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Cheaper Flights Possible if Airlines Replace Human Pilots


Cheaper Flights Possible if Airlines Replace Human Pilots

According to a UBS survey, removing pilots from the equation could lower costs by $35 billion a year. The problem is, we don't trust pilotless aircraft (yet).

Would you board a flight if you knew there was no pilot in control of the aircraft? If your answer is "no," then you're not alone. A recent survey by investment bank UBS found 54 percent of passengers today would refuse to board a pilotless flight. However, that is set to change.

As Forbes reports, global financial services company UBS found that removing pilots from the equation and making flights completely automated could lower costs by $35 billion per year for airlines. The cost saving breaks down as $31 billion on fewer highly-skilled employees, $3 billion less spent on training, and $1 billion less spent on fuel. In turn, that would mean cheaper flights are possible.

Right now, there's very little that would entice passengers to trust an automated plane. Not even dropping the price of a ticket would convince people to try it. But UBS also believes that way of thinking will change as we reach the middle of this century. By then, we'll all be much more used to automation and new generations will have grown up with it being the norm. For example, does anyone really think we'll still be driving our own cars by 2050?

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As you'd expect, aircraft manufacturers are already testing fully-automated systems. It shouldn't really be a big leap for them as we already have mostly automated commercial aircraft that are fly-by-wire and include an autopilot capable of maintaining flight and performing landings.

While pricing will be key, ultimately it's safety most people are concerned about. But I think it's a case of when rather than if this happens. And once it does happen, choosing pilot as a career path will quickly start to sound like quite a very risky pursuit.

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