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Best and worst ideas in air travel in 2018

Yes, Musk wants to replace airplanes with rockets for long-haul travel around Earth. He claims tickets will be “about the same as full-fare economy in an aircraft.” Which is to say: 24 minutes to fly from New York to Shanghai for the price of an economy seat, and you get to see Earth from space. Can you imagine that? Yeah, me neither. But here’s hoping. It will not happen in 2019, but perhaps we will see a dream come true in the late 2020s or 2030s.

Electric airplanes

[Photo: Eviation]

This will not be available for regular consumers for a very long time either, but it’s good news for the environment and, therefore, everyone: Eviation’s Alice Commuter plane–winner of the transportation category of Fast Company‘s 2018 World Changing Ideas Awards–is a fully electrical airplane that can take nine people on short trips for less than regular fuel-based airplanes.

The Israel-based startup believes that the airplane will be able to fly commercially in 2021, scaling up “to hundreds of routes across the U.S. over the next few years.” Crossing my fingers for this one, too.

Better airports

[Photo: Nicolas Jehly/Unsplash]

In 2018, architects thought deeply about how to make the airport experience better and optimize the flow of passengers–in other words, make airports feel less like hell on earth. Snarkitecture partner Benjamin Porto–who lives in New York, a city with some famously awful airports–came up with the idea of merging all New York airports into one master plan, both LaGuardia and JFK, and also Newark in New Jersey. For Porto, “It would be interesting to redesign JFK, LGA, and EWR together into one cohesive master plan [because] they are essentially the three Triumphant Gates of New York City and [they] should look as such.” While a hypothetical concept, Porto’s idea flicks at some of the bigger design challenges that architects have been tackling internationally and, fingers crossed, will take on in the United States, too.

Windowless planes

[Photo: Emirates]

Windowless planes can be considered both a curse and a blessing for everyone. Its proponents, like Emirates airlines, think they can replace regular windows, which are heavy and therefore costly, without alienating consumers. In exchange, they promise cheaper travel.

Of course, this is all theory. And then there’s the psychological effect: Replacing windows with screens is not going to make anyone feel less claustrophobic. Perhaps people traveling in their own private cabins will not care and might find fake windows amusing but, for economy class, it will probably be an extra grievance in a list of many.