Hotels on airplanes: Are our travel rituals changing?

A hotel on an airplane may sound like a rather futuristic and lavish concept, however it turns out the idea has roots back as far as the 1950s. To find out more we speak to Margot Krasojević of Jetway, who tells us what the future holds for the travel industry as well as how cross-disciplinary collaborations amongst architects, engineers and designers are sparking new innovations...

What was your motivation when first coming up with the idea for Jetway hotels?

My client approached me in 2010, to design a hotel for a private airstrip; the building's typology and whether it should be a permanent or temporary structure were the most important issues for me as an architect. Nomadic lifestyles played an integral part in the design's influence and what that means in today's society, as a result I was eager to abandon the traditional idea of a static, immobile short stay hotel, in favour of a temporary dynamic typology for business Bedouin; prospectors as early as the 1950s travelled by plane across Qatar and Saudi Arabia in search of oil, so there is a rich history of aviation and licensed private jet employment in the area. The Jetway hotel relates to the aesthetics of a private jet as my client is an avid flyer and collector.

Do you feel as though architects and designers will play an increased role in the future of the travel industry?

Yes, I believe we should play a part in designing the changing identity and rituals of travel. Technology is evolving at a fast rate, we as architects need to address how this influences building typologies; as a society we do not live, work, travel or communicate the same way we did only a couple of years ago. I believe architects can help develop new typologies as we are already looking past established and redundant ones in an era of instantaneous communication.

Travel inspires the possibility of creating forerunners of design whereby architecture is the tool to develop and translate these possibilities. The travel industry no longer needs to dictate the terms of travel as people are in a position to know what they want and how to claim this experience. Designers and architects need to collaborate with other disciplines to help redefine and inspire the possibilities of the future whether it be for travel, work or inhabiting urban or rural contexts. Cross-disciplinary collaborations are vital to encourage change.

Do you feel as though architects and designers will play an increased role in the future of the travel industry?

Yes, I believe we should play a part in designing the changing identity and rituals of travel. Technology is evolving at a fast rate, we as architects need to address how this influences building typologies; as a society we do not live, work, travel or communicate the same way we did only a couple of years ago. I believe architects can help develop new typologies as we are already looking past established and redundant ones in an era of instantaneous communication. Travel inspires the possibility of creating forerunners of design whereby architecture is the tool to develop and translate these possibilities. The travel industry no longer needs to dictate the terms of travel as people are in a position to know what they want and how to claim this experience. Designers and architects need to collaborate with other disciplines to help redefine and inspire the possibilities of the future whether it be for travel, work or inhabiting urban or rural contexts. Cross-disciplinary collaborations are vital to encourage change.

Designing hotels on the moon would be fantastic, working with a design brief that involves zero gravity.

Do you think people’s attitudes towards travel are changing?

People's attitudes are continuously changing, as a result of technology. We have accessibility to more destinations and methods of travel, people want to experience the new, the never seen before, they want to become explorers. We can choreograph our experiences and travel caters to this, the journey is part of the getaway, where realities merge and exploration of uncharted territories becomes possible.

People can also work efficiently whilst on holiday (the downside of this is that they might be expected to as wireless communications means accessibility without excuse), we are always mapped and located making it easier to transfer information. The Jetway hotel creates virtual environments which rely on technology to allow you to appropriate the space according to your needs whether it be for business or relaxation or sports. The negative side to current climate in the hotel and travel industry is managing the financial crisis , rising cost of fuel, even the type of person to travel will  change due to unstable pensions fewer retired people will be able to afford it, yet on the plus side more people over 60 are interested in experiencing travel as if they were still in their 20's creating a new niche for adventure. Awareness over security, pandemics, and adverse weather conditions will have an effect on the demographic.

Many of the new innovations we see in the travel sector are centred around business travel – is it likely that these innovations will benefit the masses anytime soon?

Yes I believe so, the leisure industry has already been using the ideas of simulated environments for years, why not have the journey as part of the holiday, could there be hotel spa trains travelling the country where the destination is the journey itself? Flying for me is personally the highlight of any trip or holiday. The Jetway lounge, for example, is clad in LCD surround immersive technology which can absorb the individual in a digitally projected environment, or alternatively remain a simple yet modern interior space that can be customised with some of the technology included when needed. 

The surround display panels let you for example enjoy yoga, stretching and exercise before your journey continues or the ultimate in gaming, a relaxing space, even a remote work space offering live conference and an interactive virtual office. In Qatar and Saudi Arabia private jets are a business necessity, not solely a luxury, however this caters to both uses. Remote programmatic space which already exists in the travel industry will be available in a similar way to a larger audience.

What are the main barriers to innovation in the travel and hotel industries?

Increasing number of political no-fly zones and territories, lack of financial support for engineering research in smart materials and structural integrity as well as weather conditions all contribute to slowing down travel and hotel industry innovation. Travel relies on smooth turbulent free journeys yet even after a one hundred years of commercial flights we are still not completely comfortable with flying, a little turbulence or pressure drop and people's stress levels are effected. Security, which is undeniably of great importance also confines the journey into zones, transitions both physical and experiential, making it mass-produced and universally marketed, there is no overall custom made experience, consumers are provided this option in every area of their lives from interiors to diets, but due to current fears the travel industry must deny this. Also speed, travelling distance and destination all stifle how visionary travel and the hotel industry could be. 

Using self-healing polymers will enable us to build planes with panoramic views and trains that blur the edges between your seat or carriage to the next.

What excites you about the future of travel?

The end to global standardisation, which is responsible for ordinary, repetitive spaces, as an architect this would break the predictable mould of the travel industry which would be great. Technology, building materials, smart materials and fabrication will enable us to use self-healing polymers, build planes with panoramic views, trains that blur the edges between your seat or carriage to the next, we will no longer appear to be contained by the physical but allowed to float, linger, and redefine our own parameters as part of the journey. The future of travel will be tailoring the experience to the individual.

Destinations will be extreme by nature, from rugged dramatic and remote to the suspended serenity of underwater, different atmospheres, remote and never before visited islands, jungles, would we be building pop-up airstrips and airports? Accessibility would be fuelled by our imaginations.

Lastly, space travel, colonising Mars and travelling between solar systems will sounds less and less like science fiction, designing hotels on the moon would be fantastic, to work with a design brief that involves zero gravity, would humans or advanced representational robots colonise these planets? There is so much to look forward to and with the advancement of technology so many possibilities to realise them.

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