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Research predicts air travel trends of 2025

13 Dec 2011

By 2025 there will be no check-in counters, no checked baggage, and no security checks for certain customers, says a market research firm. 

CAP Strategic Research, a company that specialises in market research and marketing consultancy for the aviation industry has just released a paper entitled, The Airport of the Future. Based on interviews with over 60 airlines, 25 airports and more than 5,000 passengers, the predictions, if realised, will dramatically alter the way we travel. These findings, which have been endorsed by IATA, are necessary, says CAP, if airports are to be able to handle increasing passenger numbers, and for airlines to continue to operate. Roger Thomas, managing director for firm said that without a major change the consumer aviation industry will no longer be competitive or profitable. He added that he expects that once passengers accept these changes they will ultimately once again enjoy air travel. 

Here are trends the paper tells us to expect:

No check-in counters

Many airlines already operate self-service kiosks and are charging for check-in baggage, especially low cost carriers. And frequent travellers are already checking in online and preferring the ease of self-check-in kiosks. Yet long lines in the departure area of airports testify that many travellers prefer, or opt to, use check-in counters. CAP says that by 2025 there will be no choice as there will be no check-in desks at airports. "Check-in services are costing airlines a lot of money and take a lot of space," noted Thomas. The end result of this change, he says, will be to save airlines money and to free up space for airports, especially those already operating at full capacity such as Heathrow. 

No checked baggage

Another key finding is that passengers will not be allowed check-in baggage in the future. While some airlines, such as Ryanair charge for check-in baggage, this will become the norm. Instead, passengers will be allowed carry-on luggage only. To accommodate an increase in carry-on CAP makes two predictions: planes will need to offer bigger overhead compartments — even bigger than those in next-generation aircraft such as the Dreamliner, or provide luggage areas on aircraft similar to those found on high-speed trains; or will provide a paid luggage cargo service whereby a passenger's luggage (for a high fee) will be picked up in advance of travel, flown in a cargo plane and delivered to the passenger's destination address. 

No security checks

Perhaps the most controversial finding is the three-tier system for passengers, which Thomas referred to as "Trusted Travellers", "Normal Travellers" and "Enhanced Risk". Trusted travellers will no longer be subjected to any security checks. For a fee, these travellers will undergo substantial vetting and background checks that, if passed, will allow them to go through a different channel to the other two passenger groups. Thomas said that depending on factors such as price, how often the passenger will need to pay (annually, every five years etc) and the depth of background check, up to 20 per cent of travellers may fit this category, but more realistically the figure should be around 7 per cent, consisting predominately of frequent travellers. Those in the normal category will continue to go through security checks that are similar to those currently in force, while enhanced risk passengers will be subject to even more stringent security procedure. Factors that will increase the likelihood of being deemed high-risk will be age, nationality, tickets paid in cash and infrequency of travel. 

Thomas furthered that 19 governments are already developing such a system, including the US, Canada, Sweden, Germany and South Korea, but China is not one of them. Those governments that support this system feel that this will improve security, and ensure an easier form of travel for the majority. According to Thomas, one of the stumbling blocks to a government developing its own system is that a traveller may be deemed trusted or normal in one country and enhanced risk in another. He said that to solve this problem IATA is currently discussing a global system. 

Other predictions

CAP also concluded the following:

Passengers will not have to go through emigration or immigration procedures — many countries already have an automated system for citizens but this will move to a global system based on fingerprint, iris and facial recognition technologies.

New boarding procedures will be introduced — the current back-to-front method is considered inefficient. Research from the US has shown that that the best way to board a plane is by placing passengers every other row from one side starting from the back and simulations show this method takes about half the time of current procedures.

There will be no shops at airports — instead there will be showrooms where passengers can handle and check goods and if they wish to make a purchase and the goods will be delivered to their preferred address, similar to online shopping. CAP predicts that people will be more likely to make purchases because this system will ensure that they don't have to lug purchases with them.

Airports globally will operate 24 hours — many airports in Europe and the US currently have curfews imposed but there is mounting pressure on governments to lift these restrictions as a way to increase capacity instead of building new airports and runways which is time consuming and costly. 

Traveller benefits

According to Thomas all of these changes will result in air travel becoming an enjoyable experience due to less or no time spent queuing at security and immigration. They will have more time to shop, eat and drink and there will be no lost luggage nightmares.

Unfortunately, despite reduced costs these changes will bring to airlines and airports, he doubted that these reduced costs would translate to lower fares.

Click here for another in-depth look at the airports of the future, which featured in the Business Traveller Asia-Pacific July/August issue. 

Vicki Williams

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