swa4life
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The Airline Industry In An Apocalyptic World

Sun Dec 26, 2010 7:02 am

A few months ago I canceled my Comcast cable TV service in an act of protest due to the absolutely out of hand prices ($130 a month for a basic package!). As a result I've been watching a lot of Netflix streaming content through my Xbox, and for what ever reason there are a disproportionate amount of conspiracy, end of days, market crash, economy collapse type of documentaries available for viewing. I've probably watched about 6 of them over the past month or so, and it got me thinking about things,.. Where does all of this leave the airline industry? What does a post apocalyptic airline industry look like?

Let's just create a scenario,.. Peak oil hits again even harder than before. Energy prices become so high that the economy is effectively crippled. Things go from bad to worse, and the bottom just falls out on the market. The unemployment rate eclipses 30%, the dollar becomes the peso, and the world becomes a very different place.

As bad as things are, there is still a market for some of life's most basic needs and one of those needs is the ability to get from one part of the country to the other. Obviously much fewer people will be in a position to be able to travel, but the need remains for the few left who require it.

+ With gas prices over $10 a gallon, driving places is a worse option than ever before.

+ It may not even be safe to move significant distances on the ground.

+ Infrastructure will likely degrade resulting in poor traffic management.

+ Trains are still an option, but with limited range and possibly vulnerable to unreliable electricity supply.

What do you think we would see in the way of air service in an environment like this? Obviously a smaller industry overall. Do any of the actual airlines survive? Do they go away from scheduled service and operate chartered flights? Much smaller executive type jets?
 
slz396
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Sun Dec 26, 2010 7:13 am

Quoting swa4life (Thread starter):
With gas prices over $10 a gallon, driving places is a worse option than ever before

Is it?

In Europe, we pay over €1.5 euro a litre, equating to almost $8 a gallon, and nobody seems to be leaving his car home.
 
point2point
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Sun Dec 26, 2010 7:15 am

In this world that you describe, as in almost any other world, the very wealthy will have what they want, and all the rest of us will suffer, and what will the very wealth care?

Yes, so there will be some airlines catering to the very very wealthy.....  
 
etherealsky
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Sun Dec 26, 2010 7:42 am

I would think the air transportation systems (infrastructure, ATC staff, regulation/enforcement agencies, etc.) of most countries would become militarized; all major airports would be claimed by the world's air forces, while most small and/or uncontrolled fields would be abandoned or purposefully destroyed. Airspace would probably look at lot more like it did (until recently) in China, with all civilian flight operations requiring prior approval.

As far as any surviving (former) commercial carriers... perhaps they would be consolidated and run by a newly-created military entity. The demand for passenger transportation would obviously plummet and so the skies would be very empty, all while the deserts of the western US would be lined with thousands of aircraft waiting to be scrapped for their valuable metal. Demand for cargo and freight transportation would probably stay pretty high, with lost commercial shipping demand replaced by governments' needs to relocate resources and equipment to surviving centralized cities/communities (although perhaps it would be just as easy to do this via rail or sea..).

Of course these predictions could be completely off the mark, but it is a very interesting question to ponder nonetheless  
"And that's why you always leave a note..."
 
mrskyguy
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Sun Dec 26, 2010 7:55 am

This is a fun thread.. I have pondered the thought many times. Personally I think we'd see a complete resurgence of what most typically categorize as "GA" flying. It's not as capable, but certainly a little simpler to use and highly-customizable to the need. It would be interesting too, as the general condition of airports in said scenario would surely begin to show even after only a year or two, lending to demand for perhaps more somewhat rugged airliner designs such as the "Jurassics" which were purpose-built to fulfill as many roles as possible in a single airframe (eg. B732).

The thought of any scenario which gives rise to these circumstances is beyond chilling.

Most likely would be the complete and absolute return to a more community-oriented lifestyle (something I miss even in the absence of a dystopian situation).
"The strength of the turbulence is directly proportional to the temperature of your coffee." -- Gunter's 2nd Law of Air
 
heathrow
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Sun Dec 26, 2010 8:16 am

Quoting swa4life (Thread starter):
With gas prices over $10 a gallon, driving places is a worse option than ever before.

I don't think this will be a much of a problem. As it has been said before, that's not much more than European pricing. I feel lucky to be paying 1,13$ a litre in Canada, and not what they do in Europe! You should consider yourself lucky to get the prices you do on most products in the U.S!
 
usairways787
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Sun Dec 26, 2010 8:42 am

Back on topic, if this were to ever happen and be the case I don't believe any transportation except cars or railroads would be exsistant. People rioting crime rate tripled basically the whole crippled. A world I would never want to be in.

Quoting slz396 (Reply 1):

I'll take my $2.75 a U.S. Gallon over that anyday.

US787

[Edited 2010-12-26 04:45:09 by srbmod]
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swa4life
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Sun Dec 26, 2010 8:42 am

Quoting heathrow (Reply 9):
I don't think this will be a much of a problem. As it has been said before, that's not much more than European pricing. I feel lucky to be paying 1,13$ a litre in Canada, and not what they do in Europe! You should consider yourself lucky to get the prices you do on most products in the U.S!

That might be true, but you have to understand that our economy is built on the idea of cheap oil. The economics of certain things don't work as well once the price of oil goes above a certain amount. We live in sprawling sub urban environments where ever individual drives his/her own car into work every day. The way we generate power, and transport goods is all dependent on cheap energy. If the oil prices suddenly become prohibitively priced, we can't just flip a switch and be more like Europe. For many Americans, there is no infrastructure between them and their workplace besides an interstate highway. No bike trails, no trains, and no walking. People are eeking by as it is. High energy prices make everything more expensive as well though. You have to factor in the amount of energy it costs to make and transport most goods.. A loaf of bread might start to cost $5, milk $8, etc.. All of the sudden the cost of living is astronomical.
 
Byrdluvs747
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Sun Dec 26, 2010 10:53 am

Quoting swa4life (Reply 3):
Quoting slz396 (Reply 1):
In Europe, we pay over €1.5 euro a litre, equating to almost $8 a gallon, and nobody seems to be leaving his car home.

1.5 Euros currently exchanges for $1.97,

Thats just embarassing.
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viv
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Sun Dec 26, 2010 11:15 am

Quoting Byrdluvs747 (Reply 15):
Thats just embarassing.

No, it's a reflection of the fact that gas in the US is untaxed.

It's also why cars in Europe use less gas than in the US.
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planemaker
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Sun Dec 26, 2010 11:37 am

Quoting swa4life (Thread starter):
Let's just create a scenario,.. Peak oil hits again even harder than before.

The disruption you paint would last only a couple of years and not be as deep nor as widespread as you might imagine.
Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. - A. Einstein
 
affirmative
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Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:06 pm

Quoting Byrdluvs747 (Reply 14):
You need to do a better search. CO has been doing testing since 2009, and AS has been working with Boeing(both being based in the same state) on biofuel development. So much for Americans doing nothing.

Keywords are "Operational" and "Testing".. You can test it how much you want but as long as you don't do anything from an operational standpoint it's no more then a PR exercise..

I have friends running their diesel cars with used oil from McDonalds, Burger King and other fast food chains. They happily give their used frying oil away and all you need to do is filter it and then you're good to go. The biggest problem he's facing is that all the restaurants wants to give him more than he can use up. Granted that newer diesel cars may have problems with frying oil but just the fact that you can reuse something on an industrial scale like this is magnificent. Just look at your immediate neighborhood how many fast food joints there are and how much waste oil they produce and then imagine how many cars in your immediate neighborhood you could run on that alone. I mean, you can drive a big Chevy dually truck or a Humvee with a diesel on this without any big mods and it smells like a nice barbecue behind you.. Now that's a nice "Green" car.. But of course, it's easier to take the black stuff coming out of the ground.. Cheaper - no, easier - yes..
I love the smell of Jet-A1 in the morning...
 
RussianJet
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Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:19 pm

Quoting Byrdluvs747 (Reply 15):
Thats just embarassing.

Yes, it is embarrassing that the US treats petrol like water, encouraging people to waste it left, right and centre, rather than protecting it as the precious, finite resource that it is, rather than taxing waste and greed. Embarrassing alright, yes.
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ltbewr
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Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:38 pm

The biggest problem short term we do have to worry about is a run up in base oil prices, especially due to the combination of peak oil and greater demand from China and other countries. That could mean in the next year of $4-5/gallon fuel prices in the USA and over $10 in Europe with major economic dislocations in the world including a major collapse in demand for air flights as they become unaffordable. As to airlines, that would perhaps a return to government owned airlines with limited service.
 
ORDJOE
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Sun Dec 26, 2010 4:39 pm

As an Engineer myself, here are some facts. Ethanol, biodiesel and the like have a dirty secret of being energy negative (Ie you consume more energy than you get out of the molecules of ethanol or biodiesel esters) and wind, solar and other alternatives are still maturing technologies not yet ready for large scale production (the other dirty secret of hydro power it destroys the ecosystem of the river) Using used grease to power a diesel car, works in the hot climates of the UAE, but cant be done in even temperate climates. And as I side note, I am all in favor of developing alternative energies for a number of reasons, and the sight of people in the huge SUV when just driving around the suburbs annoys me. And as a side note, the US government earmarks billions for alternative energy research. And a huge myth out there is the USA has no oil. We have tons of it, some estimates think we might have more than Saudi Arabia. It is our regulatory environment that makes it prohibitive to drill for it. Obama placed a moratorium on offshore drilling while China is drill off Cuba and only 200-300km from the major city of Miami.

Enough ranting to the issue at hand. The problem why oil does not skyrocket of long periods of time is it will create demand pressures and will eventually readjust, remember how oil went from ~145/barrel-~40 a barrel so quickly. In this economic apocalypse I think you see more of a "communal" economy, ie individual towns become their own self sustaining economic entities, and probably a return to more agrarian based economy and return of the barter system. The rich would make it through this better, although there would be plenty of newly poor. Ultimately there still would be air travel in one form or another, LHR, JFK, ORD, SIN, HKG.... would be desolate but would still have aircraft movements.

Remember necessity is the ultimate fuel for innovation, barring something on the level of a nuclear holocaust, new age black plague or something on that level, I think you would see radically redesigned transportation methods.
 
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TheRedBaron
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Sun Dec 26, 2010 5:41 pm

The main problem with a total collapse, are FOOD and WORK, services will be very low and scarce but other than that business as usual.

IF TSHTF, you have to have Food, shelter and a modicum of energy, and be sure to have work or some form of making money (to trade or to buy). There will be everything as before if you have $$$$.
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goblin211
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Sun Dec 26, 2010 6:31 pm

I've always thought about this topic like this:
*With people ordering things online cargo airlines such as FedEx will be shipping products all over the world.
*If only the really wealthy could travel then they'd have private jets and then probably lease a 747 to fly to Europe for business or whatever.
*Bottom line though, i don't think people will ever stop traveling by air b/c there's just so much demand to go to places i.e. NYC for all its wonderful resources and cultural advantages. The air travel industry is expected to double by 2020 so i honestly don't think this apocalyptic stuff is realistic--but very fun to ponder i agree.
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hOMSaR
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Sun Dec 26, 2010 6:38 pm

There are couple of books I've read on the subject, with quite different outlooks on the future. The two I've read are The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler, and $20 Per Gallon by Christopher Steiner. I think the latter book might be of interest to this thread, as the author details how he sees each industry (including the airlines) coping with (or collapsing because of) the rise in fuel prices. Steiner's book is certainly more optimistic than Kunstler's.
The plural of Airbus is Airbuses. Airbii is not a word.
There is no 787-800, nor 787-900 or 747-800. It's 787-8, 787-9, and 747-8.
A321neoLR is also unnecessary. It's simply A321LR.
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ocracoke
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Sun Dec 26, 2010 6:52 pm

Quoting affirmative (Reply 10):
You don't see any American carriers doing this and one can only question why.


http://www.environmentalleader.com/2...nes-commit-to-2-deals-for-biofuel/

Quoted from the above text:

Participating airlines include American Airlines, Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, FedEx Express, Hawaiian Airlines, Jet Blue Airways, Lufthansa German Airlines, Mexicana Airlines, Polar Air Cargo, United Airlines, UPS Airlines, and US Airways.

Quoting viv (Reply 13):
No, it's a reflection of the fact that gas in the US is untaxed.

If only. We pay plenty of taxes on our gas. Federal, state, local taxes. Sad part of it is that this tax is supposed to go towards the upkeep of roads, and yet, our infrastructure is falling apart.

Quoting affirmative (Reply 15):
I have friends running their diesel cars with used oil from McDonalds, Burger King and other fast food chains. They happily give their used frying oil away and all you need to do is filter it and then you're good to go.

Also known as SVO. Straight vegetable oil. Works only in warmer tempartures. Once it drops below freezing, you cannot use SVO anymore. It is possible to convert SVO to bio-diesel, though, but that takes a little bit of tinkering, and extra energy.
 
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hOMSaR
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Sun Dec 26, 2010 7:23 pm

Quoting ocracoke (Reply 23):

If only. We pay plenty of taxes on our gas. Federal, state, local taxes. Sad part of it is that this tax is supposed to go towards the upkeep of roads, and yet, our infrastructure is falling apart.

That's because, at least on the federal level (state and local really depends on where you are), the tax only covers about half the cost of road upkeep.

The federal gas tax is only 18 cents per gallon, and hasn't changed in quite some time. State and local taxes vary (of course) by state and locality. I don't have specific figures on those, but it wouldn't surprise me if many of the states that use gas taxes to fund road repairs lose money on that as well.
The plural of Airbus is Airbuses. Airbii is not a word.
There is no 787-800, nor 787-900 or 747-800. It's 787-8, 787-9, and 747-8.
A321neoLR is also unnecessary. It's simply A321LR.
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robso2
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Sun Dec 26, 2010 9:33 pm

Quoting ordjoe (Reply 18):
Ethanol, biodiesel and the like have a dirty secret of being energy negative (Ie you consume more energy than you get out of the molecules of ethanol or biodiesel esters) and wind, solar and other alternatives are still maturing technologies not yet ready for large scale production

Well said - as well as being energy negative, ethanol has another major issue: producing ethanol requires converting land to produce suitable crops and therefore cars running on an ethanol mix have no smaller carbon footprint. In fact, the land conversion process cancels out the emissions savings generated by burning sugar as opposed to gasoline.

Quoting ordjoe (Reply 18):
Remember necessity is the ultimate fuel for innovation, barring something on the level of a nuclear holocaust, new age black plague or something on that level, I think you would see radically redesigned transportation methods.

Very true indeed.
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affirmative
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Sun Dec 26, 2010 9:43 pm

Quoting UAL747DEN (Reply 22):
I think your a bit confused about how things work over here in the US. If you look at the numbers you will find that we produce more hydro power than anyone else in the world.

Yeah, one can use statistics any way one see fit. But if you instead take the percentage of the total water produced electricity it absolutely minimal, same goes for wind. In the US 44.9% of all electricity produced was from coal while 6.9% was from water. (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:20...city_generation_by_source_v2.png). This means that the majority of the electricity production is the dirtiest kind. France in 2006 was producing 11.1% from Hydroelectric sources and only 3.9% from coal (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:So...lectricity_in_France_in_2006.PNG).

So, I guess you might produce more megawatts but in the grand sceeme of things it's basically negligable..

Quoting UAL747DEN (Reply 22):
Your idea of windmills on skyscrapers is just a bad one

If you look at helix wind turbines and the way they easily blend into the skyline on highrises I hope you'll change your mind. These can also be mounted horizontally on the wall to harness updrafts on the sides of tall buildings. And they are very efficient.

Quoting UAL747DEN (Reply 22):
Gas in the US is far overtaxed!

Well.. I guess it's all about what you compare it to and if you want to be responsible for the impact you're having. in Sweden f.ex the tax on gas is about 70-75% of the price. But environmentally friendly fuels are a lot less.

Quoting UAL747DEN (Reply 22):
Using old cooking oil as fuel is a great idea but its not a real answer to our energy problems!

Of course it doesn't, but it's something that could definitely help. Throwing it on a dump doesn't solve it either.

And to answer your last statement. I have no interest what so ever in the energy consumption or production in the US per se. But I think the sticking the head in the sand attitude doesn't help if anyone want's to go forward. Sure you spend loads on research, but if it leads nowhere it's again no more than a PR exercise. I mean, even Shell and BP says they spend lots and lots of money on research into renewable energy, have we seen any fruits of this research? Oh yes, 10% ethanol in the gas..

Quoting ocracoke (Reply 23):
http://www.environmentalleader.com/2...nes-commit-to-2-deals-for-biofuel/

Interesting, but it's only 10% and if one read carefully it's in biodiesel as well as jet-fuel. Nowhere is it mentioned how much goes where. I do commend them for doing something nontheless. But since the environment is a really hot issue I'm surprised it haven't been mentioned anywhere else.

Quoting ocracoke (Reply 23):

Also known as SVO. Straight vegetable oil. Works only in warmer tempartures. Once it drops below freezing, you cannot use SVO anymore. It is possible to convert SVO to bio-diesel, though, but that takes a little bit of tinkering, and extra energy.

Yup, that's right. Basically the same happens to Diesel but at lower temperatures. In Sweden I think they used bio-ethanol in the rapeseed derived fuel to tackle this. You can basically do this yourself, but you have to be careful since too much of ethanol would be bad for the engine.

--

I think that using biofuels in airlines are the way to go. I see no reason why this could not be done on a bigger scale. Sure there's a price issue at first but that could be offset by smart marketing. People, at least in Europe, tend to pay a premium for something that's more environmentally friendly so I think a small "environment surcharge" would be pretty easy to sell to the flying public. If the price difference is less than 10-20% I believe many would still choose it. Especially those companies that have an outspoken environment policy. They wouldn't fly anything else. So based on this I believe that this, as all things, is market driven. If the people that fly want's biofuels, the airline gets the ball running.

Cheers!
I love the smell of Jet-A1 in the morning...
 
ThirtyEcho
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Sun Dec 26, 2010 10:52 pm

This depends on the kind of Apocalypse but WWII might serve as an example. Basically, the average person simply could not get a reservation on an airliner without having some VIP help them. Even at that, you were subject to being bumped at any point along the route by some higher priority passenger.
 
trigged
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Mon Dec 27, 2010 2:03 am

Quoting affirmative (Reply 10):
Maybe the US citizens need to understand that to be the land of the free you can't be depending on anything that can't be produced in your own country. But for a lot of US citizens being free is about being able to carry a gun and drive their Chevy truck with a gas guzzling V8. There is a fundamental flaw in the whole system and the interests of the people and before anything can change peoples attitude towards their needs and wants will need to change.

I fail to see how owning firearms or a General Motors truck is somehow flawed. Do I want things to be energy efficient? Sure. Do I want to waste gas? No. As far as owning a firearm I do consider that a fundamental right but there are many that don't. I have been in Europe and see some waste there as well.

The argument that the oil companies run everything is only partially correct. In order to get funding in biofuels research, you need to research what the Department of Energy WANTS you to research. I have seen many great proposals go forward and be rejected because it is not something that is the "flavor of the month" at the DOE. That is just the way it goes. Government bureaucrats have way more power in the US than any lobbyist group.

The airline industry will suffer just as much as every other industry suffers in a TEOTWAWKI event. Will airlines still function? Sure... but sparingly because people will not want/have the money to spend on a flight. Business travel will probably become nonexistent, leisure travel will grind to a halt. Will Paris Hilton still fly around and promote bimboness? Sure, but even she will run out of money one day.
 
PlymSpotter
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Mon Dec 27, 2010 2:20 am

Quoting ordjoe (Reply 18):
wind, solar and other alternatives are still maturing technologies not yet ready for large scale production

Maybe so in the US, I don't know much about the alternative energy movement over there, but in Europe both solar and wind power are mass produced technologies with impressive rates of efficiency. Certainly they are still developing - like any technology, but their economic viability and energy efficiency has already reached maturity. The major improvements are now coming through diversifying the core technology to adapt to more specific needs.

Quoting ordjoe (Reply 18):
(the other dirty secret of hydro power it destroys the ecosystem of the river)

That depends entirely on the site, the application and the instillation. If you construct a HEP without any regard to the environment then you are guaranteed to cause damage, but if you design and manage a project correctly it should result in a net habitat gain.

The sooner world energy needs are made less dependant on fossil fuels, specifically oil, the less likely a catastrophic meltdown of the global economy and society is. At the moment almost every aspect of our lives is tied to the price of a single commodity. It's a recipe for disaster in my view.


Dan  
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Burkhard
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Mon Dec 27, 2010 10:31 am

Apocalyptic news sell well. That's all.

Believe me, NEVER the world was BETTER than today, that is the only reason we tend to belive it cannot get EVEN better, but it will get better - even for those who make their easy rich living through selling an apocalyptic world instead of showing the full beauty of truth.

Aviation has been the fastest growing industry over the last decades, with a very stable growth, and will continue to grow. In a decade ot two, we will have twice the number of airliners flying around, tranporting three times the number of people, and half have the number of accidents that we have today. Airlines that have no valid buisiness model will go out of market, New airlines will show up.

And london will have problems with snow. That is all.
 
milemaster
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Mon Dec 27, 2010 4:41 pm

Quoting swa4life (Thread starter):
What does a post apocalyptic airline industry look like?

TowerAir was a glimpse into this type of future.
 
trigged
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Mon Dec 27, 2010 4:55 pm

Its funny that people argue over the oil issue and complain about gas guzzling SUV's while sitting on their vinyl couch watching a plastic TV, eating off of polyethylene plates, and drive hybrids full of plastic parts. Guess where most plastics come from.

Getting back to topic, look at aviation. Cargo operations need to be boosted significantly and the amount of long-haul trucks needs to decrease. I am a HUGE proponent of getting the 18-wheelers off of the roads and on to trains and planes. You could put a huge amount of cargo on trains and intra-continental jumbos and move it more efficiently than those 4.5 MPG beasts. The overloaded 18 wheelers beat the roads to death, cause crashes, and burn fuel at an astonishing rate.

As for those in Europe, you have shorter commutes than alot of us do in the US so think about that. I drive 110 miles a day round trip to work. Do I have a fuell efficient vehicle? Sort of. Its a 2004 Nissan Frontier 4cyl. 25 MPG and have 115,000 miles on it. There is absolutely NO mass transit around here so driving is not an option.
 
SA7700
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Tue Dec 28, 2010 7:40 am

This thread has moved away from an aviation component to a more general discussion that has little or few reference to civil aviation. The thread will therefore be moved to the non-aviation forum. Kindly ensure that you post within the parameters of the rules-and regulations of the website.


Thank you for your cooperation.

Rgds

SA7700
When you are doing stuff that nobody has done before, there is no manual – Kevin McCloud (Grand Designs)
 
noelg
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RE: The Airline Industry In An Apocalyptic World

Tue Dec 28, 2010 1:03 pm

Quoting trigged (Reply 27):
As for those in Europe, you have shorter commutes than alot of us do in the US so think about that. I drive 110 miles a day round trip to work. Do I have a fuell efficient vehicle? Sort of. Its a 2004 Nissan Frontier 4cyl. 25 MPG and have 115,000 miles on it. There is absolutely NO mass transit around here so driving is not an option.

I can't speak for the rest of Europe, but that's about right for the UK. I am lucky in that I only have a short commute of 40 miles return each day, however in my office I am the closest to work. A couple of my colleagues do 120-150 miles return every day, the rest doing around 80-100 miles return per day. As with everywhere in the world, it depends on what work you do. You generally have to travel more for a higher paid job than those working in a supermarket. And yes, the petrol is the same price for all of us.

There is no mass transit in most parts of the UK, only between the major cities and in them. If like a large proportion of the population you don't live in a city, you have no choice but to drive. If I wanted to get a bus to work it would take around 2 hours and cost about £6. I can drive in 30 minutes, or cycle in around an hour.

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