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You’re Too Cheap to Fly Faster (medium.com)
55 points by benjaminfox on May 25, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 70 comments

A big part of the problem is that it is not just about price. New York to London is 5-6 hours. But back when I did business travel regularly (SFO<->LHR), the door to door time for me on an 11 hour flight was 16 hours after a lot of practice. So on a 5-6 hour flight, half would likely be spent on either end (and this is without checked luggage). At that point saving 2-3 hours in-air is not making enough of a dent in the travel time for it to be attractive to pay all that much more.

Much less saving 10% of the time.

Completely agreed. I mainly fly internationally, and while shaving 2 hours off a 8 hour flight would be wonderful, it doesn't help me, as the majority of my time is spent in airports between the flights.

For me to get to where my family lives (one layover), it takes me:

1 Hour drive to airport

2 Hours because it's an international flight

8 Hour Flight

2 Hours Immigration / Baggage

1 Hour Re-checkin

3-5 Hour Layover

30 Minute Commuter Flight

30 Minutes for baggage

30 Minutes drive home

So for my entire flight, the flying (even on a 8 hour flight) is less than half of my total time. By lowering the amount of time between connections, or lessening the amount of connections that need to be made, you can get greater gains than by flying faster planes.

Cheaper planes and cheaper flights could actually make overall flying time SHORTER, because there would be more planes in the sky, and less time between fights.


Long rambling story:

When I first rode the bullet train back in college, I thought it would be like riding an airplane, at least from a management perspective. My friends and I bought the ticket a week in advance, made sure we were packed, and got to the station a good hour in advance of my train leaving.

It was only then that I realized that the security for getting on a bullet train is "show me your ticket" and that if you miss your train, you can just sit in the non-reserved seating on the next available train that will be along in under 5 minutes. (Back then it was more like 10, but still)

While you can't really compare trains and planes (and automobiles) in these situations, it still makes me think that the solution to faster travel is not faster planes, but better infrastructure and administration for travel.

I wish we had more trains. Not just for passengers, but in general. They just get the best cost per mile per pound were gonna get on planet Earth, since the physics of cars requires constant acceleration / deceleration and 2 dimensions of movement, and planes require lift.

I'd love a train from Miami to Boston that hits all the major cities and averages something between the terrible 80 mph Amtrack trains and the way too expensive per mile (or km in a more civilized country =P) bullet trains in Korea or Japan.

Also, that doesn't cost $200 and doesn't take 2 days trip. It should be so much cheaper taking a vacation on wheels than paying the cost to get luggage airborne, and it really is the infrastructure being awful.

Wow, a round trip ticket to Austin is around $800. That is just unacceptable.

The fundamental problem is that the ground experience is managed by the airports, which are usually unionized governmental entities with little concern for the customer's time, and by the TSA. Similarly, despite very compelling economics, interstate passenger rail is a failure in the US because the government corporation Amtrak has a monopoly, deals with some of the most absurd unions in America, and doesn't seriously innovate.

This post is drool. "Blame the unions" is the new right wing "blame Jews" I guess.

Most airports in the states are reasonably run and don't waste our time, compared to many other European and Asian countries.

Passenger rail doesn't work well in the states given the distances involved, we just aren't that dense. Where it does make sense in the eastern corridor, Amtrak is able to make a profit. Amtrak long haul routes however exist only for those afraid to fly.

Long haul routes in china only make money because they have much more volume than us, and people who don't mind traveling 2 days from shanghai to urumuqi to save on a 6 hour flight.

You don't suppose US population density has something to do with this, do you? Rail does well enough in the Mid-Atlantic and NE states, between Boston and Washington.

This perspective is true of commuter public transit as well. High availability cuts the average time of the entire trip, smooths out capacity usage, and increases accessibility.

Why do you have to re-checkin? You can just drop your bags off after customs in most airports unless your commuter flight is > 4 hours away.

For me it works out like:

30 minute taxi to airport

2 hours ahead because its an international flight; checkin isn't even open if I arrive more than 2 hours earlier, I could get away with 1 hour or 1 1/2 hour, but I would get nervous.

1 hour delay on tarmac (b/c...Beijing)

11 hour flight

30 minutes immigration/baggage because Seattle is cool like that (unless our flight gets in early, then we have to wait for customs to open, curse that afternoon Beijing-Seattle flight!). On the other end, you have Heathrow, where the wait to get through customs is 4 freaking hours. I'm never flying to London directly from Asia again.

30 minute taxi to Bellevue if Seattle is my final destination (it often is), otherwise, hang out in the airport for a few hours waiting for whatever weird connection I have. Security in SEATAC is like 10 minutes, so no big deal there.

Bullet trains are great, until you realize that the bullet train station is farther away than the airport...on both sides of the trip! Given the distance, it's still much faster to fly between Beijing/Shanghai than to take the bullet train. Japan is completely different, of course.

I'd really like to hear if an Australian travelling to New York (or anywhere international but Bali/NZ) would prefer a faster plane.

Depending on the airport, you need to re-check in & go through security when going from International to Domestic. This is true at LAX which is the main hub that I go through.

Sure you have to hit security again, but most airports have a bag recheck counter after customs, you just drop it off after you pass the customs checkpoint. Security isn't much of a problem at seatac.

That's a really great point. After 9/11, it takes so damn long to get to your flight that cutting out an hour of travel time isn't as impactful as before.

I haven't noticed any big problems. The American airport I fly into often (SeaTac) is pretty efficient, security rarely takes more than 10 minutes. The other smaller airports I've experienced haven't been any worse.

Airports and airlines advise [1-4] arriving 2 to 3 hours before the departure of an international/long haul flight.

If airlines and airports have the capability to get you through security quickly, they don't do a good job of publicizing it.

[1] http://www.portseattle.org/sea-tac/passenger-services/pages/... [2] http://www.flysfo.com/web/page/orphan/faq/#2 [3] http://www.stanstedairport.com/stansted-airport-guide/checki... [4] http://www.jfkairportguide.com/arrivals-departures.html

I think rather than state an average time to get through the airport and on the plane and have everything break down the second it gets congested they are going to recommend a timeframe that should get everyone on the plane even in the worst case.

Airports/ airlines want to get planes out on time, wasting moe of your time makes that easier for them.

They may also be pulling out a worst case bound - in case you get pulled over for a secondary inspection and that sort of thing.

Someone should do a study on the lost productivity of airline travel.

The economics behind the failure of the Concorde are far more complicated than "people didn't buy enough tickets". There were an extremely limited amount of routes (basically you could fly out of NYC or Washington DC to either London or Paris), mostly due to the problem of sonic booms, but also because the plane design was such that there was essentially a minimum travel distance for it to ever be reasonably economically viable. It isn't like there was a Southwest offering Concorde flights from LA to SFO at 1.5x or 2.0x times the price of a normal ticket. The Concorde actually sold pretty well given how limited the routes were until the entire airline industry started to crater around the turn of the century (9/11, etc).

There was also a lot of politics behind the Concorde discontinuation that had nothing to do with pure economics.

Having said all of that, our cheapness does seem to be doing harm to a lot of industries over time, where if you want to buy a new product your choices are like a dozen shitty things made by the lowest bidder in China or 2 "premium" choices that are only marginally better than the cheap shit at like 5 times the cost. Something similar to the capitalistic middle-class squeeze we have been going through seems to apply to product choices as well.

I can think of at least 113 other reasons as well. I'd imagine a fatal crash would have had much more impact on consumer attitudes towards the Concorde than it would towards other, more "conventional" plane models. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_France_Flight_4590

It's strange. The Concorde crash was clearly due to a cascade of safety protocol violations, from Continental's runway debris and subsequent skipped runway inspection, to Air France's overweight takeoff, yet the Concorde itself, despite a spotless record, became the target of public outrage.

The safety issues were not the full reason that the Concorde was grounded permanently. It was grounded temporarily until the design issues raised by the crash were resolved by design changes (Kevlar lining in fuel tanks, burst resistant tires). If safety was the real driver, the improvements would never have been made and deployed.

The real problem was that the Concorde was a 1960's design in 2003 with only 20 units produced. As such it did not continue to receive upgrades and other refinements that other aircraft do. Compare what a 737-100 looked like and what a 737 you'd fly on today looks like. That's just the visual changes, think of the improvements you can't see. Like improved cockpit controls. With only 20 units parts were expensive. Airbus didn't want to support the aircraft either.

I'm sure there was some decrease in passengers after the crash. But I don't think there was a public outrage. With time the numbers would have recovered. They retired the plan not even a full year after restoring service.

As I understand it Air France was selling tickets at less than their cost to operate it. While both BA and AF announced the cancelations at the same time, I wouldn't be surprised if Air France was the group that decided to pull the plug first. Taking out half the planes would have made the maintenance even more expensive for BA.

Finally, Richard Branson tried to buy the BA Concorde fleet and continue operating it. Branson is not an idiot at business, he obviously thought there was a market there. For some reason that's not clear BA refused to sell to him. Which leads to the other possible reason for retirement, the airlines figured out they could make more profit selling subsonic first class than Concorde tickets. Not selling to Branson prevented him from having the supersonic competitive advantage.

We're not nearly cheap enough: The plane ticket price doesn't capture the cost of flying, the majority of which comes from the greenhouse gas emissions. Further working in the wrong direction is the tax freeness of jet fuel and the 2-3x amplified effect of co2 when injected directly to the upper atmosphere.

I have to think the only reason trains pretty much died as an industry in the last hundred years is due to government fiddling or poor infrastructure maintenance. In a trifecta of balancing cost to time to carrying weight, trains should almost always win, with cars never winning in any of them and planes winning only at time investment.

Yet we all drive cars (which win in being personal transport where free wheels in 2d on tarmac is much more portable than steel wheels on tracks in 1d) even though they should cost significantly more, take longer (if we had even a reasonable bullet train at 150 - 160 mph, not even close to the 260mph Japanese / Korean lines) and carry less (especially compared against fuel consumption or just the raw bearing weight of car frames and rubber tires against rail cars).

An amtrack ticket from NY to Austin is $800 round way, and 50 hours each way. I can rent a car for $100 a day, and do that drive in 40 hours. So I save time, it costs the same when you factor in gas, and the only benefit is I can read a book on the train. Which is a nice plus, but not double the price worth.

Trains didn't die as an industry. Actually the US has an exceedingly good (privately-owned) freight rail system, compared to the rest of the world (assuming you're talking about the US from the Amtrak reference).

What did happen is that Amtrak was displaced by said freight rail system. It doesn't really own any rail - everything is under contract, with freight getting first priority contractually. Though it also has other issues.

Amtrak is actually a creature of the federal government that does own the northeast corridor rail lines. There's no reason Amtrak can't run bullet trains on the NE corridor except that they lack the capital needed for the track upgrades, and likely are incapable of executing on the project.

From my understanding and someone editing Wikipedia, Amtrak has priority by law [1], thought the Amtrak page mentions a time window which the trains must hit to receive priority [2]

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trackage_rights 2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amtrak#Trains_and_tracks

Not at my primary computer at the moment, so can't check this.

That's not the case as far as I'm aware - but I'm not an Amtrak expert. A citation (the Wikipedia article doesn't provide one) would be nice.


Looking around, it seems that Amtrak does have preference under certain circumstances. Until around 2008-2009 the rules for enforcing that were very lax and the common case was that freight was given priority. See http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/04/opinion/04hallock.html and http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500395_162-2522531.html for example.

Some legal changes (including the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008) improved conditions, mostly by setting standard rules for allocating usage - but the language of the regulations is still very flexible. There are also some issues around the difficulty of one train passing another on single-tracked rail with limited sidings.

Moving freight by train is also a lot more efficient than moving people by train. Freight doesn't need room to walk around, doesn't need to eat, doesn't need to sleep, doesn't need bathrooms.

The tohoku shinkansen in Japan can have trainsets with up to 1600 people in one 16-car train, and can slam them down the line at 250+kph, one every 3 or 4 minutes. A couple of E5s could do 1400 people at 320. If that isn't efficient then I'd love to know what is!

Japan is a very compact country. Lovely for anyone in the DC-Boston corridor, doesn't scale to most of the states however. Consider how there isn't much of anything between San Francisco and LA.

Love the Shinkansen though. My preferred method of travel within Japan.

The "compact" excuse is a cop-out, IMO. LA and SF are two massive cities well within high speed train range. Of course there's nothing in between them - there's no transport! You're thinking backwards. Put a station 150km outside of SF with a 30 minute commute and do you think there'll still be nothing there in 5 years?

My point is that these lines would be considered viable in Japan - more than viable; completely obvious. The fact we can't seem to build them - can't even take the idea seriously - is more about the nature of our society than anything to do with geography.

Its not really that though, there is nothing between LA and SF because the land is not really suitable for big cities. Japan is quite lucky because much of the island is unsuitable for habitation pushing many of the cities into a narrow band (e.g. Tokyo - Osaka). You can't really fight geography, and you work with what you got.

> Put a station 150km outside of SF with a 30 minute commute and do you think there'll still be nothing there in 5 years?

At Shinkansen ticket/pass prices? Really? Depends if we can become as rich as the Japanese. I also find this to be a bad outcome; if you work in SF, why not just live in SF? Do we really need to build a 150km-away bedroom community?

> Japan is quite lucky because much of the island is unsuitable for habitation pushing many of the cities into a narrow band

Lucky? How is that lucky? I believe this is the first time I have ever heard someone describing a lack of habitable land as "lucky".

It's true that in the last 50 or so years, the USA has become extremely suburbanised, totally reliant on cars for transport, which makes it hard to pick "winners" as to where gets a station, but you can't just use that as an excuse to do nothing!

> At Shinkansen ticket/pass prices? Really? Depends if we can become as rich as the Japanese.

The Japanese are far from "rich". Anyway, a commuter pass pass from, say, Utsunomiya to Tokyo only costs a few hundred, and is anyway paid by employer. The alternative is spending several times that on housing, in a situation of intense competition for limited housing stock in a viable commuting range.

> if you work in SF, why not just live in SF? Do we really need to build a 150km-away bedroom community?

I don't understand this answer. Obviously, not everyone can live in the CBD of the city they work in. That's the problem fast transport solves in this situation. What's your better idea?

Anyway I'm not blindly recommending anything the Japanese do. I'm just saying that fast transport has the effect of greatly expanding the viable urban living of a major city.

I agree. I'm quite happy with the current freight rail system, though I'd enjoy more passenger rail for mostly aesthetic reasons.

I don't think that's a good reason to be too disruptive towards the freight industry.

The market for train travel from New York to Austin is pretty much non-existent because it just doesn't make any sense unless you can't fly for some reason. Even with high speed trains, it'd be a ridiculous choice. With demand so inelastic, you get exorbitant prices and no reason to invest in improvements. Neither are Amtrak's or Congress's fault.

The article is correct to a large extent. But I'm surprised it didn't mention the elite group who fly considerably faster: private jet owners and corporate jet "beneficiaries".

These individuals are not nearly as price sensitive as the average consumer, and face much larger opportunity costs when sitting around at the airport or moving slowly in flight.

With some of the newer (and very expensive) private jets like the Gulfstream 650 and Citation X, passengers benefit from an approximately 15-20% flight time savings (depending on the length of the trip and desired fuel efficiency). This is a considerable amount of time for most c-level execs of large companies.

However, where I personally see the biggest time advantage in flying private is the process of actually boarding and securing the plane. Private jets and smaller airports are orders of magnitude more efficient.

Pulling up to a hangar at Van Nuys instead of waiting 2 hrs in the delta check-in line at LAX is well worth the extra money to the ultra rich. Time from pulling into the airport in your car to takeoff can be as little as 10 minutes.

In the late 1990's, as research on super sonic flight was becoming very popular, there seemed to be a divergence in thought: One camp was for larger, slower, but more comfortable airplanes; and the other for smaller, sleeker, uncomfortable supersonic rollercoaster rides through the stratosphere.

It would be interesting to see airlines' market research around higher speed aircraft, and whether there was enough demand for super sonic flights. My intuition tells me they did perform this research, and the data told them that it wasn't economically feasible.

With the introduction of the A380 and other mega jumbos on the way, it became clear that the conclusion is that we'd all prefer to fly slower, but more comfortably. Though, while it appears we only have 2 market segments, super expensive and super cheap, there are some companies who are innovating on the fringes to make private jets more accessible.

NetJets and FlexJet are the first few that come to mind. Maybe there's a YC company that can further optimize this market? I for one would love to travel out of smaller airports if there were more options...

> It would be interesting to see airlines' market research around higher speed aircraft, and whether there was enough demand for super sonic flights. My intuition tells me they did perform this research, and the data told them that it wasn't economically feasible.

This is why Boeing's Sonic Cruiser (mentioned in the article) was canceled. The jump in drag approaching the sound speed cascades into more complex and costlier aircraft engineering, which ends up in the fare. Lockheed's Skunk Works also shopped around a quiet supersonic platform (not subject to the sonic boom flight restrictions in the US) biz jet to Wall Street banks in the early '00s, who were the most avid flyers of the Concorde, but there wasn't enough interest to fund it.

> there are some companies who are innovating on the fringes to make private jets more accessible

This would be air taxi companies like DayJet, which went bankrupt due to the late '00s recession. In an age when most people comparison shopped for airfares $20-50 cheaper, offering a seat costing $200+ more for slightly shorter flights wasn't a great value proposition, and still isn't. Better preboarding and seating on the planes is somewhat taken care of already by business+ class (you also get those airline clubs in the departure areas). This small chunk of benefits still costs too much for most consumers, with the vast majority of first/second class tickets acquired through flyer miles or corporate sponsorship. Air taxi seating would cost even more than first class due to reduced economy of scale. Would this be worth it to skip the TSA line? I'm not sure. Kavoo is a new air taxi operator that flies (slower) turboprops though.

> I for one would love to travel out of smaller airports if there were more options...

This was the original goal of Eclipse Aviation's Eclipse 500 (in fact the EA logo depicted travel between regional airports like Van Nuys, bypassing hubs such as LAX). I think the higher energy requirements and generally greater distances of air travel magnify cost differences in small transit vs mass transit (taxicab vs. bus), making jet air taxis cost prohibitive at this time.

Disclosure: Former Eclipse Aviation engineering intern

The worst part of my flight, and most of the time the largest part, is the Home->Gate->Plane part. Why would I pay to optimize the least unpleasant part of the journey?

Give me a way to skip the whole "everybody is a possible terrorist" fiasco and now we're talking ...

Few people now remember it, but back in the earlier days of commercial aviation flying was a breeze. You could walk up to a counter, buy a ticket, walk to the gate and walk on.

It was that way for a long while.

Yeah, I remember the days of "arrive 30 minutes early for international flights just to be on the safe side". Now the "rule" is you can't even fly if you arrive that "late" for an international flight.

People's Express Airline. A low-cost airline from the 1980s.

From what I understand, a perfectly viable procedure was: walk to the gate, wait until they call out "all aboard", push and shove for the good seats, take off, pay in cash when the crew comes around to collect tickets.

Not only are we to cheep to fly fast but we've also banned supersonic flight over most "civilized" land masses. There are only three or so US mainland airbases where it is legal to break mach 1 due to the fact that the voting public doesn't want to listen to sonic booms. Thanks to relatively new "shaped sonic boom" technology it is possible to massively reduce the acustic profile of supersonic flight but the damage is done. We're too cheap to fly fast and the technology which we need to fly fast still doesn't come cheap.

Hard to believe an article on this topic fails to mention airline deregulation[1]. When an industry transitions from mandated prices to open price competition the profit formula changes. It is logical that carriers would prefer efficient, reliable, high capacity planes over faster alternatives post deregulation. Also, given the small number of plane manufacturers and the huge costs of R&D to bring out a new plane, it is unlikely a manufacturer would invest in building a supersonic jet that does not meet the current operating needs of its clients. Maybe Elon will do planes next? The average altitude of Tesla and Space X's vehicles is probably around 35k feet...


Travelling from city to city may indeed take longer than we would like. But the real innovation isn't making airliners faster - it is in getting people from their location and onto the aircraft sooner. The lengthiest leg of the flight to me is the time spent waiting at the gate.

Yes, I'd rather flights be faster than cheaper. But for most people, saving a few hours isn't worth spending a few hundred or thousand dollars extra on a flight. Which sounds kind of reasonable, to be honest.

I fly about once a month for personal visits. While I'd love to reach my destination faster, I struggle enough to afford tickets at their current prices. If I'm not prepared to spend $30 for a better seat, I'm definitely not about to spend a small fortune for a few extra hours at my destination.

I use Hipmunk to find flights, and by default they sort results by "Least Agony" -- which means least total flight time / stops. Those tickets are generally more expensive, and I often have to sacrifice agony for price.

Not everyone can afford fast.

When we purchase a plane ticket, we aren't given an option for speed; only price. Therefore, we optimize that variable.

Actually trip duration is an option, and one which I regularly prioritize.

Yes but trip duration in terms of number of stops or speed of the jet that takes you there?

Total number of hours from start to finish is commonly displayed. If you want less time traveling, it's trivial to choose that when it's available.

That is the airline's fault. Their revenue optimization means that everyone on the plane gets essentially the same experience, but pays differing amounts through mechanisms that make car dealers seem delightful. Since the airlines made it all about the price, people responded.

I live in Australia and occasionally have to fly to the U.S. for business (the Pacific flight alone is a 15 hour trip one way and an 18 hour trip return). I would lower my consulting fees and channel the money into my airfares if I could get a flight that would do it in half the time. 24+ hours travel time (including connecting flights airports and taxis) is torture.

Sadly, I don't think I'll get the opportunity for anything quicker in my lifetime. I predict there will be humans on Mars before a supersonic cross-Pacific passenger aircraft.

for many routine flights (transcontinental vs transoceanic) this isn't the only reason - sonic booms are a problem. And even if you could go from LA to NYC in two hours (versus four), then also add in an invariant hour and a half time you spend going through security, waiting for the plane, boarding, and really the difference is not enough to justify the added cost.

Pick 2 out of 3: cheap, fast, good. I guess we've chosen cheap and good. That's why I don't fly United. :)

I used to always fly United between LHR and SFO when I flew regularly. Their standard in every class was poorer than Virgin Atlantic or BA for example, but contrary to those United at least had one big advantage:

To get upgrades with Virgin or BA was like winning a lottery. It happens rarely, and getting up in the frequent flier tiers takes a lot of flying and usually buying more expensive tickets. And the benefits are relatively limited. But when you get bumped up with either one it's the royal treatment.

United was more basic when comparing on a class by class basis: Crappier seats, not as good food, etc. But after two returns on a flight as long as LHR<->SFO I was at a sufficient tier in their frequent fliers program to get automatic free upgrades to premium economy, and a miles multiplier that meant I'd get a free business class upgrade every 3rd leg from then on (and often more frequently than that, if there were free business seats), as well as priority boarding etc.. I'd still pick Virgin or BA for "one off" occasional flights any day, but United was great for frequent long haul flights.

United has changed, and not in a way that would make this easier. Now they offer paid first-class and "premium economy" upgrades to passengers at or shortly before check-in, usually steeply discounted, and consensus from passengers with status seems to be that A) it's not offered to them and B) it's offered before status upgrades are applied, so if first class fills up from the cheap upgrades, there will not be any status upgrades on the flight.

Does United even offer first class on international flights though? I thought they only offered business class on international flights (first class on domestic flights, but so what?).

Yeah. United has both business and first on International flights. Having been in both, I'd say that there isn't a whole lot of difference though. But In both cases, I just love those lay-flat seats when doing a 14-hour flight between LA and Sydney...

Shaving a few hours won't open new markets or otherwise fundamentally alter our relationship with distance. It's telling that "convenience" is the selling point, which implies a difference of degrees rather than kind, and shows a lack of ideas of what we could do with this technology.

The next great hop in transportation would have to be instant or near-instant teleportation. And faster jets don't meaningfully bring us closer to that.

While cutting time in the air by half may not make a fundamental difference, cutting it by five or six times could. Point-to-point sub-orbital services have the potential to do this, though there are challenges for this type of flight that bring its difficulties closer to orbital operations than the (mostly) straight up and down trajectories that will be flown by Virgin Galactic, XCOR, etc.

I think that the big win in convenience would have to be found in fundamental airport redesigns. The way they move people around is just terrible.

One huge problem I see is that the security is government-based. Getting of a plane, HAVING TO GO THROUGH SECURITY and boarding the same fucking plane takes 30+ minutes. Why does it have to happen at all ? Of course, the reason is government regulation : "security", so that it costs millions of people hours of inconvenience regularly is no argument. Can we please just get rid of this entirely ?

Walking around in airports, well I just really hate it ... why are we having these distances (I've walked 3 km already to get to a flight). Why the constant breaks ? Why don't we have a baggage drop off (without people, and enough to not have lines) that checks you in, gives you a "flasher" token, then 20 cafes to choose from (ideally complimentary, but I wouldn't mind paying that much). 5 minutes before the flight that token starts flashing you walk up to an elevator, and you walk out of the elevator into the plane. And security figures out how to "scan" the elevator in .001 second without any visible change to the people inside. Bonus points if these checkin stations are simply in the middle of parking space.

I would also point out that the US considered and rejected the notion of building a supersonic passenger plane, in part because of concerns about its effect on the upper atmosphere, in part because of the economics. The debate about building took place about the time that the Concorde was under development, i.e. well before much of the HN readership was born.

Point well made. But I rather see efficiency in airport terminals immediately as compared to aeroplane speeds, at least right now. For international flights it's a norm to arrive ~1-2 hrs earlier. Sometimes this time is nearly 20-30% of the entire flight time and in some extreme cases, may be even more.

Article talks of mach 5 but fails to mention that our best body designs begin to melt at mach 3.

I'm just waiting for the invention of the Star Trek "transporter" or the TARDIS.

Star Trek's transporters would be excellent. We could recover all that land that's covered in paving, no longer care about location, eliminate the pollution of today's internal combustion engines...

The sad thing is that if this could happen in the next decade, I fear it would quickly become a target of the entire transportation industry as they scramble to lobby for laws to prevent its use. And the same thing would happen for Trek's matter replicators.

But if I've learned anything comparing science fiction and the real world, it's that our scientific understanding of the universe comes slowly enough that society adapts. The only notable exception is the near-instant communication provided by the internet and its effects on "intellectual property" hoarders.


_If_ we manage to create transporters at all (never mind the next decade), the impact on religion and legislation would be far greater than on the transportation industry. If your body is destroyed and reconstructed, are you still the same person? What if you could make copies? It's just information, after all. And so on...

Do any of the Star Trek episodes investigate this aspect of the transporters?

I do not recall any real attention paid to such aspects of the transporter. I do recall, however, the inventor of the device showing up in an episode of Enterprise[1] and referring to all the dialog that came up when the device was new; his comment? "Metaphysical nonsense."

[1] - Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Daedalus" - Dr. Emory Erickson according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transporter_(Star_Trek)

Ballistic travel is my preferred method.

That's gotta be a helluva kick.

Yep. Flying UDP-packet class.

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