We live in an era where saving time is more critical than saving money. Perhaps this is why air transportation, which earlier was solely reserved for the extremely affluent or for emergencies, is now being used on par with its competitors, i.e., rail and road transport. The number of passengers flying has increased multi-fold over the past couple of decades, and the count is still on the rise. A few decades ago, only the mature, developed, and wealthy nations like the United States, the countries of Europe, Japan, Singapore, etc. were the ones that had air connectivity with main domestic cities and also international destinations. But now, the number of countries connected to each other by air has increased dramatically, and that did not stop there. The domestic air connectivity has also spiked, connecting many cities in many different countries. Not just the developed and wealthy nations, but also developing countries like China, India, and Brazil, etc. have gained a lot because of growing air connectivity. Not only has the connectivity has gotten better, but also the experience of traveling by air has improved. Let us take a look at the aspects that have changed significantly in the past few decades.
Air travel, which has been the fastest mode of transportation right from its inception, has become even faster over time. The flight from the Australian subcontinent to London was, and still is among the longest flights known. During the late 1950s, the cities of Sydney and London were connected by Qantas Airways of Australia. The trip then was a 4-day journey with a whopping 55 hours in the air and the flight touching the ground at six places other than Sydney and London. The airline still runs between the countries but in a different way. The New Kangaroo Route 2018, as Qantas Airways calls it, connects Perth to London without stopping or touching down anywhere else. The journey now just takes 17 hours in the air, covering over 9000 miles in the air in one take off.
It is not even the most time in the air or the longest distance covered in a single take off. As planes got increasingly efficient and technologically advanced, flights with even longer air times and journeys were made possible. Another venture by Qatar Airlines between Auckland and Doha is now that longest flight, covering a staggering 9025 miles in a single run (or fly) lasting 16 to 18 hours in the air. Imagine the passengers clinging to their seats that long!
There is a reason why the early flying period was dubbed the ‘Golden Era’ of flying. For the price that passengers then paid for the travel was compensated by the food and beverages served during the voyage. But the airlines had their own set of issues to deal with. The flyers of the early 1920s had to deal with weight issues when there were cases where passengers were weighed before boarding. The same rule applied to the food, which restricted the amount of food being carried into the sky. As the planes got better and the journeys longer, the food got better and hotter. Food was more than just a survival essential. Flights of the early 1930s had kitchens, which were able to provide a hot meal and a dining room where the passengers would assemble and have a feast up in the air. Then, in the 1940s came the frozen food era, thanks to which a variety of meals were served in the sky. As the aircraft got bigger, the number of passengers flying increased and so did air meal storage spaces. But now, personalization became important, compared to offering unified exotic meals across the passenger group. The airlines presently allow passengers to order food of their choice before boarding, which would be delivered directly to their seats. For instance, iFLEAT, is a mobile-based service that delivers food ordered by the passenger from a restaurant, straight to their seats. The service is now associated with Air Berlin and is planning to associate with more airlines in the future. Though in-flight catering providers will feel the impact of this service, it is a win-win situation for the passenger, as one gets the food of one’s choice to eat, as well as for the airlines as they can probably retain their customers by allowing them to do what they like.
In-flight Entertainment and Connectivity
A recent survey of airline passengers has stated that Wi-Fi was more important than food for the passengers traveling by air. This shows how connected people are to the internet. And even the airlines are trying to retain existing customers and attract more customers by providing entertainment and connectivity to them. Many airlines already are offering Wi-Fi in at least some of their flights, but the travelers have to buy the service. Airlines provide free internet access only to the travelers in first class. Big names in the aviation industry like Etihad, Finnair, Lufthansa, etc. provide internet access on all or some of its fleet, but at a cost to the passenger. On the other side, there are few others like Emirates, Turkish Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, etc. that provide free Wi-Fi access to its passengers. There are many travelers out there praying for this to happen in all the airlines, and I too hope it happens soon. With the number of travelers expected to double by 2035, according to a market research firm many more changes will be made by the airlines to attract new passengers and retain the existing ones.