I happen to mostly like when the new year starts on a Wednesday. It basically means two weeks of nothing going on (at least not which matters too much) and time to catch up on some of the less significant stories making the rounds. One such story which was a fun read was predictions from airline CEOs (and one other guy) about what the future of the aviation industry will bring.
Some of the predictions are so obvious as to be downright silly. Delta‘s CEO predicts fewer 50-seat RJs flying within 5 years (duh!) and United’s CEO thinks that fuel efficiency will continue to rise while operating/maintenance costs will go down (double duh!). Both predictions are so obvious and actually already happening so it is hard to say that they are really predictions at all.
Other predictions are less positive. Mark Dunkerley, CEO Hawaiian Airlines, is predicting that many passengers will be priced out of the market. This will come about because of insufficient investments in infrastructure and a highly regulated industry, both of which will drive costs up faster than the efficiencies of modern planes can push them back down. This claim is countered by Etihad CEO James Hogan who sees the new major carriers in the emerging markets as keeping fares in check, though it is not clear what their impact will be on local/regional traffic versus long-haul service.
And, finally, there are the slightly crazy predictions. Richard Branson (the only non-CEO on the list) expects space flight to become a very real commercial travel experience, with things like sub-2 hour flights from London to Sydney possible. I won’t argue that it is possible but it certainly plays in to the predictions Dunkerley made about travel becoming less affordable.
As for me, I don’t have too many predictions related to the industry overall. I certainly continue to believe that the loyalty program side of things is going to continue its shift towards a revenue-based model from a distance-based one. Of course, I made fun of two CEOs for “predicting” something which is already happening so me making that claim here probably isn’t so bold. And on the longer horizon – say 25+ years out – I don’t actually think all that much will change in terms of how we’re flying around the world. I do not expect individualized transport which skips airports and connections, for example, just like I don’t expect massive numbers of passengers flying in space nor drones to be handling package delivery. Not because it is impossible – far from that – but because it isn’t going to be financially viable. Lots of things are possible but very few of them happen unless someone figures out how to make money selling that service. We’re a long way out on many things there.
What are your predictions for the coming year? Five years? Longer?
Random aside: Christmas and New Years were also on a Wednesday in 2002. I was quoted in a NYTimes story about it then. Not much has changed in the intervening 13 years.
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