In August of 2023, the California Public Utilities Commission passed a vote that allows driverless car companies Waymo and Cruise to expand their operations in San Francisco. Until now, Cruise and Waymo were only permitted to offer limited service within the city. This vote enables both companies to charge a fare for rides at any time of day or night, on any street within the municipality.
Waymo and Cruise are similar in concept to companies such as Uber or Lyft, just without the human driver. While some first responders are concerned that driverless vehicles have not yet perfected the method of getting out of the way of emergency vehicles such as ambulances and fire trucks, other travelers are hopeful that driverless vehicles will help to limit traffic fatalities, which are on the rise in San Francisco.
As airlines struggle to recover from COVID-19 losses, United Airlines displayed its new model for front-of-the-plane seats. The new seats, which will be used on narrow-body domestic flights, include wireless armrest charging stations, setback screens, large tray tables, privacy barriers between seats, and winged headrests to increase comfort.
Other airlines, including JetBlue and Delta, have also upgraded their seats recently in hopes of attracting travelers who are interested in paying higher fees for additional luxury.
United’s new seats will soon be showcased on the Boeing 737. They are being manufactured by aviation technology group, Safran. Mark Muren, managing director of identity for United, said, “There’s no one seat that can probably fulfill all of our needs but this is the one we want to build our future around in the domestic space”.
Air travel may finally be recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Although some experts predicted that rising inflation would keep vacationers close to home, Delta Airlines reports a 17% increase in demand for flights in the quarter that ends in June.
Despite rising fares, according to Expedia, there has been a 25% increase in flight searches for summer trips, and an even larger increase in searches for international travel to Europe and Asia.
Airlines are also feeling hopeful about the return of corporate travel. Now that offices are reopening after the pandemic, business people are once again willing to fly to meetings. This summer, a high percentage of seats are expected to be filled by people traveling for work.
The next challenge for the airlines will be to ensure they are prepared for this increase in travelers. Throughout the past year, the airline industry was plagued with thousands of cancellations due to bad weather and internal issues. To ensure that passengers arrive at their destinations in a timely manner, Daniel Janki, CFO of Delta, said that Delta has devoted time and energy to “ensuring that we have the right resources in the right places with the right level of training.”
Boom is in the process of developing an aircraft called Overture, expected to be officially completed and released in 2025. Overture can travel at almost twice the speed of sound, and is designed to fit 65 to 80 passengers. While the company recently released a sophisticated version of the jet, Overture is still in the early development stages and has not yet run a test flight.
Overture, however, is not the first of its kind. The Concorde was a supersonic jet with routes across the Atlantic Ocean, primarily between London and New York City. In 2003, the ultra-speedy aircraft was forced to halt its services. With seat prices reaching a steep $10,000 per person, and deafening engines preventing the jet from flying over land, use of the Concorde was unsustainable. Although many have asserted that high-speed jets won’t make a comeback for these reasons, airlines seem confident enough in their return to be investing in them. Prior to the current American Airlines purchase, United Airlines had publicized its plans last year to buy up to 15 supersonic jets from Boom.
Despite previous economic failures of the aircrafts, the US government has shown support for bringing supersonic jets back and the FAA is devising new sets of code regarding noise levels over land. While Boom hopes its jets can begin running by 2029, the aircrafts and routes will need to be approved.
Although it is still unclear whether or not Overture will be approved for flying, the possibility is exciting. Many would love the opportunity to reach London from Miami in less than five hours, or to travel from Los Angeles to Honolulu in just three hours.
Only time will tell what the likelihood is for supersonic jets to fill the airspace…let alone the price tag!
The global travel industry may be reeling a year into the Covid-19 pandemic, but at least one industry stalwart appears to believe the industry will recover from the crisis, and sooner rather than later.
Monday, Jet Blue Airlines (NASDAQ: JBLU) announced it would offer Mint class service, a high-end cabin with semi-private seating, lie-flat beds and bedside tables and a 17-inch screen, on its upcoming service between the United States and London. The airline is planning to launch non-stop flights between London and John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, and from London to Boston’s Logan Airport before the end of 2021.
No decisions have been announced regarding an arrival/departure airport in London.
Jet Blue upended the domestic travel sector in 2014 by introducing Mint on non-stop flights between New York and San Francisco. The company later announced plans to include the luxury seating option on its Transatlantic routes but many industry analysists expected that uncertainty about the near-to-medium term outlook for the travel sector would cause the airline to shelve those plans, at least temporarily.
In October, McKinsey & Company, predicted that the blow to the global tourism sector could be far worse than previously thought, perhaps up to $8.1 trillion lower than initial predictions following the emergence and spread of the coronavirus last year.
Echoing the concerns, Yahoo!Finance said that international tourism dropped by 65% in the first half of 2020 and added that it could be 2024 before global travel returns to 2019 levels.
Despite the poor outlook, however, Jet Blue Chief Operating Officer Joanna Geraghty told Bloomberg that the airline believes the travel industry will recover quickly once the pandemic is officially declared “over.”
“Demand changes quite quickly overnight when case counts come down and travel restrictions are lifted,” she said.