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Once upon a time, in a time not too long ago, flights were considered to be the means to an end - the mode of transport required in order to deliver the consumer safely to their destination for a holiday break or business trip. These flights were basic and provided the bare minimum in terms of facilities and comforts – instead, focussing on getting passengers safely to and from airports.
Fast forward to today, and the flights industry has evolved beyond recognition - now creating complete experiences and providing consumers with luxuries which begin at the airport and continue for the duration of the holiday. When it comes to booking flights, consumers are faced with a plethora of decisions they need to make, including their budget, the style of flight they would like to indulge in, and the airport they wish to fly from. As commercial and private flights have become more commonplace, an increased number of airports have been built - expanding those which already offer international and internal flights, and creating smaller local airports which are designed to operate smaller flights in smaller planes - for example those sea planes which transport holidaymakers to private island resorts.
Because not all flights are performed by large planes on their way to exotic locations. The flights industry also includes the RAF which performs its safeguarding duties from the sky; air ambulances which are used to provide medical attention quickly and safely; search and rescue helicopters; private planes owned by the rich and famous; and even experiential helicopter rides which are designed to provide high end experiences for consumers to enjoy. The concept of being up in the air is one which many of us revel in, and so the flights industry has undergone significant growth both in its provision of high end flight services and in the way it views flying as a time saving and effective method of getting around to facilitate safeguarding and medical support.
The history of the flight industry
The history of the flight industry largely stems from the development of air travel and the way that planes were first developed for professional use before commercial travel and holidaying became the norm in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
It as in 1846 that Sir George Cayley developed what is known today as the modern airplane, using the science of lifting objects with the support of aerodynamics to create a machine which was able to lift, propel, and be controlled all independently. Sir Cayley referred to his early models as fixed wing airplanes, thus presenting them as the first of their kind which retained a sturdy structure while moving through the air.
The development of the aerial steam carriage, combined with this system of control created by Cayley, meant that by 1866 the Aeronautical Society was both founded and presented with an exhibition of early plane structures. From there, all development was about control and innovation in keeping the plane moving on a lateral path, with the dawn of the 20th century seeing practical planes being created to assist with the war effort as well as for sporting and private use.
The years between WW1 and WW2 were revolutionary for the flight industry as it was during this time that airplanes moved from being made of wood to being crafted from aluminium – creating rigid and safe structures. In terms of flights within the travel sector and industry, commercial flights marked a huge motive towards developing and making the industry more sustainable and more affordable: as with every other industry, the innovative development was driven more by demand than anything else, and that is how affordable and low cost flights began to appear at the same time as luxury travel became more of a spotlight concept.
Today, the flight industry provides thousands of flights every day. Not only that, but it keeps passengers safe both through the construction of planes, the safety provisions and precautions made and outlined on board, and through the extensive security checks which are done across all airports now as a result of the use of planes in terrorist activities in the past. The fact is that flying is considered, today, as one of the very safest modes of transport thanks to the very small minority of flights which run into problems – especially when compared with the amount of issues faces by other public transport sectors and private driving.
Top providers in the flight industry
In terms of success and notoriety, the top providers in the flight industry tend to be those which operate the most flights and which have the most planes in the air leaving from and arriving in destinations all over the world. Of course, that’s not to say that these are the best rated – with some of the biggest names in the industry receiving poor reviews on a regular basis, despite their incredibly low prices which keep consumers coming back. What this indicates, more than anything else, is the fact that consumers may have come to expect a high level experience across most industries, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t value a deal over the level of service they expect to get. Despite multiple arguments and statements which solidify the idea that flying has become as much a part of the holiday industry as the hotel and destination itself, quality is not always valued over price. Some of the names associated with this more affordable level of flight providers include:
At the opposite end of the scale sit the providers which are renowned for their high quality flight offering and their consistently high reviews from customers across all levels. For the most part, these are providers operating the long haul flights where the price of the tickets is higher, and the level of comfort expected is also much higher, with most of the following names offering at least two if not three different ticket levels for consumers and passengers travelling for different purposes and with different budgets. Some of the top examples including:
- Virgin Atlantic
- British Airways
- Air New Zealand
When it comes to selecting the best provider for any trip, the top rated areas for comparison include the time that consumers are expected to queue for check in and bag drop, the provision of facilities on the plane, the level of security in place, the comfort of the plane, customer service, and in-flight entertainment on long haul flights.
Another thing which is often noted is the quantity of flights which arrive on time at their destination compared with the quantity which are late or delayed – with innovations in the flight tracking market giving consumers as much access as industry professionals to data regarding the arrival time and status of various flights both live and subsequent after landing.
Trends in the flight industry
One of the biggest trends which has changed the demand and operation of different flights, is the rise in different levels of ticket which can be purchased by the consumer. Gone are the days where a ticket was just a ticket – now, consumers can buy their way into everything from premium economy to business class and all the way up to first class, depending on the airline they are flying with and the quantity of seats available. As per this rise in different levels of flying, another trend has popped up among those consumers whose budgets can only stretch to economy – and that is the concept of a free upgrade. Now this is a trend which is only really made available to those lucky enough to essentially be in the right place at the right time – however, with more and more consumers boasting of their success at getting free upgrades through social media, it is becoming more of an expected thing with multiple consumers directly asking about the potential of upgrades during long haul flights. For most, this is a request made in vain – however for those who get lucky, it is something which continues to spark the hope among consumers who still board their flights hoping for the possibility of being upgraded to a higher grade of seat.
For those who are shopping for their flights on a budget, the rise in flight comparison and flight finder sites is one trend which is overwhelmingly useful – and one which allows consumers to ascertain the best flights to their destinations across different airports, different travel dates, different times of day and different price points. These sites, for example Skyscanner, tend to identify and list the best flights dependent on flight time and cost, though consumers can set their own preferences and indicate that they only want to go via a direct flight, or that they only want to fly in first class, etc. What these kind of flight comparison sites do, as well as making booking flights easy, is provide consumers with a central hub through which they can then be sure that they are going through to the right booking site for their flight. For example, a consumer might decide to opt for the British Airways flight – by selecting this, they are then automatically taken through to the booking page on British Airways’ own site for that specific flight, leaving little room for error or the booking of the wrong flight. Once through to the site, providers then tend to present consumers with various add-ons and options for extra features, including adding baggage to their flight booking, adding care hire once at their destination, and purchasing parking at their local airport to keep their own car safe during the course of their holiday or trip.
And then we have the rise in airports and the flights themselves being considered as part and parcel of the trip. We have already looked at how flights have now grown to be something which offers a level of comfort and luxury unlike anything which was available in the early days of flying – and it is important to note that what this does is encompass the flight industry as an integral part of the entire holiday process. In the modern days of package holidays, the airport and flight marks the start of the holiday – and providers have upped their game to reflect this, filling airports with various lounges and retail outlets to keep consumer entertained after going through security and before boarding the plane. These outlets offer the coveted duty free shopping experience where consumers can benefit from purchasing products without the added tax; the lounges offer different levels of experience to consumers depending on their plane ticket and how much they have paid in advance in order to enjoy an exclusive lounge experience; and the range of bars and eateries all provide a lot more selection than they used to in an effort to appease a multitude of travellers and tourists from all walks of life. These provisions also now expand on board the flights themselves, with most of the top providers offering consumers duty free shopping and bar style drinks on board flights whether they be under an hour or several hours or more.
When it comes down to it, the flight industry is one which rests heavily on experience and the simple fact that in the modern days of travel and holidays, flights are considered as much a part of the entire experience as the trip itself and the hotel that is booked. Many providers and third party travel agents seek to make this easier by including flights as part of varying package deals – leaning on the provision of a ton of different options in terms of flight time and airport in order to let consumers pick the deal which works best for them. By wrapping all of this, including the add-ons like airport parking, car hire and extra baggage into one booking process, providers make the entire flight experience seamless and easy – though that doesn’t necessarily mean it is cheaper. To ensure you are getting the best deal, make sure you shop around and pay attention to the way that flight prices shift on a regular basis.