The future of travel: Ultra-long range flights, bleisure and instagrammability
The world of air travel is rapidly transforming, powered by new technologies, demographics, destinations and – arguably most importantly – new motivations for travelling.
Ultra-long distance air travel is a great example of how new technological developments have enabled greater connectivity across the globe to support the growing demand for travel. The latest generation of passenger aircraft are built using advanced composite materials and can fly ultra-long distances without having to stop to refuel, says Tan Kai Ping, Senior Vice President Marketing Planning at Singapore Airlines.
Take the world’s longest commercial flight, offered by Singapore Airlines, which makes the 16,700km journey from Singapore to New York on an Airbus A350-900ULR in 18 hours and 45 minutes. Or a direct flight from Singapore to Seattle, which began operating on September 3, 2019.
In previous types of aircraft, spending such a long time on board might have seemed daunting. But this new generation of extra-wide body jets, such as those used by Singapore Airlines and other airlines – with their high ceilings, large windows and clever cabin enhancements (mood lighting, improved seating, higher cabin pressure, reduced cabin noise), promise to make the journey less stressful, enjoyable and – for business travellers – highly productive. Even small touches, like the use of new materials such as carbon fibres for inflight products, have transformed the inflight experience, says Tan, as they make it possible to design better seats, improve ergonomics, offer a new tactile feel and increase the living space for travellers.
But these new direct flights do not replace hub airports, which continue to be popular – either as a destination or as a convenient way of breaking up long journeys. Singapore, for instance, is a popular stopover destination and a gateway to travellers flying to Asia from the West. Instead, these point-to-point flights offer travellers who are tight for time an efficient option for a seamless journey.
One positive consequence of this trend is the rise of new destinations, often closely aligned to new economic powerhouses such as Busan in South Korea, leisure destinations such as Canberra and Cairns in Australia or remote areas of natural beauty such as Lombok in Indonesia. Joining this middle class is also a new generation of independent travellers with a distinct appetite for new experiences. For these millennials, those born in the two decades after 1980, their travel choices are informed by their social media diet, especially Instagram, a platform where #travel is one of the two most-used hashtags (alongside #beauty).
More than 40 per cent of travellers under the age of 33 take “instagrammability” into account when they choose their next holiday destination, says Guevara. Then there are all the “influencers” on Instagram, YouTube and other social media channels, who are triggering new trends both in terms of destinations and how to travel. Take @thebucketlistfamily and @wanderluststorytellers – two families who through their photos and videos are inspiring millions to try lesser-known destinations.
Change in the travel industry is a constant. With new travel destinations, new aircraft with greater range, and new ways for passengers to discover and plan their next trip, the industry will continue to rapidly evolve to meet customers’ growing desire to travel.