The passenger experience
Passengers in the late 21st Century may be expected to have very different experiences from that of today if some of the ideas in circulation come to pass. These ideas are driven by considerations of reducing the climatic footprint of the air traveller, by considerations of reduced hassle in reaching and boarding aircraft, and by an altogether less stressful journey experience.
1. The sleeping passenger
This idea proposes that passengers will be able to avail themselves of a drug which will have the effect of inducing gentle and harmless sleep for all or most of the flight. The drug would need to be non-addictive, harmless, with rapid or predictable sleep following its administration and rapid, anxiety-free and alert waking on administration of a signal or injection. The concept of drugs able to be taken by passengers of administered by airline staff would break new barriers and require careful controls not to speak of the safety testing that would be involved.
The benefits would lie in an experience less stressful for many passengers, especially on long flights, and a reduction in in-flight services. With suitable cabin design, passengers might be able to use full horizontal beds in tiers. These would prevent problems with DVT and permit a comfortable and relaxed sleep with very similar cabin volume to a seating arrangement for the same number of passengers.
Combined with the modular passenger pod concept (see 4.3) the passengers could board even before reaching the airport and pass through boarding formalities already in a state of oblivion.
2. The transparent cabin
In contrast to the concept above which would be feasible with no cabin windows at all this concept envisages a totally transparent cabin wall and roof. High strength materials to achieve this do not exist presently but the transformation in passenger experience would be remarkable. The sense of being on a sort of magic carpet flying through the air could be a wonderful new experience for many passengers. For some the experience might be altogether different and alarming, and therefore a quite unwelcome one.
Practical difficulties that would need to be addressed start with the materials to make it feasible without significant weight increase. Research would be needed in the nature of transparency and into possible modifications that might be possible to the efficient materials of the aircraft pressure cabin. Given that such material might be developed it would also be necessary to study how many of the services presently out of sight behind the side walls and roof of the cabin could be routed to avoid these areas. The reaction of the material to sunlight and radiation might also present problems; making passengers too hot, to brightly lit or, at worst, susceptible to increased and dangerous levels of solar radiation.
3. The window-less cabin
Quite the opposite effect is envisaged by the window-less cabin. In this idea the passenger experience is enhanced by virtual reality impressions of flying instead of having widows to look out from.The idea is especially interesting against the studies being done on blended wing aircraft where many passengers would necessarily be seated well away from any windows. Given the continued rapid increase in the capabilities of games consoles, virtual reality simulations and all things electronic the concept of an immersive experience based on artificially provided content is not perhaps very far away. The content supplied could vary, of course, from simply representing the flight in progress to representations of flights at different altitudes, and even over different terrain.
Moving from the field of flight to a wider range of entertainment is an obvious progression and the repertoire of possible programmes is effectively endless.
The benefits would rest very largely with the passenger but the absence of windows might also provide increased flexibility of design and layout to aircraft manufacturers.
4. Multi model service
Demand for air travel is increasing with the development with world GDP. More than 70% of the air travel is for leisure. The question remains if new technologies like virtual reality will reduce the desire to travel and will represent a real alternative.
Unless there are market distortions , for example through government interference in the market based on environmental concerns, through disease or political tension, air travel is likely to be marginally affected by alternative ways to travel or to communicate. At distances above 400Km air is still the most convenient and cheapest way to travel.
In some European countries, high-speed rail connections have been created or are in the process of being established.
But, high speed rail infrastructure costs 30 million _ per Km, and therefore the number of tracks will be limited. IT technologies will certainly have some effect especially on business travel. However, tourists want to see and feel for themselves. Moreover, there is a famous saying that the more (business) communication there is the greater is the need to travel.
In the past, the focus in transport was very much on the type of vehicle; the aeroplane, the car or the train. As travel is now a commodity market, there is, and will be, a strong emphasis on the customer and his comfort zone. Passenger satisfaction will be one of the main drivers in the future transport industry.
The customer will demand a seamless travel from kerb to kerb. In future, the traveller will also demand one single ticket that entitles him or her to make the total journey independent of the travel mode or operator. If the traveller is obliged to use different transport modes, he/she will demand multi-modal solutions that are time efficient and convenient. Aviation has been kept more or less separate from the multi-modal transport discussions up to now. But this has to change, air transport should be seen as one of the building blocks of a global multi-modal transport system.
One of the important issues in multi-modal transport is the requirement for easy transit and avoidance of repackaging.
This is also true for the cargo market. Containers used in aviation are different from the ones used in other transport modes. This is partially because aircraft fuselages are round pressure vessels, which require that separate containers are designed to be stored in the round cargo bay. Furthermore, the containers used in aviation are lightweight. Containers used in other transport modes are designed to be strong and heavy, to be stacked and to be stored in an unprotected harsh environment.
Multi-modality would be enhanced if the same type of containers could be used in all types of transport modes.
New aircraft configurations like the blended wing body aircraft would allow the use of rectangular containers that could be used by other transport means as well without the need to repack. A compromise might be to design air containers that simply stowed as a complete unit inside a standard land container to provide the additional protection and to fit the land standard fixings.
One could imagine the use of a family of standard containers adapted to the different roles foreseen. The universal cargo containers could be made bomb proof as has already been demonstrated by containers made of laminated metal like Glare“. The smallest type of cargo container could be loaded on small lorries that could service inner city distribution points. Bigger containers could be used in shipping, trucking and aviation as well. The passenger container could come in different sizes and be transparent. It could seat different numbers of passengers depending on the size of the container. There could be room to stow luggage and personal belongings in the container. Containers would be adapted for use in aeroplanes, on busses, trains and other transport modes.
Airline passengers could be collected at different locations in different cities and be transported in these containers from the pick up points to the airport.
If need be there could be a transfer point in between the pick up point and the airport or seaport, where passengers would change container according to their final destination. Such a system is already common practice in holiday coach travel: the passengers are picked up at different locations and transferred to a common transfer location where passengers seek the coach to their final destination. A similar set up could be followed using the passenger containers. With these containers a multi-modal pick up and drop system could be created. The containers would be loaded on the aircraft as soon as they arrive at the airport and connected to the aircraft utility systems. Containers would also be connected to corridors inside the aircraft that would give access to general facilities of the aircraft like restrooms, bars and entertainment facilities.
Containerised transport would be the compromise between mass transport and purely individual transport. It would be the link between public and private transport modes as well.
5. Self-load baggage
Being parted from one’s own baggage is just one of the stresses of modern travelling. The efforts that some passengers make to avoid checking in baggage is but one of the symptoms of this sensation and the perception that what goes with it is delay, lost or delayed bags and lost or stolen contents.
One idea to address this is to go with the sentiments of the passenger and assist them to take their own baggage with them onto the aircraft. By redesign of the fuselage interior it could be possible to arrange for vertical luggage bays able to be loaded directly by passengers. Alternatively the redesign of the baggage loading process could place the cargo container as now used at places accessible to the passengers who could load their own bags and similarly unload them at the destination.
There would be disadvantages to the airport in that their baggage-centred process would need to be re-aligned to become a passenger-centred one – no doubt at some cost. But the benefits to passengers might be substantial even if these benefits would exist in their perception given the low percentage of bags that get lost. Detailed process engineering would be needed to ensure that the benefits that passengers want, security, time saving and convenience were actually delivered by any new process. If the aircraft were to be redesigned the issues would be of preserving the pressure envelope without sacrificing too much of it to baggage storage at the expense of passengers.
6. Boarding through multiple doors
Bordering on an evolutionary idea this extends the current provision of multiple doors considerably and envisages many doors with simultaneous boarding and disembarkation in parallel streams. Conceptually passengers would board along an air-bridge dedicated to their entrance and appropriately signed to prevent confusion. They would join the aircraft at a point immediately adjacent to their seat and be able to get settled much more rapidly than at present. On wide bodied a/c these doors might be on both sides of the cabin to permit easy boarding.
For the aircraft manufacturer providing more doors will exact a price in the weight carrying capacity of the a/c and upon cost, both of which would need to be picked up eventually by the passenger.
7. The airborne hot-desk
The number of business travellers grows less quickly than the number travelling for leisure. Nevertheless, the pressure on individual business travellers increases with competition increasingly being fuelled by the electronic devices that enable businessmen to operate from anywhere in the world. This is increasingly the situation but it progresses at a slower rate in the air than on the ground.
A new and important step in this transformation will be to install a genuine "Hot Desk" facility for the ordinary business traveller. This would enable him to operate fully whilst airborne with access not only to the internet and e-mails but also to a useful range of commercial office software. Almost more importantly would be access to his own files and records as fully as he would in any terrestrial situation. For installations of where cost is no object such facilities can now be provided. The challenge will be to supply them at a reasonable and commercially acceptable cost.
Relevant technologies will include secure broadband access from the aircraft, the access to appropriate software, and secure deletion of private files. All these are foreseeable within present or forthcoming technologies.
8. The air traveller
For most passengers travel by air represents a period of time expended on merely getting from A to B. The faster it can be achieved the better. The least that it interferes with "normal" life the more the passenger likes it. But with people looking for new experiences and with limited time to do it a new or rather re-invented kind of passenger may emerge – the Air Traveller. This kind of traveller goes by air for the experience it represents and the places that it allows him to see. In the 1920’s travel by the great German airships was an experience in itself and passengers thought themselves lucky to take part in the Graf Zeppelin’s world tour in 1929.
Today we can contemplate this renewed interest in the world around us, and the chance to see it before it suffers inevitable change. The passengers would be provided with a high level of luxurious accommodation on board with every opportunity to move around and to be comfortable.
Meals may be taken at tables rather than in seats and these may be placed to give excellent views of the passing landscapes. Of course, the aircraft will fly at relatively low altitude perhaps as low as 1,500 m where this is possible.
For this reason the aircraft would be designed for slow (perhaps 120 knots) and quiet flight – perhaps with shielded propellers mounted above the high mounted wings. The passenger cabin would be a single aisle design with every passenger able to enjoy a good external view. This view would be augmented by forward viewing from the front cabin and by an array of real-time video cameras feeding views into the cabin. These could be combined with lecture presentations on the geography, flora and fauna of the area.When possible the concept of transparent cabin section (see The Transparent Cabin above) would be employed to add to the experience.
Few new techno0logies are necessary to bring this idea to deployment. The obstacles would be the assessment of commercially viable demand and the investment in suitably designed or adapted aircraft.
9. No cabin crew
At present there is about one cabin attendant per 50 passengers on board of commercial airliners. Cabin crew has an important function to guide passengers in case of emergency and to serve the passengers during the flight.
But crew costs represent a substantial part of the Direct Operating Cost of the aircraft. Cost efficiency could be increased if no cabin crew would be needed. For passenger service in smaller aircraft the crew could be replaced by automated systems that would use robot type of technology. In larger aircraft the passengers could stroll around and help themselves to what ever service they desire being served via a galley wall by robotics.
In larger modern aircraft the safety drill is already explained via a video presentation. A different approach could be that the passenger receives the information via his or her cellular phone. This phone or a more advanced personal communication device would be used anyway to guide the passenger in the terminal buildings of airports.
In case of an emergency the passenger would be provided with safety instructions via the personal communication device. For those who do not have a personal communication device, the device would be provided by the airline.
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