It’s been over 12 years since the world has seen or experienced supersonic flight. Concorde, a passenger jet that could cruise at speeds over 2,000 km/h, flew its last voyage in 2003.
Air France and British Airways both decided to decommission the airliner after passenger numbers dropped following a crash in 2000. Other factors that came into play included terrible fuel economy, high maintenance costs, low capacity, and the noise pollution of sonic boom. Despite the massive time saved for business travellers, it wasn’t a viable option for passengers either, with a return trip to New York from London ringing in at a hefty £8,000.
So, what’s new with supersonic flights?
In the years that have passed some things have changed. Boom, a start-up company is working strongly to reintroduce supersonic flight to the world of travel. It claims it can break down every barrier that stopped Concorde from succeeding long-term. Its proposal indicates a Boom sonic jet would be 10% faster than Concorde, achieving a flight from London to New York in a lazy 3.5 hours, at a price as low as $5,000. Sydney to Los Angeles would take a maximum of seven hours instead of the normal 14.
The company insists it can also make jets quieter, smoother, and more efficient than Concorde ever was to go with the lower price tag. Founder Blake Scholl says it will be a boon to business travellers especially.
“After seven hours in London, you can return home in the evening [to New York] and be able to tuck your kids into bed.”
NASA and BAE are also reportedly working on jets but Virgin group have placed their faith in Boom, Richard Branson investing $2 billion to buy their first 10 planes in commercial production. With over 500 global routes open to supersonic travel, Boom plans to fly their first prototype in 2017 and hope to roll out commercial flights around 2023.
Will supersonic flights be successful?
Given that every major airline can now lay some claim to providing satisfactory size, comfort, and opulence the only competitive edge left is time. And time is a big one. Suddenly the world becomes a much smaller place.
The ease of doing business dramatically increases and the prospect of international travel is much more appealing. It simply depends whether Boom’s definition of affordable aligns with society’s.
There’s no doubt people will pay for time but how low is low enough to let the entire market flood in? With each jet currently valued at $200 million, it won’t be easy to lower the cost per passenger.
The pros and cons of supersonic flight for hotels
It’s hard to determine exactly what affect supersonic flight will have on the hotel industry. It’s quite possible nothing much will change for a long time, but depending on the progress Boom and other companies make, hotels could find themselves losing some opportunities and gaining others.
The market funnel will widen significantly across the world. No flight time will induce a wince or a cringe anymore. Holidayers will have more options. They may choose to travel internationally instead of domestically thanks to the increased accessibility, or they might be able to extend their trip and visit more destinations.
Hotels could benefit from both of these scenarios and enjoy increased yearly traffic to boost their revenue.
Hotel marketers could think of ways to make sure they’re booking the supersonic travellers. e.g offering discounts to those that have spent more on flight tickets and connecting to a global distribution system to capitalise on the corporate travel market.
The obvious benefit of supersonic flight is to the business traveller, someone many hotels rely on for revenue. If frequent business travellers have the ability to do day trips instead of overnights, why wouldn’t they? This could be a potential blow to hotels if they lose business travellers in key markets such as New York, London, Sydney, Hong Kong and more.
However, with initial prices expected to be quite high, and capacity of flights to be low, only an exclusive number of travellers will using supersonic flight its infancy, so there’s no reason for hotels to panic.
Ultimately, supersonic flight is an exciting development for the travel industry in general and will no doubt capture people’s imagination the closer it comes to fruition.