I once heard a fairytale about what it used to be like to fly. There were tall, friendly stewardesses who asked what temperature you liked your steak, and if they may offer a foot massage. Travelers dressed up when they flew and wore things like "suits" and "dresses." No one groped anyone before boarding (or buying them dinner, eh oh!), and anyone could carry-on as much liquid as they darn well wanted. It sounded like the height of sophistication.
But sadly that fairytale came to an end, and the bad news is about to get worse. The FAA announced today that there will be one billion domestic air travelers by 2021, and that the number will double in the next 20 years.
And you thought those security lines were long now.
Early on in my career, I averaged 16 domestic flights a month. A week would look something like New York to Los Angeles to San Fransisco to Portland back to New York. And the next week would be New York to Greensboro to Charleston to Orlando back to New York. I can tell you where the best burger is in about 25 US cities, and I can tell you that nothing can make up for the horrible aviation industry we're currently trapped in.
There is nothing refined nor painless about flying coach domestically. It's like taking a Greyhound bus, but with less legroom. Everywhere you turn there are angry people and even angrier toddlers. And it's only going to get worse. There will be more angry people and more angry toddlers and a more angry society.
I have a prediction because there's no way I'm the only one who sees this FAA press release as anything other than a slight from God. (We are being punished, I say!) As air travelers increase, there will be an emerging market for luxury travel accommodations. There will be people who want to and can pay to avoid the masses, and there will be companies that can and will provide that service.
I'm talking beyond first-class tickets and lounges. There will be services for private security lines, assisted check-in, and priority baggage so that it comes out first on the carousel. There will be exceptions to all aviation rules as we know them, and they will have a price. And there will be rich people who can pay for them. The rest of us will suffer. Our lines will get longer, our flights will get delayed, and our patience will get thinner. Until what? Who knows.
How do you see aviation evolving over time?
Photo via ricoeurian/Flickr