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The future of Economy Class: Renaissance of the Golden Age?

The Golden Age of Travel may well and truly be behind us, but in the rapidly evolving travel industry, what is the future looking like for airline cabins, specifically in cattle *ahem* Economy Class?

The Golden Age of Travel may well and truly be behind us, but in the rapidly evolving travel industry, what is the future looking like for airline cabins, specifically in cattle *ahem* Economy Class?

There was a time when flying was as glamorous as your average red carpet movie premiere on Hollywood Boulevard. Ladies wore frocks, gentleman suits, and champagne was served upon boarding.

My how things have changed?!

These days, people wear whatever’s comfortable – the fashion police be dammed!

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And who could blame them?

In an aviation landscape of smaller and smaller seats, budget airlines charging for services that only years ago were considered part and parcel of the flying experience, and generally cramped conditions, flying is no longer dancing amongst the clouds but a temporary form of torture that transports you from A to B.

I know, that’s a pretty dramatic statement to make, but flying simply isn’t as comfortable as it was just a generation ago.

And what’s worse, there’s even concern in the industry that it’s set to become even crappier, with talks of the ‘standing cabin’ taken seriously by a number of airlines, such as Ryanair, Spring Airlines (Chinese airline), and even Airbus.

“The problem with aviation is that for 50 years it’s been populated by people who think it’s a wondrous sexual experience when it’s really just a bus with wings.”

Michael O’Leary, Ryanair CEO, speaking to Mail Travel.

True, such talk hasn’t been motivated by a commitment in making flying as miserable as possible just for the sake of it, but simply as a way of reducing expenses and ultimately making flying more affordable.

So should we be concerned?

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The fact is that every single part of the flying experience is currently being overhauled and improved – especially in Economy Class.

And we have technological innovation to thank for that!

For example, Wi-Fi connectivity on planes is changing the game up in the air, and not just in terms keeping you entertained on long-haul flights.

Based on the assumption that most passengers are already carrying their own mobile devices onboard, some airlines are already delivering their movie and TV content wirelessly and doing away with those bulky entertainment systems on the back of the aircraft’s seat, freeing up space in the cabin and reducing the plane’s weight – hello cheaper tickets!

The introduction of LED lighting on aircraft is also having a significant positive impact on the overall flying experience by apparently reducing jet lag, especially during night flights.

It’s so promising, in fact, that the new ‘Airspace by Airbus‘ cabin concept makes extensive use of LED ambient lighting. And Airbus generally get things right…

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Speaking of the Airspace by Airbus concept, anti-bacterial surfaces in bathrooms, self-flushing toilets, and soothing sounds are all part of the new flying experience too, potentially reducing passenger-to-passenger transmission of airborne disease.

And then there is the cost factor.

The dwindling price of oil this year has made flying in 2016 cheaper than it’s been in years (15 percent cheaper than last year, for instance).

Combine that with reduced cabin weight, better fuel efficiency (see easyJet’s eco-plane concept), and increased competition (there are now nearly 400 commercial airlines in the world), flying is set to become even more accessible in the near future.

That is if the cost of fuel remains the same or continues to fall… And not even KarryOn could tell you that!

Stay tuned for next week when we pull out our crystal ball and look to the future of Premium Economy, Business and First Class.

What do you think about the future of Economy? Are you generally excited or not? Let us know in the comments below.