Are travelers ready to go supersonic again, almost 20 years after the famous Concorde jet made its last voyage across the Atlantic? That could also be because of how expensive the tickets are.
In a blockbuster announcement on Thursday, United Airlines
signals that it is ready to revive supersonic air traffic. The air Line has agreed to buy 15 supersonic jets from Boom Technology, an aerospace start-up based in Denver.
The plane, called Overture, will reportedly be able to fly between San Francisco and Tokyo in just six hours and between Newark, NJ and London in just three and a half hours.
Boom is set to bring the Overture jets to market in 2025, and companies are hoping to have passengers on the planes as early as 2029.
Boom is set to launch the Overture jets in 2025, and companies are hoping to be able to fly passengers by 2029, though the planes must first be cleared by regulators.
In the long term, a decade or more after the first flight, Boom’s goal is to be able to fly between anywhere in the world in four hours, with tickets costing just $ 100.
That’s a far cry from the thousands of dollars for a ticket to the Concorde, which was known to be environmentally harmful. The boom should also use 100% sustainable aviation fuel and be climate-neutral.
Achieving this goal of cheap and fast travel will not be easy. It will likely take several generations of the new aircraft for the company to achieve that goal, said Jordan Staab, president of SmarterTravel.
“If Boom can show that it is possible to make flying cheaper and faster, it will likely force competing airlines to lower their prices on long-haul routes in response,” said Staab.
The Concorde failed – in part – because of how much the tickets cost
The Concorde jet, made by British and French companies, could reach Mach 2.04, which was over twice the speed of sound. The airline was first flown in 1969, at a time when many companies around the world were aiming to launch supersonic aircraft like Boeing
The Concorde finally went into passenger traffic in 1976 and operated until 2003.
A number of factors contributed to the final demise of the Concorde. There have been many complaints about how loud the plane was, particularly because of the sonic boom it made when it exceeded the speed of sound.
The aircraft also suffered from declining popularity in its later years. In 2000, a Concorde jet became owned by Air France
crashed after taking off from Charles de Gaulle Airport, killing everyone on board. Just over a year later, the September 11 terrorist attacks resulted in a persistent downturn in air traffic that hit many airlines hard.
An Air France Concorde took off for New York in November 2001 on its first commercial flight after the fatal crash in July 2000. Two years later the aircraft was retired.
ERIC FEFERBERGERIC FEFERBERG / AFP / Getty Images
But the Concorde wasn’t that profitable for the airlines that flew it. Despite ticket prices that could reach as high as $ 8,000 for a round-trip ticket between London and New York, or more than $ 13,000, in 1997, it wasn’t seen as a lucrative endeavor.
“To get that kind of supersonic speed, you had to have a very small plane, a limited number of people on board, and use an exceptional amount of kerosene,” said Scott Keyes, founder of Travel Scott’s Cheap Flights. “The amount they were able to recruit from ticket sales just didn’t match the cost they had for a particular flight on a Concorde.”
According to spokesmen for both companies, United and Boom are already looking to keep costs much lower in order to make the overture a more financially sound company.
“We aim to have Overture’s operating costs 75% less than Concorde’s operating costs,” a United spokeswoman told MarketWatch. “This is one of the reasons we are now starting our partnership with Boom to help them make Overture commercially viable.”
The United spokeswoman said it was “too early to know what future prices will be like”.
Overture flight tickets will come at an “extraordinary cost”
However, a Boom spokeswoman noted that “data shows travelers are willing to spend more to experience a fast, sustainable flight,” although she added that prices charged are left to the airlines.
Travel experts warned they won’t be cheap – not at all. Keyes predicted that if a business class seat on a standard flight from the United States to Japan costs around $ 4,000, a flight on the new supersonic aircraft would likely cost between $ 6,000 and $ 8,000.
“The people who can afford to pay the extraordinary cost of doing so will primarily be either business travelers or the kind of wealthy people who tend to live in very expensive cities.”
United will likely choose to fly the planes between major business centers – like Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York or London – rather than tourist destinations like Miami or Hawaii, Keyes said. This, in part, reflects the audience that most craves a supersonic travel experience, even at top prices.
“It’s going to be very business minded because the people who can afford to pay the extraordinary costs that drive them up will primarily be either business travelers or the kind of wealthy people who tend to be in the very expensive areas to live in. “Cities,” Keyes said.
Flying first class on normal flights could get cheaper
Meanwhile, Overture CEO Blake Scholl said CNN Travel that he is aiming for airline tickets in the first-class fare range
And the $ 100 ticket? “Now we need time to get there,” he said, adding, “I find it helpful to think much further and say, ‘Where do we want to be in a decade or two? And what is possible in this timescale? ‘ Then you work backwards and say, ‘How do we get there?’ “
Given the premium experience United is likely to offer with the Overture jets, the new service will be competitive with other airlines’ more traditional first and business class offerings. And that could translate into cheaper fares for those premium seats.
“We don’t see any impact on economy class airfare that most people would pay for transatlantic and transpacific travel,” said Adit Damodaran, an economist at travel company Hopper.
Damodaran compared the impact of the overture on the aviation sector to the impact of the Tesla Model S on the auto industry. The Model S offers “a premium, luxury experience with higher starting prices that may not initially affect the prices of other simpler cars, but could compete with other luxury or sports cars and motivate an industry switch to greener or faster vehicles”. , safer vehicles, ”he said.
But even if first-class airfares on certain routes drop in response to overture, the effect cannot be permanent. Airlines could reduce the number of seats in first class or reduce the number of flights offered on certain routes in order to maintain higher prices on those offerings, Keyes said.