Today is the public launch of the “BA 2119 Flight of the Future” exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London which runs until 26th August 2019. The exhibition is free to all visitors, but as I will describe, the showcase Virtual Reality experience is not.
I was at the preview event two days ago, where design concepts of next century were created by Royal College of Arts students. Commendably this work did not count for any credits towards their degrees!
One hundred years from now
Commissioning a 63-page report, British Airways and its expert panel of prognosticators and data research from over 13000 respondents discuss the defining features of aviation 100 years from now. This includes ideas such as:
“Hyper-personalisation; immersive virtual realities; 3D printed health solutions; modular aircraft connected to city infrastructure; hypersonic flying and the rise of super-slow ”flight cruises” “.
Environmental impact was a conscious decision amongst those surveyed, with 43% willing to pay more if the flight were more environmentally friendly and 45% saying they would opt for the slowest available flight if it was the greener option. This may take the form of planes powered by electricity and alternative fuels, with the ability to recharge in the air using aerial recharging stations…don't ask me how!
Similar to how modern policies are dictated by trends in sustainable development, the report predicts a desire for “air cruises” within 50 years, taking the form of slow, experiential flying perhaps with on-board yoga or other well-being classes. This rather juxtaposes an alternate scenario which predicts hyper-sonic modular aeroplanes which flies London to New York sub-3 hours and processes visa documentation and food and drinks choices automatically.
Overall, consumers want far greater personalisation from their flying experience. One particular statistic I found interesting was that 46% of respondents want a dedicated communal space for socialising, but this is noticeably more pronounced in customers from emerging markets such as Brazil (47%), India (69%), China (55%) and South Africa (47%) than with passengers from UK (30%), Germany (22%) and Japan (20%) who preferred a more private experience.
In his opening speech, CEO Alex Cruz of British Airways said:
The findings of the BA 2119: Flight of the Future Report not only offer us unprecedented insight into how consumers across the world feel about flying now, but what they will expect from us, as airlines, in the future. In the last ten years alone, the airline industry and flight experience has changed in so many significant ways, including improved fuel efficiency, noise reduction, in cabin design and luxury. It is therefore not hard to see how, at this rate of progress, these seemingly unreal predictions will come true.
This is a really exciting way to mark our centenary, which has seen us remember the past, celebrate the present and predict the future in collaboration with fantastic partners from across industry and academia.
But it didn't all go to plan as Cruz's speech was interrupted by this protestor though…
Someone protesting against BA at their BA2119 Future of Flying event against their involvement in deportations.
— Points to be Made ✈️ (@PTBMade) July 30, 2019
After the speech there was a panel discussion (also see Part 2 for my contribution to the discussion) :
Back in the exhibition room there was rather ostentatious egg in the middle which houses the ‘Fly' Virtual Reality experience written by Charlotte Windle Mikkelborg and her team of Oscar-winning VR motion team. This is the only chargeable part of the exhibition and you do need to book this experience in advance for £20 from this link. I was lucky enough to be the first ever person to try this and was truly amazed. Be prepared to experience everything in more ways than one, as Windle Mikkelborg describes in an interview with us:
We developed an interactive multi-sensory VR motion which is the first of its kind. We wanted to take the user on a journey through humankind's relationship and obsession with flight, which has gone right from Greek mythology with Icarus through to today's vision of hypersonic and space travel. We explore when human ingenuity started to be like glimmering signs we might be able to make it to the sky.
In Fly we start in 15th century Tuscany and Leonardo da Vinci in his ornithopter. Several centuries later we become Wilbur Wright in 1903 on Kitty Hawk Beach, then moving to the first commercial flight in a De Havilland bi-plane from London to Paris. We move forward into the Concorde and the A350 aircraft that British Airways recently acquired and zooming forwards, we go one hundred years into the future into what we believe one form of aviation could be…
Surrounding the VR experience is this interactive ‘Egg'. The idea being the concept of flight first taking a physical form when a bird is producing its offspring. If you touch the front panel of the egg you get to incubate it with your hands, watching it change colours and eventually ‘hatching'.
All in all, a worthwhile stop by the Saatchi Gallery if you are within easy reach of central London. There are also several other concurrent exhibitions which may be of interest to you too. Click here for the exhibition's official page.