After flying aboard three Boeing 777s from Frankfurt, Germany, to Dubai, U.A.E, to Singapore to Denpasar, Indonesia, I can’t help but reflect on the old days of air travel when ash trays were standard components of the arm rests, and a cassette tape Walkman was your only form of electronic entertainment. Back then, the food was often undistinguishable from the Styrofoam trays they came in, and an E-ticket probably meant that your seat was somewhere in the baggage compartment.
Today, life is dramatically different in the air and surviving a long-haul flight is infinitely easier. Emirates Airlines, based out of Dubai, and Qatar Airways, based out of Doha, were our carriers for our flight halfway around the world, and they have taken every step to ensure that their customers leave the concourse at their destination in a positive frame of mind. From in-seat entertainment that is customizable and includes hundreds of movies and television shows available on-demand, to exemplary international cuisine, air travel today is infinitely better than it was 30 years ago.
As the developing nations of the world continue their relentless push forward in living standards, the demand for air travel is projected to grow in tandem. With this in mind, some cities are staking their futures based upon this growth in airborne trade.
The city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is based at the southern end of the Persian Gulf and halfway between the developed markets of Europe and the roaring economies of East Asia. As a natural pivot point between the east and west, Dubai is capitalizing upon its strategic advantage by accelerating its efforts to become a leading global center based upon its airport. Not only has it dedicated itself to being an intermediary for people by building hotels and convention centers around the airport, but also warehouses and automated distribution centers for high-value cargo logistics in a global, just-in-time environment.
My wife and I arrived at midnight in Dubai, with our next flight to Singapore at 3am. During our 3 hours in the airport, we brushed shoulders with Chinese businessmen returning to Shanghai, merchants from New Delhi headed to Africa, and European vacationers of all nationalities destined for resorts in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. A never ending flow of people passing through aisles of duty-free shops set underneath flashing lights indicated that Dubai was open for business.
The city-state of Singapore is yet another shining example of the future of air travel. Unlike American airports which have adopted a post-9/11 militaristic greeting designed to intimidate newly arriving international guests, Singapore was spacious and relaxed. Every worker, from the security agents to the customs officials, smiled and laughed with the travelers in an effort to make them feel as welcome as possible. For a country that is based upon international trade, Singapore clearly understands the importance of first impressions and will invariably be a role model for the aerotropolis of the future.