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Carroll School of Management

Future Air Travel

Edward H. Bastian

Chief Executive Officer, Delta Air Lines 

Excerpt from remarks to Boston College Chief Executives Club  

March 9, 2017

TAKEAWAY: Future Air Travel

Speaking of game-changing and technology, what about the future of air travel? I’m still waiting for my George Jetson private flying car—I guess that’s what they were called. Where will we be 10 years from now?

I think you’ll be looking at much of the same. I own a Tesla, so I enjoy looking at some of the new innovation in travel. And there’s no question…

Self-driving plane?

Well, there’s no question that’s where it’ll eventually go. These cars are going to fly someday. I don’t know it’s in 10 years, and probably not in my lifetime, but at some point in time, you’ll have highways in the sky rather than just on the ground.

But the challenge with it is that we’ve made air travel affordable to the masses. This past year, we had 180 million customers that we served worldwide—second-highest in the globe. And this coming year, I think we’ll be the highest in the globe. We’ll pass American. When you have 180—I mean, the price point to be able to deliver that service, it’s going to be really hard for the technology to ever get there.

So supersonic travel or flying into space or flying self-driving—I mean that’s probably going to happen, but it’s so far off because the price point you’re going to need to make people want to actually accommodate it—we’re partners with Richard Branson. Branson has Virgin Galactic as one of its things. But we own Virgin Atlantic. We own 49% of Virgin Atlantic, he owns 51%. I just spent a couple days on his island with him last week. And Virgin Galactic—he wants to fly someone into space, and I think he’s got about 1,000 people already have made deposits to go into space. But those deposits are $250,000 a person. That’s not a model that’s going to challenge our industry anytime soon.