Written by by Sam Hanson, CNN
Travelling between major cities could soon get cheaper, thanks to development of a new wave of superbusiness minisuites, or virtual airports.
The concept, which can be considered “a hybrid of a traditional airport and a mobile internet hotspot,” is the brainchild of British-American tech entrepreneur, Keith Bradbury , who says flying costs are too high, burdening families, short-term travelers and businesses alike.
Currently, travelers’ main complaint is paying more for pricey premium lounge access in airplanes, a choice that can vary from business-class seats costing $3,500 an hour to UberX rides topping $100 an hour.
“One of the major barriers to innovation in the aviation industry is getting people to change behavior,” says Bradbury.
“Flying is a social ritual, it’s a psychological experience, and changing behavior can be very hard. So how do you create a breakthrough experience that is not an incremental change?”
After taking full advantage of high-speed broadband, Bradbury is offering ” mini-airports ” near the top of major cities like New York, London and Hong Kong.
These small areas allow passengers to use laptops, tablets and smartphones to leave their shoes and jackets on and check in at a time that fits their schedule.
These mini-airports can then be taken anywhere, and several are now deployed at airports around the world.
Briton Keith Bradbury spoke to CNN about how minúites could make flying cheaper. Credit: Keith Bradbury
Since its launch in the US, the minúite concept has proved popular with business travelers, according to Tony Douglas, President of Gatwick Airport’s Airports Company Limited.
“They’re very suited to the busy travel experience in Gatwick, they mean that the queues on the departures’ concourse can become much shorter for everyone,” he tells CNN Travel
“A lot of people do use the small spaces,” he adds. “We didn’t see a shift in the uptake of premium lounge access because of the minúite concept.”
1 / 12 – Minúites Credit: Superflux Ltd.
Here’s how micro-airports work. Airplane planes can carry as many people as possible, with minimal wait times. The airport operates these planes like traditional ones, allowing customers to use devices and laptops to access the airport. Each miniuite has just 50-60 seats and provides WiFi access to passengers. Bradbury says his first mini-airport opened in London’s Heathrow in March 2015. Credit: http://www.theminuite.com/
Ultra-premium in-flight lounges tend to be destinations unto themselves. These seats typically cost more to book than the flights they are intended to serve. While serving a greater number of passengers, such amenities do not provide the same level of service or comforts, and have more hidden or unexpected costs for airlines.
In a bid to address this problem, Bradbury has come up with the micro-airport concept, which allows for even cheaper in-flight travel by combining the best aspects of on-board and off-board experiences.
“The work we’re doing is essentially enabling this incredible experience of flying, where you sit in a chair with headphones listening to tunes on your own personal playlist. You don’t have to be in a lounge to use the onboard internet,” says Bradbury.
“It has actually created a very different business model for airlines that enable an increase in pricing elasticity. If they can enable enough people to move from premium to minufirestation then they can actually increase their price without losing customers.”