Designing Air Travel to be Special Again


In the beginnings of passenger aviation, few individuals were fortunate enough to be able to fly. There was a whole aura around the few lucky people who were once airborne. Back then, fashion and flying went hand in hand and charismatic individuals were associated with the airlines. Nowadays many people can fly, it is not a special experience anymore, there is no heightened sense of fashion associated with flying, and airlines are mostly part of strategic alliances with no real figurehead. So, how do you get people excited about flying again?

There are companies that stand out and differentiate themselves in all product and service categories. Take cars, for example; you can buy those that are cheap, luxurious, sporty, safe, funky, large, small, etc. With airlines, you can fly with one company that is just marginally different than another. You have economy, business, and first class, but everyone can provide those. What happened to great services is like what happened to great hotel experiences.

Sometimes regular carriers can be cheaper than budget airlines for the same route, so how do you choose who to fly with? If you are at the top of an airline company, just ask yourself: why would someone fly with you? You will probably say that your cabin has an inch more of legroom, you have higher quality Spam, and that your air hosts are friendlier. That may be black and white, but it can’t be far from the truth. All I can say is that these things will not set you apart from the competition.

So, are there people who will get excited about flying? Of course there are always a few who will be, but I mean large groups of people. Do you think about it as just going from point A to point B? I would argue that this is not the case for everyone. Going back to the car example, there are people who buy the most expensive cars they can afford to go from point A to B as well. The difference is the experience along the way. You simply need to know that good design can improve service.

How do you make people excited about flying again? You have to create a new identity. Of course this will not be possible to maintain for every route, but on busy transatlantic routes for example, you could find a market for your high quality services.

How do you do this? You simple have to look at history and see what happened during the pioneering days of passenger air travel. The services provided would be considered extremely luxurious today. Some people called airplanes flying restaurants. Would you say the same today?

Furthermore, you have to create a whole new identity such as Velvet Airlines. Having a charismatic face leading the company will also help. You simply have to have people identify with the greatest airline services they could imagine. With this, I do not mean marginally different, but to create a whole new league of air travel. People have to experience services they cannot experience with the alternatives. Do you think there is no market for such services? Well, the Bugatti Veyron gets sold, so why not have people excited about flying?

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