturing — Boeing. The Boeing 777X was supposed to be the next big thing from this well-known leader in aerospace, but the 777X’s debut has now been delayed more than 2 years to 2023. Boeing had secured 309 777X orders, but that number plummeted to 191 after the delay announcement.
At the same time, Boeing is still dealing with the aftermath of safety concerns related to its 737 Max, which had experienced a pair of fatal crashes. The crashes led to almost 2 years of groundings. While the 737 Max is back in action, it’s taking Boeing’s reputation longer to heal.
Boeing’s jetliner designs and the experience of flying on Boeing products has become second nature to business Travelers. More than 10,000 Boeing planes are used commercially around the world, which represents nearly half of the global fleet. Any significant change in the manufacturer that airlines purchase could impact the travel industry more broadly — including the travel experience and even the cost of travel.
2. China’s Emergence
As Boeing struggles, China’s Commercial Aircraft Corporation is developing the C919, a narrow-body jet that is meant to compete with the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A320. While American companies represent 60% of the suppliers for the C919, this development signals a decrease in China’s reliance on foreign innovation and technology.
China is the world’s largest country, home to more than 18% of the people on earth. China self-manufacturing jetliners for air travel could break the stranglehold that U.S.-based Boeing and France-based Airbus have enjoyed over the civil aviation market. This naturally would lead to economic repercussions around the world. And, if the C919 becomes an option for non-Chinese airlines, business Travelers could find themselves flying on a C919 in the not-too-distant future.
3. The Return of Supersonic Flights
Business Travelers could once again find themselves traveling faster than the speed of sound. British Airways and Air France once used the Concorde, a supersonic jetliner that traveled at more than twice the speed of sound. But both airlines retired the jet from their fleets in 2003, citing low passenger numbers after a Concorde crash in July 2000.
But supersonic travel is coming back. United Airlines has announced an agreement to purchase 15 Overture planes from Boom Supersonic, a Denver-based aerospace company. The agreement includes an option for United to purchase an additional 35 Overtures. United has outlined a series of safety, operational and sustainability requirements that Boom Supersonic must meet. The plans call for the Overture to be the first commercial jet in the world powered 100% by sustainable aviation fuel (or SAF), which might be attractive to businesses that are emphasizing sustainable travel.
If things move forward between United and Boom Supersonic, the Overture will be carrying passengers by 2029. Potential routes for the Overture include Newark to London in 3-and-a-half hours, Newark to Frankfurt in 4 hours, and San Francisco to Tokyo in 6 hours. These travel times are roughly half of what they are on today’s jetliners.
Needless to say, these accelerated speeds would be highly beneficial to businesses working in foreign countries. New York companies able to reach London in 3-and-a-half hours and San Francisco companies able to reach Tokyo in 6 hours would enjoy new opportunities and a general competitive advantage when doing business in those markets.
4. Commercial Space Travel
Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos aren’t the only private citizens who could reach outer space in the near future. Companies like SpaceX are aiming to make space reachable for everyday people in the coming years.
We’re likely many decades away from the possibility of colonies on the moon or Mars. But a significant business is likely to emerge around space tourism. This is obviously a Neil Armstrong-style giant leap forward for air travel and aviation in general, but space tourism could also present some companies with new business opportunities.
Make Sure Your Company is Prepared for the Future
The airline industry is constantly evolving, and it’s important that Executive leaders at companies that travel stay up to date on new developments. At JTB Business Travel, we stay on top of changes in the airline and overall travel industries so that busy Executives like you don’t have to. We offer services that help companies save on their travel spends while creating the most comfortable and productive itineraries for Travelers.
Contact us to learn more about our common-sense approach to business travel.