It was once possible to fly from JFK to London Heathrow in just 3 hours. Concorde was a futuristic phenomenon but an accident in 2000 saw it grounded, and supersonic flights quickly became a distant memory. That was until recently, when a team led by the European Space Agency unveiled plans for the A2, an aeroplane that will fly from London to Tokyo in two hours and from London to Sydney in just three and a half hours.
The hypersonic plane will carry around 100 passengers, fly at a height of 20 miles above land (standard aeroplanes fly at a height of 6), have a cruising speed of 3,125mph and be propelled by a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen, meaning its only emissions will be water. The company believes it could make its first commercial flight within 40 years. They have the capability and technology to get the idea into the sky but the real question is: is there a big enough appetite for an aircraft that can only carry 100 passengers and will cost significantly more to travel by than a standard passenger aeroplane?
Tom Otley from Business Traveller magazine expects hypersonic flight to suffer the same flight as its predecessor, Concorde: the demand just isn’t there. For many people comfort and cost are as important as speed when flying: a study last year, for example, found that business travellers are even willing to take indirect flights to save money. With some business travellers taking up to 150 flights a month, flying in a hypersonic aeroplane each time could get very expensive. Would it be worth it just to get someone to the other side of the world and back in one day?
Travellers might even miss the time they would lose if they took quicker flights. In a recent Business Traveller forum, one person commented: “I value my time on the aeroplane. I get work done on the journey there and I write up my reports from my meetings on the way back so I am ready to launch straight back into work”. Opinions such as these suggest hypersonic flight may not be as popular as you would think.
Others believe people will pay for a hypersonic flight, but only as a unique, one-off experience. Some of us at SilverDoor would love to experience a flight that travels five times faster than the speed of sound, but like many others we believe that the cost would mean we could only do it once.
For many, hypersonic flights may seem too good to be true. But 40 years is a long way away and a lot can happen in that time. Just one year from now, Virgin Galactic will take passengers on a two and a half hour flight, blasting them 360,000 feet above the Earth, giving them a five minute zero gravity experience and officially making them astronauts. So in 2042 maybe an aeroplane that flies at 3,125mph won’t seem so extreme after all. In the meantime, break up your flights with a stay in one of our serviced apartments in London – and don’t forget we have international serviced apartments all around the world so wherever you’re going, SilverDoor can be there.