Air travel has become a commodity business. Even as recently as the 1970s, even domestic airlines still competed with one another on things like in-flight lounges and bars as well as providing fine dining experiences to their customers in the air. Up until the 1980s, it was still almost a given that passengers would dress up as if going to a formal gathering when taking to the skies. Flying was a more inspiring experience then.
But as air travel became cheaper and began being marketed to the masses, not as a unique and adventurous experience but as a simple means to quickly travel from one corner of the planet to another, the romance and wonder of air travel began to fade.
Now, Airbus and its partner firm, Design Q, have teamed up to bring air travel back to the days of Roald Amundsen, when flying was a means to high adventure and the entrance to an exalted world that only the rarefied elite could access. The two companies are ushering in a new era of the pole-traversing airship.
The 302-foot-long Airlander 10 looks like an almost alien creation from the outside, with two large tubes filled with helium to keep it aloft. On the inside, however, the ship looks much like an ultra-luxury yacht. With spacious staterooms, a large viewing area and a bar and lounge that would be the envy of any five-star restaurant, the Airlander 10 is a flying luxury hotel that gives its guests some of the most stunning views in the world. The airship’s forward observation compartment is decked out with floor-to-ceiling picture windows, providing a view with an expanse that has never been matched by a previous craft. And to top it all off, the viewing area features a large glass floor, providing views straight to the ground that will put up to 15,000 feet between the passengers’ shoes and the Earth’s surface.
The Airlander 10 is currently undergoing final flight testing and is scheduled to be approved for passenger service later this year. Although it is slow by international air travel standards, its 91-mph top speed make it approximately three to four times faster than even the fastest ocean liners. And the Airlander 10 provides levels of travel comfort that rival even the best of the Cunard Line. However, passengers can expect to shell out big money to travel in such high-flying style. The ship will have operational costs similar to an intercontinental-range airliner but will only accomodate 19 passengers.