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The next frontier in first-class air travel: priority landing

AP Photo/Jon Super
Take me home—NOW.
By Zainab Mudallal
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

There aren’t many perks left to being an economy-class flyer. Most airlines have thrust the burden of meals, checked bags, and seat arrangements onto their lowliest passengers. No doubt they will find other ways to make economy-class travel more miserable—starting with how long their aircrafts wait to land in an air traffic jam.

In the future, air traffic controllers could grant priority landing to specific flights with VIP fliers, otherwise known as passengers with  ”premium services,” frequent flyers, “loyal customers,” and “high value customers,” according to a lecture at the Royal Academy of Engineering given by Richard Deakin, head of Britian’s National Air Traffic Service, and sent to Quartz. Under this plan, the first-come first-serve rule for landing flights would give way to airlines shuffling their landings by their own priorities, he said. (There wouldn’t be landing shuffles between competitors, he added, which would prove too complicated.)

Premium passengers wouldn’t be the only beneficiaries of the policy. The driver behind the change, he said, would be overcrowded airspace, which leads to costly delays, cancellations, and passengers with missed connections. Already each aircraft flying into the UK has a 10-minute hold built into its flight plan. Those hold times can only lengthen as growth in air traffic continues to outpace airports’ capacity around the globe.

Aside from prioritizing passengers paying top dollar, flights with connecting passengers might also get a bump to help them catch their connecting flight. Deakin thinks this will all be possible once airplanes are fitted with advanced transponders that allow air traffic services to collect more data on each airplane, including exact location, number of passengers on board, and their connecting flights.

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