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Aviation: A New Century Coming into Its Own

by Michael Cheng

According to a report by CNN, a record-breaking 1.2 billion international tourists hopped a plane in 2015. With more reliable airports and aviation infrastructure improving, the United Nations World Tourism Organization expects this figure to increase steadily over the next decade.

Powering the growth of the aviation industry are (r)evolutionary trends that help passengers stay connected, travel more comfortably and fly to new destinations faster. Here’s a list of trends in the sector that could influence your next flight in 2017 and beyond.

Connected Traveling Gadgets

Smart gadgets, in the form of brainy suitcases, chatbot traveling assistants and even pocket-sized washing machines, took the aviation industry by storm in 2016. This year, this trend will likely continue, as more startups vow to make traveling easier using tech-savvy gadgets. But unlike last year (and the years before), developers are making their products more connected. For travelers, such features would allow your smart luggage (for example) to keep you in the loop about flight updates in real-time. For anxious travelers, detecting spikes in heart rate via smartwatches could initiate recommendations about a nearby bar in the airport.

Extended Air Routes

Airlines compete for the highly coveted “longest flight route” title. At the moment, Emirates reigns with a whopping 8,820-mile route that takes passengers from Dubai to Auckland, which takes 17 hours (westbound). This year, Qatar Airways is challenging that route by offering a non-stop flight between Doha and Auckland. The flight will take 17.5 hours while covering 9,035 miles along the way.

Supersonic Commercial Planes

Image Courtesy: Boom

The real goal is to improve distance while reducing time. Minimizing flight time is a win-win for both airlines and travelers: businesses are able to schedule more flights in the day (or night) and passengers don’t have to worry about getting cabin fever during long-haul routes. To accomplish this, a few startups are developing supersonic commercial planes. Boom Technology is building a unique niche. Earlier this month, it unveiled the XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator – a scaled prototype of a supersonic plane that is capable of reaching Mach 2.2 (1,451 mph).

Pilot Programs for Autonomous Air Taxis

Last year, Uber and Airbus revealed plans to make driverless, flying taxis a reality in the near future. Most people didn’t take the announcements seriously, due to lack of technological support and laws surrounding flying taxis (We don’t even have fully autonomous cars on public roads – yet). But the latter group isn’t wasting any time developing self-piloted, single-passenger aircrafts. Airbus said it would be launching pilot programs for its fleet of autonomous flying taxis in 2017.

Budget Packages and Upgrades

Gone are the days when travelers could only choose between three cabin classes. Numerous airlines now offer premium upgrades that fit between standard cabin classes. Such options, like premium economy, are cheaper and suitable for people who are only interested in specific upgrades, such as extended leg room or depth of seat recline.

“Premium economy exists to fill in the gap between the main cabin and business class: Passengers will be seated in adjustable leather chairs with extendable foot, leg and head rests. The seats are also wider and come with more leg room than seats in traditional economy, said Cailey Rizzo from Travel + Leisure.

Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a smooth ride.

Michael is a legal editor and technical writer with publications for Blackberry, ISHN Magazine, Houzz and Payment Week. He specializes in technology, business and IoT.

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