Ready to travel again but not too keen on spending half the day in a metal tube thousands of feet in the air? You’re in luck. Long-haul flights could soon become quicker than the speed of sound. Literally.
United Airlines announced Thursday it’s agreed to purchase 15 supersonic aircraft from Boom Supersonic, a – what else? – supersonic air travel startup. The new fleet could cut flight times on major routes in half.
Prepare for Liftoff
Commercial supersonic jetliners haven’t hit the skies since Airbus grounded the gas-guzzling, cash-burning Concorde back in 2003. But United believes this investment, which could be extended to an additional 35 aircraft, may fundamentally reshape air travel.
For a start, the flights would have net zero carbon emissions from day one, with planes optimized to run on 100% sustainable fuel. The Overture, Boom’s needle-nosed commercial jet model, would also allow United to hack flight times into fractions of their former selves:
- The usual 7-hour New York to London flight would take 3.5 hours; and LA to Sydney just under 7 hours instead of the typical grueling 15.
But speed doesn’t come cheap: to be one of the lucky 88 passengers with a seat in The Overture’s 205-foot long cabin, you’re looking at entry level costs of $5,000 per head.
Still Awaiting Take-Off: Don’t get too excited just yet – Boom has a long history of late arrivals. Originally scheduled to take flight in 2017, its scaled-down prototype jet won’t even be tested until later this year. Even if it meets every safety inspection benchmark, United isn’t expecting to carry passengers supersonically until 2029. Now that’s a brutal delay.