Airbus recently unveiled its predictions for the aviation industry in 2050 – a quick look and you’d be forgiven for thinking that Star Trek was to become reality.

Aircraft glide in formation, reducing drag and saving on fuel. On board, private cabins mingle with virtual reality rooms that can switch from golf simulators to meeting spaces to bars at the flick of a switch. It all looks very exciting, but the immediate future for aircraft is a much more prosaic affair. "Aircraft manufacturers are fixed on meeting the immediate needs of airlines," said Arun Rajagopal, an aviation blogger. "That means a focus on reducing weight, and therefore on fuel costs." Indeed, the most significant development in aviation over the last 20 to 30 years has been the shift to building planes from lighter, composite materials to reduce fuel costs. But will we really be seeing only gradual changes for the next 30 or 40 years, when the same period in the past brought us Concorde and jumbo jets?

Concepts for aviation in 2050 under the spotlight

  • Gliding descents:Airbus suggests that passenger aircraft gliding down to land would reduce emissions and noise, and would also allow for shorter runways.
  • Transparent ceilings: According to Airbus, transparent ceilings would allow passengers to see the sky and stars above their seats on the airplanes of 2050.
  • Virtual reality cabins: Airbus suggests that virtual reality spaces will be on hand, able to transform cabin space into golf courses and offices.
  • Running on biofuels: Biofuels are fuels made from living things, such as algae. Airlines see them as a way of reducing their carbon footprint in future.
  • Flying in formation: Airbus envisages future aircraft flying in formation – lessening air resistance.

This article was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.