The coming changes to air travel

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Dear readers—

Our field guide this week for Quartz members takes a long, hard look at the bumpy future for the aviation industry.

You can sign up here for a seven-day free trial of membership to access it.

Today’s state-of-play memo by Quartz reporter Natasha Frost analyzes the opportunities and challenges facing the sector. Natasha also published a Q&A with American Airlines CFO Derek Kerr on airline financials and a story on how technology will make travel more comfortable—even in the cheapest seats. We have more stories in the series this week, including an analysis of the strategies deployed by the world’s most forward-looking airports and an examination of our best shot at environmentally friendly air travel.

A few things that stood out for me in Natasha’s reporting:

  • In 1993, 73% of all air travel took place in Europe and North America. Today, 10 of the world’s 20 busiest airports are in Asia, as the industry’s center of gravity shifts east.
  • At least three startups—Boom, Aerion, and Spike—are working to bring back supersonic flight (in Aerion’s case by as soon as 2023) with the goal of cutting flight times in half.
  • The number of pilots in the US has fallen by about 30% since 1987.
  • Aviation emissions have increased by a quarter since 2013. The UN’s aviation carbon scheme, which would cap emissions at 2020 levels, starts in 2021 with 78 countries. But will it be enough to curb the sector’s outsized impact?
  • Jet fuel makes up about 25% of airlines’ costs. Could a shift to renewables be good news for their bottom line in the long run?
  • Humidity levels in economy class are more than double those in business or first class.

If you sign up for a Quartz membership, you’ll also have access to our in-depth guides on areas of business disruption from China’s Africa project to the role of influencers in modern marketing, and free invitations to members-only events. This week we’re hosting three videoconference calls for members to discuss the news with our journalists. 

You’ll get full access to our library of PowerPoint presentations, including a brand new one published Friday about the 12 Chinese startups that have reached $1 billion valuations this year. And you’ll be able to watch all of our video shows for members, including season two of Because China, which looks at how China is changing the rest of the world. There’s a new episode focused on the Chinese diaspora, and how in urban centers across the English-speaking world, the Chinatowns of old are giving way to new, modern Chinese settlements. 

I hope you’ll take advantage of the free trial of Quartz membership and support all of this unique, in-depth reporting.

Kevin J. Delaney
Editor in chief, cofounder