This week for Quartz members: the future of air travel

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Dear Quartz members—

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

As recently as a century ago, a nonstop transatlantic flight was the stuff of fantasy. Now, the magic has long since gone, with more than a billion passengers criss-crossing the globe each year. By 2035, annual air travel is expected to have doubled from 2017, with passengers in the Asia-Pacific region driving the growth.

But breakneck growth of this sort is hard to manage—especially when you have insufficient infrastructure, growing regulation, and a limited supply of jet fuel. Add on changes in demographics, a worldwide pilot shortage, and airline bankruptcies in Europe, and the future suddenly looks a whole lot murkier.

Quartz’s travel reporter Natasha Frost explores these issues and more in a state-of-play analysis of the opportunities and challenges facing the sector. She’s 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.

In addition, we have a birds’ eye view crafted by reporter Amanda Shendruk of what cities do with their old airports when they no longer need them to fly planes. You can expect related articles later this week laying out the strategies deployed by the world’s most forward-looking airports and our best shot at environmentally friendly air travel.


Here are a few conversation starters from our guide:

  • 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.


Join us for a discussion on Friday at 11am EDT with Natasha and Quartz deputy finance editor Oliver Staley, where they’ll break down the future of aviation for investors, passengers, and employees alike. We’ll be taking questions and comments live on the video conference call, accessible at the usual location. If you’d like to dial in, use the following numbers:
UK: 0800-014 8469
USA: 866-226 4650
For all of the numbers, the access code is 722 994 440.


Tues., Oct. 1, 9am EDT: Quartz Asia deputy editor Isabella Steger, reporter Nikhil Sonnad, and producer Tony Lin discuss the changing face of China’s diaspora on the day China marks its 70th anniversary under communist rule.

Wed., Oct. 2, 11am EDT: Quartz reporter Jenni Avins and managing editor Kira Bindrim weigh in on the abrupt shift in fortunes of the nascent vaping industry, following a series of mysterious vaping-related illnesses and deaths. Moral panic, or a much-needed crackdown? And what does it mean for the long-term business prospects of the vaping economy?

(To add our complete schedule of upcoming conference calls to your Google calendar, click here.)

Please send a note to if you have any feedback, or suggestions for other things we should cover. Another great way to give feedback on Quartz membership is to complete this short survey.

Best wishes for a productive week,

Kevin J. Delaney
Editor in chief, Quartz