At the moment, airlines are still flying high. Low fuel prices and high passenger demand continue to help carriers deliver strong profits. But there are threats on the horizon that are much bigger than near-term increases in fuel and labor costs or political uncertainty. Instead, revolutionary innovations in overland transportation—namely, autonomous vehicles and Hyperloop—have the potential to disrupt commercial aviation in dramatic ways. At a minimum, both technologies have the capacity to make short-haul air travel obsolete. Why fly from Seattle to San Francisco if your autonomous car, complete with a lie-flat bed and big screen TV, can just drive you there overnight? And why fly from Los Angeles to New York if Hyperloop can get you there in under an hour, and without burning any fossil fuels?
This is all to say that truly exceptional passenger experiences onboard commercial aircraft won’t be nice-to-haves. They’ll be requisites for the industry’s survival. Furthermore, how we design the future passenger experience around connectivity in particular will have to be a lot more profound than what the industry might be considering now.
Here are the key connectivity-related innovations airlines and airports need to start designing today to be relevant in the looming era of autonomous vehicles and Hyperloop.