London to New York in One Hour?
T he promises for speedier travel just keep on coming, as there could one day be the possibility of traveling from London to New York in one hour as the result of patents from both Boeing with the design of a futuristic Xenon laser-powered engine; and Airbus pertaining to the design of a new supersonic aircraft, according to articles which were both written by Jeff Edwards at FlyerTalk.
I have long been reporting on new developments which are either disruptive or improvements over current technology that are intended to augment or replace commercial aviation as we know it today — such as an evacuated tube transport system, the advent of sub-orbital flights, or even the construction of a superhighway between New York and London across Russia…
…but many of those developments never see the light of day — perhaps because they are still currently not possible, for one reason or another. “Much like Boeing’s recent patent for a Xenon laser-powered jet engine, Airbus’ supersonic aircraft depends on technology that has not yet been perfected and verges on science fiction”, wrote Jeff Edwards. “Its plans call for an airframe that would eliminate loud sonic booms that plague supersonic flight, as well as engines powered by the unspecified combination of hydrogen-based fuels.”
Airbnb and Uber for Airlines?
Similar to me, Christopher Elliott also believes that commercial aviation is ready for disruption. He is not depending on a new technology; but rather a system which is already in place for the lodging and ground transportation industries — both have which been significantly disrupted by companies such as Airbnb and Uber, respectively.
“Air travelers, who complain of higher prices and fewer choices, say they’re ready for the next Uber to take flight”, according to this article written by Christopher Elliott, who cited that only four large airlines control more than 80 percent of domestic air travel within the United States. “And now Congress is in a good position to actually encourage competition through smarter regulation. The latest Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, now being drafted by lawmakers, could pave the way for a more competitive airline industry.”
Less Competition Usually Means Less Innovation
One flaw of human nature dictates that when competition is scarce and few threats are seen on the horizon, innovation is simply not a priority — and neither are the wants and needs of the customer, apparently. Why spend money, time and effort to improve upon something when you are already number one in your respective industry — or, at least, part of an oligopoly similar to commercial aviation in the United States — and you will do well anyway without having to commit to a significant investment?
Many people believe that the Department of Justice of the United States went too far in approving the mergers of Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines; United Airlines and Continental Airlines; and American Airlines and US Airways — and that is not including the prior merging of airlines such as America West with US Airways.
Due to the number of factors which inherently contribute to the difficulty of entry in commercial aviation, it is extremely difficult for a new airline to launch — although it is not entirely impossible. Eastern Airlines is literally trying to get off the ground amidst a triumphant return; while PEOPLExpress faltered in its comeback.
Travel by Private Jet or “Air Taxi”
That is not to say that disruption is impossible. There is already a burgeoning industry of airlines which promise an experience free of hassles; and the high costs seem to be decreasing — though not necessarily quite within the price range of typical travel aboard airplanes operated by commercial airlines. I am currently contemplating adding to this list of airlines where you can enjoy an experience similar to a private jet.
In response, Delta Air Lines has recently announced a unique form of upgrade for select customers who have earned Medallion elite level status in the SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program and are willing to pay between $300.00 and $800.00 for a flight segment in addition to what they already paid for their original flights to fly as passengers aboard one of their airplanes from its Delta Private Jets subsidiary between select markets — but although no other commercial airline can supposedly offer such an amenity, will that be enough for Delta Air Lines to be competitive against the aforementioned upstart airlines?
Travel by Bus
For those people who are more conscious about cost, there are also bus services which range from Megabus — on which I have ridden as a passenger — to luxury travel aboard buses operated by Vonlane; but with the exception of shorter routes, travel by bus can take substantially more time to reach a destination than an airplane.
Travel by Train
Travel by train is another possible indirect threat to airlines; and Amtrak usually has some sort of sale of which you can take advantage. For example, book your travel at least 14 days in advance aboard many routes across the country now through Saturday, October 31, 2015, for travel through Thursday, March 31, 2016, and save 20 percent on a regular adult fare. The Amtrak Guest rewards frequent travel loyalty program also has promotions such as the popular Double Days promotion on which I have reported multiple times in the past; but it is currently not active.
Although there are a number of alternatives to commercial air travel which already currently exist; they are usually not compelling enough to result in a traveler using one of those alternatives; and disruptive technology which is currently on the drawing board is not yet ready for prime time — if any of it becomes a reality at all.
Of course, there is always travel by car — but be sure that you are not texting while driving or putting your feet up on the dashboard as a passenger.
What are your thoughts? Do you believe that we will one day be able to travel from London to New York in as little as one hour in our lifetimes? What changes would you propose in an attempt to weaken the stronghold of the oligopoly of airlines — or do you believe that commercial aviation is currently fine and should be left alone?