The way people travel is changing every day, and the aviation industry is at the heart of this change. The vision of a connected aviation experience requires a new way of thinking about the aviation ecosystem.

The future of the commercial aviation industry requires reimagining an air travel experience that is feature-rich, benefit-focused and passenger-dedicated. To get there, five key areas that make up the aviation ecosystem need to be reimagined into an end-to-end ecosystem that is driven by connectivity, processors, sensors, and smart aviation subsystems that are able to leverage them.

The digital integration of these five environments—and the passenger’s transition between them—will make the coming air travel experience more enjoyable than at any time since China Clippers defined the golden age of flight.

Here’s a closer look at these five environments and how they could work in the near future.

Environment 1: Away

Today, your first interaction with air travel begins when you book your flight and check-in from your laptop or smartphone—wherever you are. In the near future, the check-in process will be automatic. You’ll receive an electronic bag token that will link your bag to you and your destination. Attendants will pick up your luggage the night before your flight, and it will be processed and delivered directly to your aircraft or final destination. And you’ll know when to leave your home and where to park based on your personal preferences and risk profile: How much time do you want at the airport prior to your departure? Do you want to have lunch at the airport and shop before you arrive at your gate? In short, your arrival time will be optimized, and more of the air travel experience will be on your schedule.

Environment 2: Airport

Highly integrated airport systems will make the passenger transit within and between terminals and concourses a stress-free experience. Biometrics, for example, will be integrated throughout the airport. Your biometric token will follow you every step of your journey—like your personal security avatar—and further enable efficient passenger flow and on-time departures and arrivals. Your smartphone will direct you to specific restaurants, shops and events based on

personal preferences. And when connecting to another flight, your smartphone will immediately direct you to your gate by the shortest route.

Environment 3: Airline

Today, a highly-reliable, global aviation network seamlessly connects all entities in the aviation ecosystem—flight crews, caterers, baggage handlers, airport systems and more—and ensures that airlines deliver the most convenient routes with the most reliable schedules possible. These interconnections will soon leverage vast amounts of data from the latest generation of smart aircraft. More data and data analytics will lead to improved service and a better passenger experience.

Environment 4: Aircraft

Aircraft boarding and deplaning will leverage connectivity, processors, and sensors for a more personalized, efficient and stress-free experience. You’ll access the same entertainment options you do at home from your personal laptop, tablet or smartphone. But no component of the aircraft environment will have a greater impact on air travel than seating and other cabin interior systems. Whether you’re sitting in main cabin, business class or first class, the right balance of leg room, seat width, and available features will top the list of high-touch, high-feel expectations. And your lighting, pillow, blanket, snack and meal preferences will be registered in galley systems and with cabin crew to further enhance your in-flight experience.

Environment 5: Airspace

The global airspace is changing. Connected aircraft will interact with smart systems to facilitate collaborative decision making that optimizes airline economics, the environmental impact of flight operations, and greater numbers of aircraft flying within tighter separations. This optimized ecosystem won’t function as fragmented ground systems, airborne systems, and planning tools. It will be a true system-of-systems with aircraft, flight operations, and air traffic control all acting together seamlessly to move more people with greater safety.

What do these five commercial aviation environments have in common? Each of these environments offers unique opportunities to drive this industry forward. With each opportunity, the air travel experience will change and each of us will benefit in ways that we can’t yet imagine.

And that’s good news. It’s good to know that one of the most complex parts of an increasingly complex world is on the cusp of being safer, easier and more enjoyable for everyone.

This piece was authored by Kelly Ortberg, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Rockwell Collins, and originally published to Air Transport World.

Shany Seawright

About Shany Seawright

A senior executive at Strategic Communications Group and Managing Editor of Connected Aviation Today, as well as other publications, Seawright oversees the editorial direction of the publication and managed the editorial staff.