Air Travel Heading in New Directions

How could we challenge the traditional components of the airline industry and redesign for enhanced travel experiences?

With significant changes in retail, travel and hospitality, the airport (a space comprised of all these industries) is beginning to be rethought.

Dutch scientist Henk Hesselink recently proposed ‘the endless runway’, a 360-degree transformation that sees the airport runway become a 3.5km wide circle with a terminal building at the very centre. Addressing the issue of crosswind based turbulence and delays, the circular design effectively allows planes to use the runway in all wind conditions.

Not only is it beneficial for travelling passengers and staff, but also reduces the negative impact for the surrounding environment and residents. The proposed design also means less burning of fuel on take-off and landing, a reduction in noise pollution for surrounding residential area, and would be able to handle the activity of four runways whilst occupying less space.

Going one step deeper is the introduction of digital pills, an item that may soon be part of your airplane menu. British Airways is exploring the ‘ingestible sensor’ as a means of tracking a passenger’s physiological state.

The data gathered from these sensors could provide general passenger insight such as temperature and heart rate... but could also go further to flag issues such as jet lag, dehydration, deep vein thrombosis or respiratory problems. With this access, and factoring in real-time data sharing technology, the future of air travel could see crews working to adapt external factors to support passenger health on a physical and mental level; from adjusting lighting and air conditioning to providing quicker & more effective medical assistance.

So What?
Airports are long standing structures that rarely see change on a large scale. However when we take a step back and look at the human experience - whether it’s that of passengers, staff or residential stakeholders - we unveil several areas in need of re-invention. As we begin to embrace structural change and incorporate emerging technologies, expect to see disruption in this space and a redefinition of stakeholders’ roles to deliver more positive experiences for all involved.