1. Revolutionising private air travel
In 2019 the industry will take real strides towards realising aerial ride-sharing at scale.
The first full feasibility studies will be launched into this, to navigate the incredibly complex regulatory landscape and help work out the right models, ensure full compliance and determine the necessary infrastructure.
This is a mammoth task – the equivalent of launching a 5G network in the sky – and builds on the well-documented Uber Elevate project, which has made headlines this year with its electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) technology.
2. A breakthrough for fuel efficiency
Pioneering design work is set to progress the efficiency of wings on commercial aircraft, allowing for enhanced fuel efficiency.
We anticipate 2019 will see the first full test flights of the Boeing 777X, a game-changer in many ways: the largest and most efficient twin-engine jet yet, boasting the widest wingspan of any aircraft to dramatically improve fuel efficiency.
The model will also feature composite wings, with folding tips, allowing it to shorten its width for storage and movement around airports.
3. Delivering operational efficiency
As the industry continues to develop, there’ll be a renewed focus on suppliers demonstrating commercial viability and improved efficiency.
The Airbus A380, for example, has clear strengths and supporters, but concerns around rising maintenance and operating costs will likely instigate change.
Expect Airbus to consider again a NEO or Plus variant, as airlines debate returning these models to lessor companies.
4. Continued improvement in passenger service and experience
New IATA baggage protocols will continue to increase passengers’ visibility and control over checked luggage in 2019.
Building on 2018, legislation requiring airlines to track bags at four key points (passenger handover to airline, loading to aircraft, delivery to transfer area, and upon return to passenger), airports will need to move towards Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) or other Near Field Technologies, rather than paper tags, to track luggage.
This increased connectivity will mean less queuing and increased peace of mind for passengers, who should soon be able to track their bags via an app on their smartphone.
5. Reworked regulation to reduce noise impact on nearby communities
National Regulators will work with ICAO to bring in new regulation around aviation noise to mitigate its impact on surrounding communities.
Regulations will be adapted to encourage the use of modern technologies and airspace management to reduce the noise-scape around airports.
This will replace outdated regulations designed decades ago, to better reflect the growth of cities around airports and to more appropriately deal with the increased demand for travel.
This needs to be firmly on the radars of regulators, designers, airports, airlines and suppliers.
6. Driverless vehicles power forward
In 2019, we will see the first full Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) trials held on both landside vehicles and airside Ground Support Equipment (GSE) vehicles.
IATA has indicated that there are now over 40 use cases for CAVs, as we anticipate 2019 to deliver wider trials and more blue-sky thinking converted into practical developments – around passenger transport, baggage-handling, aircraft loading and more.
7. E-flight makes progress
The next year will likely witness the first commercially viable e-flight flown and the emergence of full fleet plans, as the industry works to cut fossil fuel usage.
EU regulators are keen for progress here and technologies are still improving exponentially – so everything is set up for continued progress.
Airports and airlines now need to continue to work together to start making plans a reality.
8. Zero touch terminal and customer insights
Next year should bring the first trialling of a full zero touch terminal experience, whereby increased connectivity and new technologies allow passengers to pass through airport check-in and security quickly and seamlessly, without multiple contact and stops at check points.
We are now moving towards one single source of identity – whereby an individual’s passport, boarding pass and all other travel information can be stored in one single location digitally - on mobile devices, or, looking further ahead, using biometric technology.
This will allow for one quick contactless scan, as passengers move through the terminal.
Increased connectivity will also allow for the gathering of more information on passengers and their journey preferences – such as the services used whilst at the airport – providing valuable insights into how the travel experience can be improved and personalised long-term.