If you think driverless cars are far-fetched, then how about a pilotless plane? It’s a concept that could cut air fares and save the airline industry money. A total of £27 billion a year could be clawed back, taking into account pilots’ salaries, training and fuel, as automated aeroplanes would be more efficient.
Flying with an empty cockpit is well within the realms of reality, as demonstrated by military drones, but is being flown by remote control an idea that holidaymakers are happy with? According to investment bank UBS, who carried out research on 8,000 people and asked that very question, the answer is a definite ‘no’. More than half (54%) of respondents said they were unlikely to fly without a pilot upfront. Only 17% of those questioned would consider themselves ‘likely’ to go on a pilotless aircraft, even if air fares were reduced.
UBS estimates that the cost of air travel for passengers could be reduced by an average of 11% for US flights, while the savings passed on to those flying within Europe could be anything between 4% and 8%, depending on the carrier.
Despite the fact that much of modern air travel already uses automated systems for take-off, cruising and landing, industry experts say it will be a long time before people are convinced about being flown remotely.
In the meantime, all the key players in aeroplane manufacturing are testing fully automated aircraft, which might suggest no-pilot airplanes are inevitable. UBS has predicted that air-freight cargo planes will be the first to end up pilotless, while planes carrying people will slowly see cockpits manned by just one pilot rather than two.
Luckily, the idea that we’ll be flown 35,000 feet up in the air by someone safely on the ground wielding a remote joystick is not one we’ll have to deal with soon. And that gives us more time to think about where we’d like to go on our travels. Whether you’re booking a winter sports holiday or going backpacking, we can help you sort one of the most important areas of your holiday – your travel insurance. Because some risks just aren’t worth taking.