How Will We Be Flying In 2030?

The major themes and trends in aviation over the next decade.

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CGI Image of Heathrow Airport Masterplan 2050
CGI Image of Heathrow Airport Masterplan 2050 (Image Credit: Heathrow)

How will we be flying on 1 January 2030?

Many things are a given. A number of existing airlines will fail or fold into others. New start-up airlines will come and go.

Climate change will dominate public discourse over the next decade, with airlines acutely conscious of the need to reduce CO2 emissions.

Both IAG and Qantas have committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Qantas has committed to cap its net carbon emissions at 2020 levels. easyJet is also offsetting carbon emissions from all flights.

Here are some of our predictions for themes and trends over the next decade:

No Third Runway At Heathrow

Even if Heathrow manages to overcome the environmental opposition and legal challenges to a third runway, the chances of it being operational by 2030 are slim at best.

Even based on current estimates if a third runway is constructed by 2026 it won’t be until 2050 that all the supporting infrastructure is completed.

At least Crossrail should be running to Heathrow by 2030.

Non-Stop Flights to Brisbane, Melbourne & Sydney

Is Qantas’ talk of non-stop flights from London to the East Coast of Australia merely hype?

It’s certainly true that Qantas have managed to generate a huge amount of PR before even ordering any aircraft.

That said, Qantas would not be briefing institutional investors, who are very unforgiving about not managing expectations, if it wasn’t intent on launching these flights.

So, bar some major unforeseen problem, look forward to non-stop flights from London Heathrow to Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney from 2023 and beyond.

More New Long-Haul Routes

A number of airlines have placed orders for the Airbus A321 XLR aircraft.

These include Aer Lingus (6 aircraft), American Airlines (50 aircraft), Iberia (8 aircraft), JetBlue (13 aircraft), Qantas Group (36 aircraft) and United (50 aircraft).

The Airbus A321 XLR is due to enter service from 2023. With a range of 4,700 nautical miles, the aircraft is seen as a enabling many new transatlantic routes between Europe and the US.

Electric Powered Aircraft & Sustainable Aviation Fuels

If not in the air by 2030, we should at least be close to hybrid electric aircraft for short-haul flights.

Harbour Air Seaplanes has completed a test flight of an aircraft powered by an electric propulsion system developed by magniX.

Eviation is developing a battery powered commuter aircraft and US airline Cape Air has purchase options for this aircraft.

Airlines around the world continue to invest in Sustainable Aviation Fuels. United already procures fuel from World Energy and has invested in Fulcrum BioEnergy. IAG is partnering with Velocys which aims to introduce waste-to-jet-fuel from 2024 from a new plant in South Humberside.

Zero-Waste Flights

For airlines, plastics are cheap, lightweight and also help meet strict food hygiene standards. The environmental consequences are well documented.

Qantas has trialed a “zero-waste” flight in May 2019 as part of plan to remove 100 million single use plastic items by the end of 2020. The design agency PriestmanGoode has designed prototype meal trays made of sustainable materials.

Air New Zealand is even trialling edible coffee cups made by local firm Twiice.

The challenge for airlines will be how to secure alternative materials in sufficient quantity for the scale of their worldwide operations and supply chains.

The Automated Airport, Up To A Point

Passengers are already used to automation and self-service facilities at the airport, such as self-service bag drops, automatic boarding gates, and facial recognition technology.

More automation will come, such as baggage handling robots. But there will be limits. Do passengers needing assistance really wanted to be guided through an airport by a robot? Sometimes a human touch is still required.

There Will Be An Industry Crisis

Over the past 30 years, the aviation industry has had to deal with many external shocks such as the 1997 Asian financial crisis, 11 September 2001, SARS, and the 2008 financial crash.

Whilst most major airline groups have enjoyed relatively buoyant conditions in recent years, it is inevitable that there will be some form of external shock creating an industry downturn before 2030.

For those airline groups that have preached the need for sustainable financial returns throughout the economic cycle, it is a chance for them to prove their resilience.

But, with that said…

Alitalia Will Still Be Here

Whatever happens, Alitalia will still be here.

There’s always someone, whether it be the Italian Post Office or Etihad, to save it from bankruptcy.

We welcome any thoughts and comments below: