While it appears counterintuitive, it is well known in aviation that if you fly slower, you can generally fly much farther. This also means that lower speeds mean less money spent and less emissions. It’s the same with any kind of transport – speed generally results in more fuel consumption and more cost. Just look at Concorde!
When jet fuel prices were very high back in 2008, it was reported that airlines like Southwest saved US$42 million by making flights one to three minutes longer, while JetBlue saved US$13.6 million by adding an average of two minutes to each flight. Fuel savings also mean environmental benefits, so would you take a slower flight to help save the planet?
Slower Flying On An Airship
Hybrid Air Vehicles were in the news the other day, as they want to put their 100 seat Airlander 10 airship into service. They claim the carbon footprint will be 4.5kg of CO2 per passenger versus 53kg by aeroplane.
Of course, the journeys will take far longer. They see Seattle to Vancouver as a journey of a little over 4 hours, which is a distance of 127 miles or 200 kilometres. Current Alaska Airlines flights do this in 49 minutes to an hour, so you can see the difference.
Other examples are Belfast to Liverpool in 5 hours and 15 minutes (150mi/240km), Oslo to Stockholm (240mi/386km) in 6.5 hours, and Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca (125mi/200km). All are currently one hour flights and the company believes these slower flights are perfect for these short trips.
While you may baulk at the journey times, airships can take off and land from far more places than just airports. When you consider the time taken to get to the airport and waiting around there, something like this could make sense. Of course there are a myriad of other issues such as security, baggage and so on to be considered, but it’s not insurmountable.
Would You Do This Instead Of Taking A Plane?
The million dollar question is whether you think you would do this or not. Would you be looking to pay the same airfare for a flight in a slow airship, or would you expect prices to be cheaper? Personally I could see prices being the same as they are today, as things would be offset by the airport wait.
Does flying in an aircraft like this make you nervous or is it no problem? I wouldn’t have an issue with it, but some might, as memories of the Hindenburg loom large, even if this one uses Helium as a lifting gas and not flammable hydrogen. I think the more stately journey at a lower altitude with prettier views would be pretty awesome.
It will be interesting to see if an existing airline takes the plunge on something like this. I would love to see Aer Lingus do something like this for Dublin to Cork, as it seems to be the right distance and the views would be worth it. Even British Airways or Virgin Atlantic could do it on London to Manchester. There are so many 150 mile/240km city pairs where this would be viable.
Even so, I imagine it will be a startup that would do it, as airlines are generally quite conservative. It just wouldn’t do to have something go wrong with this new old tech and tarnish the brand.
What about you? Would you actively travel this way to help the environment or not a hope? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Thanks for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
Featured image by Fin Gabriel on Unsplash.
Airlander image by Philbobagshot via Wikimedia Commons.