APEX Insight: Speakers inside and outside of the commercial aviation industry gathered at FTE in Las Vegas, September 6–8, to share their ideas of travel. They included executives and technologists from Hyperloop, Uber, Microsoft, Airbus A3 and others, giving the audience a glimpse of what travel could look like in the near and distant future.
Tube Travel and Teleportation?
Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), kicked off FTE Global by asking the audience whether they were familiar with hyperloop. While idea of a magnetic-levitation and propulsion-transportation tube sounds farfetched outside the realm of TV shows such as The Jetsons or Futurama, it is becoming a reality in a massive way: India, is the latest country to be added to the list of future locations for HTT’s hyperloop, Ahlborn announced at the show, alongside South Korea, France, United Arab Emirates, Czech Republic and Indonesia.
Looking even further into the future was the concept of traveling through avatars. Kevin Kajitani and Akira Fukabori, the minds behind ANA Avatar XPRIZE, explained that All Nippon Airways (ANA), which started more than 60 years ago with the goal of connecting people within Japan using a fleet of two helicopters, is looking into travel – not just by aircraft – but by whatever form the future shapes it to be.
Kajitani, intrapreneur, Digital Design Lab, ANA Holdings, and Fukabori, intrapreneur, Market Communication, ANA, painted a future where travelers would be able to see, hear, talk, touch and feel an experience from anywhere in the world. For example, not only would someone sitting in Las Vegas be able to pet and play with a lion in Kenya, but he or she would even be able to feel the texture of the feline’s fur. Because of this, Fukabori said travel booking sites in the future will be based on experiences that can be had through avatars, rather than on destinations. The duo also talked about the possibility of teleportation in the very distant future, identifying quantum computing and bandwidth as the only setbacks. But despite their forward thinking, they believe the human desire for physical connections will always drive the need for physical travel.
The Future Travel Experience Is Autonomous, Connected, Electric and Shared (ACES)
While “ACES” usually refers to the automotive industry, Garen Moreno, director, Strategic Partnering at Designworks, a BMW Group Company, and host of podcast Departure Unknown, sees these values applying to air travel. Guests on his panel, from Zunum Aero, Boom Supersonic, Uber and Airbus A3, talked about the need for other modes of transportation, in addition to airplanes, to fill the need for regional short-haul travel, faster travel, more efficient travel and flexible passenger experiences. These ideas are and would be disruptive to airport operations and architecture, for example, but the panelists agreed on the need to work within the current commercial aviation infrastructure for their innovations to take off.
Here Comes the Bus
After all the talk of future travel, it would seem odd to look to mass transit – buses – for inspiration. But, FlixBus, the neon green budget intercity buses that have taken Europe by storm, is worth a case study. Pierre Gourdain, general manager, Americas, FlixBus, which recently set up shop in California, explained one of the reasons for their brand’s success is because they have good timing when it comes to customer service: Buses are often delayed – so are airplanes – but communicating that delay to the passenger, a few hours, rather than minutes, before their departure, is key to giving passengers more control over what could easily turn into a negative experience: Instead of feeling frustration while waiting at the boarding gate, they can choose to take more time to pack, dine at a restaurant or watch another episode of TV.
Gourdain also said there is a lot of emphasis on segmentation to tailor products and services to different generations, but this isn’t always the answer: He gives the example of his elder father who relished a fist bump he was offered by a driver in the United States: Sometimes people want to be treated like everybody else.
Future Travel Experience Global took place September 6–8 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. For further coverage of the event, click here.