We will start seeing bold new aircraft designs - faster, more fuel efficient with electric, hybrid and even solar engines with spacious cabins not so closely resembling the cigar tubes we have become accustomed to. I expect to see long-haul flight times reduced significantly in the next 15-20 years, perhaps even cut in half. The days of the “sonic boom” are over thanks to advanced aircraft design. With a few exceptions, the airports of today are noisy, crowded and many of them are just glorified shopping malls. Most of them are simply an uncomfortable ordeal that must be endured in order to travel. The airport of the future will be a destination in itself, an experience. Our own Changi Airport in Singapore has caught the attention and imagination of the world and, taking a cue from Changi, the airports of the future will be havens of relaxation and design with comfortable seating, gardens, waterfalls, bio forests, movie theatres, museums, art galleries, playgrounds and lots of fun things for kids. The dreaded “long layover” just might become one of the highlights of your trip.
Virtual assistants will be roaming about the airport and will answer any questions you have and everything you need for check-in, immigration, customs and boarding will all be stored in your mobile phone.
Here are some other things that you will be experiencing in the years to come. These are not just products of my imagination. These are all things that are being developed now:
• Chatbots, working alongside your travel consultant, will become your trusted travel assistants anytime, anywhere and, using predictive algorithms, will recommend and arrange where you might like to go, the best way to go, where you might want to stay, great places to eat, visit, sightsee, etc.
• Expense reports will be done for your business trips with no input needed from you.
• You will maybe never have to search for Wi-Fi again. It will be everywhere beaming from low-orbit satellites.
• You will not need a passport as biometric eye, face or hand vein scanners will replace them.
• You will never have a long wait at the check-in counter…In fact, there won’t even be check-in counters.
• You will never have a long wait at Immigration or Customs.
• Every “pain point” in the current airport routine will be automated and fast. We will be the last generation to experience the drudgery of “queueing” at the airport.
• You may never need to carry cash or exchange currency.
• You will never lose your luggage again.
• You will have access to instant, real time, contextually accurate translation in almost any foreign language – your associate speaks to you in Chinese and English comes out of your earbuds. You speak back to him in English and he hears the Chinese translation. (Hmmmm…I wonder if they will have Singlish lah. Can?)
• You will charge your devices through the air – no cables, no searching for power outlets.
• Heading for the airport? Your taxi might not have a human driver but be “driven” by AI.
• Overslept and running late for your flight? Why not take a flying taxi to the airport.
• Want to take the train? – how about the maglev train cruising silently at 600 kilometres per hour (and that’s just today’s speed)
• Not fast enough? How about the Hyperloop at 1000 kilometres per hour?
• High speed rail and Hyperloop will start to connect the far-flung corners of the world.
• You might even get to travel to space but… better start saving your money!
Some of these innovations will take a few decades to develop and some of them are happening now, but make no mistake – you will be seeing all of these and many, many more in the years to come.
We are all engulfed in a giant technological “wave” that is going to forever transform our world and the way we travel.
Whether you are ready for all of these changes or not, one thing is certain, we will all have a “front row seat” for perhaps the most fascinating time in human history to date.
Enjoy the ride!