Tuesday 27 June 2017

Flying into a brighter future

Gemma O'Doherty

Maddening delays, lousy service, missing luggage -- flying really does put your mental well-being to the test. But there's a silver lining on the horizon.

At their annual pow-wow to discuss the future of flying, airline gurus have spelt out their vision for the coming decades, and it all looks rather rosy.

By the year 2050, accidents will be almost a thing of the past, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) claims, as safety features on planes will become so crash-proof that even the dopiest of pilots or the most determined of terrorists will find them impossible to subvert.

"In 40 years' time, the world's airlines will be very close to zero accidents," revealed IATA chief Giovanni Bisignani earlier this month, as he launched Vision 2050 -- Shaping Aviation's Future, a new initiative aimed at securing the industry throughout a four-decade time-frame.

He painted a world free of bottlenecks, where planes fly with "almost no delays in globally united skies" thanks to consolidated air-traffic-control services.

Better still, airport queues will be "eliminated" thanks to integrated security systems, which know who you are before you have even reached departures.

This dreamy future will be kind to the planet, too. In four decades, planes will emit only half the carbon they do today, as locally produced biofuels replace oil.

After test flights from several airlines, certification of biofuel-powered flights is expected within a year, according to IATA.

The sunny forecast comes at a time when new projections suggest that this year will see the first recovery in airline profitability since the recession began, despite the horrors unleashed on the industry by the Icelandic ash plume in the spring.

"April gave us a vivid picture of life without aviation," said Bisignani. "Ten million people were stranded. Hotels were empty. Seafood and flowers rotted. The volcano cost the global economy $5bn (€4bn) -- far more than the $1.8bn (€1.45bn) of lost airline revenue. It was a wake-up call.

"It reminded us that without air-connectivity, modern life is impossible."

If you'd like to get a taste of the future for Irish air travellers, Dublin Airport Authority is seeking 4,000 volunteers to put its new Terminal 2, which opens in November, to the test.

So, if you're a fussy flyer, grab your hard hat and sign up to the trials. That way, you can have your say in how the finished product actually works.

The 'virtual passengers' will experience first-hand the design of what has been Ireland's largest, single construction project, and can judge if the area is comfortable, efficient and easy to navigate. The new terminal will be the departure point for all scheduled long-haul traffic out of Dublin.

We'll have our own team of travel writers snooping around in the coming months, checking the loos and the quality of the coffee, but we'd love to know what participants in the trials make of it.

Email your ideas and opinions to godoherty@independent.ie.

Irish Independent

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