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British Airways’ Flight of the Future exhibition opens at London’s Saatchi Gallery

30 Jul 2019 by Tom Otley
British Airways panel 2019

British Airways has launched its ‘BA 2119: Flight of the Future’ exhibition at London’s Saatchi Gallery.

The event opened with a speech by British Airways CEO Alex Cruz, which was briefly interrupted by a protester from Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants arguing against the airline allowing itself to be used for deportations.

A protester interrupts British Airways CEO Alex Cruz. Credit: Tom Otley/Business Traveller

The exhibition is a collaboration with the Royal College of Art, with over 40 postgraduate students asked to imagine the future of travel, including advanced jet propulsion, hyper personalisation, automation, AI, modular transport, sustainability, health and the entertainment.

The students had data in the form of trends and drivers from research commissioned by British Airways through insights organisation Foresight Factory. The research surveyed 13,000 consumers across 10 countries and did consultations with leading experts.

Personalisation was a theme, with consumers seeing the end of airline ‘classes’, and the rise of bespoke packages where passengers pay for a customisable experience, based on options for space and entertainment.

Over 70 per cent of passengers said they want inflight technology that allows them to self-complete immigration and visa controls while they are still in the air, although presumably this is only for countries which allow you to leave this until the last moment.

British Airways flight of the future panel

Encouragingly, although a minority of passengers wanted greater privacy, some 46 per cent wanted a communal space for socialising.

In addition, though it is possible that new supersonic flights might cut travel times, there is also a prediction that slow travel will become popular, with slow experiential flights for passengers who want a leisurely start to their holidays.

For the transfer to the airport, we may see the rise of autonomous VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) modular drones, which would fly via aerial highways to a wide number of destinations including airports.

A panel discussion took place for media at the opening of the exhibition, with London City Airport’s Chief Operating Officer Alison Fitzgerald, Head of Global Innovation at IAG Dupsy Abiola, Director and Co-Founder of Superflux Anab Jain, and Ian Scoley from Safran Cabin Innovation and Design Studio.

British Airways flight of the future panel

“Our roads are congested beyond belief,” said Scoley.

“VTOL will change the landscape of cities. When the normal man on the street can use them, it will change the face of the city because urban cities don’t need to be so centralised.”

A “Skytrain scenario” would see these VTOL drones grouping together to travel for some of the journey, making them safer and more energy efficient, before they split off to individual destinations.

The exhibition also has a full-motion, virtual reality experience called ‘Fly’, which traces humankind’s relationship to flying by allowing visitors to become a time-travelling pilot, taking them from Leonard da Vinci and his ornithopter, to the Wright Brothers’ Kitty Hawk, to the first inaugural passenger flight to Paris. Users can also experience Concorde, the brand new A350 and the imagined flight of future.

The installations and virtual reality experience will be on display at the Saatchi Gallery from August 1 to August 26, 2019.

Entry to the exhibition is free but tickets for the virtual reality experience need to be purchased at www.ba.com/ba2119.

Read more about the near-future of aviation in our recent feature:

Sustainable aviation: Fuelling change

britishairways.com

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