COVID travel, COVID, air travel

Supersonic Comeback

Ideas and Issues

June 4, 2021

New Orleans     

United Airlines says its going to buy fifteen supersonic jets from some company, assuming that they meet its safety standards. Such jets last roamed the skies in 2003. These will not be ready to air, at best, until 2029. They fly at around 1300 miles per hour. A flight from San Francisco to Tokyo would take six hours they say. New York City to London or Paris in just a couple of hours. If there was ever any doubt that the rich have gotten way, way too rich, this may be the flashing neon sign.

The Concorde stopped flying not for technical reasons, but because there were so few customers, even at fares that would range up to $20,000 bucks, that the airlines couldn’t make a go of it. The company selling them says with various improvements here and there that they can reduce the operating cost by 75%, so that the planes would make money at the level of business class fares now.

Wow! Who knew that business fares were that expensive, but we must be talking about something in the $3 to $5000 range?  I just asked Google and sure enough they quoted nonstop fares from New Orleans to London anywhere between $4000 plus and $9000, if you wanted to go with Finnish Air.  Are you kidding me?

My point is not that business class is expensive, but that airlines like United and the manufacturer of these planes have obviously done the market research that indicates that there are now, compared to the beginning years of the 21st century, enough rich and business flyers that they can sustainably run supersonic jets and fill them up with the big whoops at these premium prices. If there was ever proof positive that corporations are avoiding way too many taxes and that the gap between the rich and the rest is out of control, a comeback for supersonic jet travel would seem to qualify.

In fairness, one business journalist referred to this announcement from United as “theater,” which would be a kinder word than fantasy. He may be right. Maybe this is just marketing.  Maybe they are just waving a flag out there and seeing if the rich line up?  Or maybe they know something that we’re still trying to deny about the inequity in our current society?

Bezos, Musk, and Branson, gazillionaires all, seem to think that they can fly to the moon for superrich joy riders for hundreds of thousands a trip and fill up the…what would you call it, the rocket?  the plane? or whatever? I think I read somewhere that one of this bunch is floating a million for a trip to Mars.

I would just say good riddance to all of them, but we’re still living here on hard ground.  We really need to finally tax corporations and the rich as fairly as the rest of us, before they waste all of their money of joy rides in space and climate and common-sense defying speeds just to have lunch in Paris and dinner in Chicago.