The delivery of the first Boeing 787 to All Nippon Airways makes this week a good time to reflect on how the aviation industry has and continues to develop.
Often described as a “game changer” for air travel, the B787 aircraft is undoubtedly a triumph of technology and allows airlines to connect more city pairs, more fuel efficiently than ever before. The “global village” will become even more accessible and the world an even smaller place.
Frequent Flyers Living the “Dream”
The initial branding of the aircraft as the “Dreamliner” is a perfect illustration of the way people feel about air travel, but is it really about the flying or actually more about what air travel gives us?
By way of example the first flight my mother took was a trip from the UK to the United States to see her sister. The flight was a big part of the overall excitement of the trip and genuinely made column inches in the local paper. At that time long-haul air travel was truly a dream for the majority.
In contrast I have made more than a dozen flights in the past two months. Some for leisure, most for business, long haul, short haul, day trips (it is amazing how far a day trip can now be!), domestic and international—the modern flight descriptions list goes on.
While many might think that sounds exciting, the stark reality of this dream mode of travel is that I have lots of small bottles and just a single plastic bag!
Aviation Dream Lives on in Africa
For regular travelers there is now a “hassle factor” that goes with passing through airports. This hassle doesn’t however appear to be detracting from the panache of air travel as airlines continue to attract an increasing number of passengers. In fact, the number of passengers travelling by air has increased by 60 percent in 10 years.
I was in Ethiopia recently to deliver a speech on airline insurance to the African Aviation conference and it was clear that in less developed parts of the world the dream of air travel remains. In fact, close to 60 million African travellers took to the skies last year, up from around 18 million in 2001.
As a means of transport air travel is now low-cost enough to compete with crowded trains in Africa or India or simply generate passengers out of thin air from an increasing global and mobile middle class. In this case it is surely not about the aircraft they travel on but fact that they can travel on an aircraft at all.
Modern aircraft are seemingly best news for airlines. They allow them to move more passengers further, faster, more safely while all the time burning less fuel.
So remember when you are next undoing your shoes while keeping one eye on your laptop that you are “living the dream,” it just might not be yours!