The Changing Value of Travel: Why the journey itself may be more important than speed

As the comedian Louis C.K. pointed out one night on ‘The Late Show,’ a trip across the United States used to take the best part of a year and might cost you your life. Now it can be done in a few hours in comfort and great safety.

Great advances in aviation transport have lowered the costs of air travel and increased its availability to more customers. But since the dawning of the jet age, the individual time spent on passenger air travel has not been significantly reduced and it really won’t be for some time to come.  

There were commercial efforts for supersonic flights on the Concorde in the early 2000’s as Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM) capabilities were assessed, but by the end of May 2003 the last Concorde flights due to lack of traction in the industry. During that time, I was lucky enough to be a passenger on one of the Air France Concorde flights from JFK to Paris CDG… nearly 15 years ago.

James Hardie and Captain JF Michel on a Concorde supersonic transatlantic flight on August 16th, 2002.

The Sound Barrier is the Barrier

When it comes to the speed of aircraft, the sound barrier really is the barrier that’s not easily overcome in terms of economics, technology and regulations surrounding sonic booms produced. Most passenger aircraft are not going to go twice as fast any time soon because of that, although research is being done in partnership with NASA to make it possible in the future.

Sonic Boom Display-630x354
Example of a Sonic Boom flight display that’s currently under research and development by Rockwell Collins and NASA to help pilots reduce or mitigate sonic boom impacts in future supersonic flights.

Making the Most of the Journey


In the modern connected world, is time saved on travel now the most important factor in improving the journey? Or is time made by making the best use of the space you find yourself in?  What is the utility value of the space? To read, to write, to be entertained, to talk, to rest?

Today the world considers mobility as a service along the passenger journey, which is viewed as a continuous and easy to plan chain of events. This allows the connected traveler to bring their ‘desk’ or ‘leisure space’ with them along the way.

The challenge is to understand this and be part of the enablement that makes this all happen, a vision where travel has been so simplified that it will not matter that you are travelling. It will just another space to be in. You may not be able to compete easily on speed but you can compete on space and utility.

When that happens, what difference does it really make if time is not considered wasted while travelling? Instead it is put to good use, a useful transitioning of location rather than the lost journey time. The opportunity now exists to enable that journey space to be a better place to be for that period of time.

By: James Hardie

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