Faster Thinking

Five big ideas for the future of air travel

British Airways recently partnered with social media news site Mashable to create CurioCity – a contest that challenged the tech communities in Austin and London to come up with innovative ideas for the future of travel. And ideas flooded in: from infrared cameras that estimate how long it will take you to get through the airport to an app that lets you crowd-source itineraries. But what can we expect to see in the not-so-distant future? Catriona Woodward, the airline’s digital marketing innovation manager, predicts five trends that will take off in the aviation industry


Location-based messaging

The BA app recently released push notifications. As a part of this project, we are testing the use of iBeacons in our lounges to welcome customers and inform them of the Wi-Fi password. This technology allows us to identify a relevant customer’s location and then push appropriate information to them. It’s currently being used in a number of airports for wayfinding and to predict queueing times. In the USA, iBeacons are being trialled at Major League Baseball stadiums to guide people to the toilets and exits.


Virtual reality

As virtual reality headsets become more of an everyday item in people’s homes, travellers will be able to start testing potential hotels or airlines before they have even set foot in an airport. As personal camera technology improves, you’ll be able to film your experiences so you can relive them through virtual reality at home and share them with friends and family – further expanding the reliance on social recommendations and reviews in the decision-making process.


Smart lenses

While Google Glass (above) is still in beta-testing phase, the next logical development is a smart contact lens – then we really start getting into the stuff of which sci-fi films are made. These contact lenses of the future will feed you relevant or requested information, based on your personal profile and location. That could be anything from a notification that you need to go to your gate at the airport, to in-flight entertainment while you’re on board


Smart fuels

We all know fossil fuels are limited, so a key trend for the travel industry to consider is alternative energy sources. To tackle the problem, BA has been working with Solena Fuels to build the first facility to convert landfill waste into jet fuel. Once operational, the scheme will produce enough fuel annually to power BA flights from London City Airport twice over, with carbon savings the equivalent of taking 150,000 cars off the road. 


Wellbeing when you fly

Looking after our bodies is a trend extending to the air. BA has always considered the body’s physiology when developing the customer experience, from the seat design to the selection of food and wine served on board. In June, we conducted an experiment with a ‘happiness blanket’ (above) – the technology uses a person’s brainwaves to measure how relaxed they are during a flight, and so determine the conditions under which they slept best. With the increasing adoption of smart fabrics and wearable technologies giving individuals more visibility and control over their wellbeing, I predict that passengers will be much more connected to the travelling environment and make decisions about their experience based on how they feel or how their body reacts.

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