Air travel in ten years -- the Freakonomic future

The Freakonomics blog reached out to a bunch of economists, travel execs and thinkers to imagine what US air travel will look like in ten years. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: the future of high-end air-travel is Ninja Air. The night before your flight, a highly trained ninja sneaks into your bedroom, blowdarts you, packs your suitcase, shrinkwraps you and sticks a routing tag on you. You are shipped, unconscious and stacked like cordwood, to your destination. Another ninja carries you (and your bags) off the plane and checks you into your hotel. Then he (or she) unpacks your suitcase, peels the shrinkwrap off you, tucks you into bed and climbs out onto the window ledge. Silently he (or she) blowdarts you again with the antidote, slipping silently off the ledge and down the side of the hotel, as you yawn and stretch, refreshed and in a new city, with no recollection of any intervening travel.

That's my theory. Clifford Winston, Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, opines, in part:

The solution requires the following: 1) to charge all aircraft for the delays caused by their takeoffs and landings, as well as the delays caused by their use of airspace near airports; to increase the number of runways at congested airports; 2) to introduce technological aids that would facilitate additional operations on parallel runways and reduce the separation between aircraft when they take off and when they land; and 3) to implement a satellite-based air traffic control system that, among other things, would give pilots the freedom to choose the most efficient routing, altitude, and speed of their flights.

By using the price mechanism to reduce peak-period demand for runway and airspace capacity, by expanding runway capacity at the most congested airports, and by adopting new technologies to enable more aircraft to use available runway and airspace capacity, air travel delays would be substantially reduced. In the process, competition would flourish, and the nation's exceptional air safety record would get even better.