Even though they seem like they would be competitors, Hyperloop and the airline industry would be mutually compatible. There are actually a number of ways in which airlines could integrate their operations with a Hyperloop system or even work with one.
The artist’s conceptions of Hyperloop capsules online look a great deal like airliners. Like passenger airplanes, they would be metal or fiber cylinders in which people ride at high speeds. That means airlines would the logical companies to operate a Hyperloop passenger service, particularly in the United States, where passenger rail service vanished decades ago in most areas.
The airlines have the experience in moving people around, getting them on and off vehicles, handling baggage and in customer service. They also have the marketing and ticketing systems in place. The fastest way to get a booking system up and running for Hyperloop passengers would simply be to work with an airline such as Southwest.
My guess is that some airlines could transition into Hyperloop companies much as Sears transformed itself from a catalog company to a brick-and-mortar retailer. Many airlines will make the leap to Hyperloop because Hyperloop’s passenger volume and the profits it generates could be far greater than in the airline business.
Airports Could Become Hyperloop Terminals
Hyperloop could also drive more business to airlines by being a fast means of getting passengers to and from the airport. Many Americans, such as myself, live over 100 miles from the nearest airport, so we would welcome a faster means of reaching the airport. The prospect of not having to drive to the airport and risk having your car broken into or stolen in the lot while you are out of town is also an inviting one.
Another advantage to Hyperloop would be to eliminate the need for building new airports because flights could simply be rerouted from busy hubs to outlying regional airports, which often sit empty. The passengers could simply take the Hyperloop to their final destination. For example, flights to Denver could land at Colorado Springs or even Cheyenne, and flights to Los Angeles could land in Bakersfield.
At some point, this might even enable some airports that sit on valuable land in cities to be shut down. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) could be closed, and planes could land a new airport somewhere in the desert, where jet noise would not disturb the city’s residents.
Airports themselves could find new life as Hyperloop hubs. Airports would make logical Hyperloop station because they have lots of room, large parking lots, existing large terminals with facilities such as lounges and baggage handling areas and people are used to going to them. Many airports also have existing freight facilities that could be used by Hyperloop and hangars that could be transformed into Hyperloop maintenance facilities.
The land currently used as runways at some airports could be redeveloped for commercial or residential use and increase the property tax base. Such property could be very valuable, especially to real estate developers. Examples of facilities built there could include malls and hotels. Other airports could remain in operation because Hyperloop connections could increase their value to airlines.
Airports would also make much better Hyperloop terminals than the existing historic train stations, many of which would not be large enough to accommodate today’s passenger volume.
This means that Hyperloop will not destroy the airlines. Instead, it will take them to the next level of competition and passenger transportation.