Much less saving 10% of the time.
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'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.
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.
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.
If airlines and airports have the capability to get you through security quickly, they don't do a good job of publicizing it.
Airports/ airlines want to get planes out on time, wasting moe of your time makes that easier for them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Love the Shinkansen though. My preferred method of travel within Japan.
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.
> 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?
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 don't think that's a good reason to be too disruptive towards the freight industry.
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...
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
Give me a way to skip the whole "everybody is a possible terrorist" fiasco and now we're talking ...
It was that way for a long while.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Do any of the Star Trek episodes investigate this aspect of the transporters?
 - Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Daedalus" - Dr. Emory Erickson according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transporter_(Star_Trek)