SkyDeck: the future of luxury flight?

SkyDeck is a glass pod offering travellers spectacular views from the comfort of their plane seat. But will it ever take off?

Peter Iantorno January 3, 2016

It used to be that when flying, there was no greater luxury than a first-class seat. In recent years, exclusive airport lounges, private jets and even in-flight apartments have seen the levels of luxury increased massively, and it seems the trend may be continuing with this glass rooftop viewing bubble, the SkyDeck.

Created by aerospace engineering services company Windspeed Technologies, the new seating option will allow well-heeled passengers the luxury of a 360-degree view of the skies from the comfort of their rotating seats.

While the concept is still at the funding stage at the moment, the company behind it says that its customers can expect to ascend from the cabin via either a trap-door staircase or, for added luxury, an automatic lift.

It sounds like the ultimate flying experience, travelling with your head in the clouds away from any potential annoyances from other passengers. But how likely is it that SkyDeck will – ahem – get off the ground at all?

Already naysayers have brought up numerous issues with the project. The first concern is invariably passenger safety, but Windspeed claims that while there has yet to be any practical testing, the fact that the bubble will be made out of the same material that is used on supersonic fighter jets means that it will be more than capable of withstanding bird strikes, other stress factors and any increased exposure to UV rays.

Assuming that the SkyDeck proves to be technically safe, the next factor to consider will be its economical feasibility. A potential issue could be the added drag the bubble will cause, leading to handling issues or an increase in expenditure on fuel.

According to Windspeed, the aerodynamic teardrop shape will make any extra drag negligible. However, when it comes to finances, increased fuel consumption is just the tip of the iceberg. Aside from the initial installation costs, which are estimated to be anywhere from $8-25 million, the amount of space taken up by the lift and lounge, which would otherwise be filled by paying customers, might well make the SkyDeck prohibitively expensive.

So, how much would it actually cost for a ticket to the SkyDeck? Well, that really depends on the particular airline and how they decide to market it. Windspeed has proposed two possible models: the VIP or the pay-per-view.

With the VIP model, airlines would sell the SkyDeck ticket in much the same way as any other, for a one-time price – likely to be aimed at only the very rich. The pay-per-view model, on the other hand, would see the seats sold in multiple time slots, with passengers from all over the plane paying extra to take their turn in the viewing bubble.

Can you expect a SkyDeck option on your next flight? Definitely not – Windspeed admits that it would take between 12 and 18 months to go into production on real planes. But on a flight within the next decade? If they can get the technical and financial considerations right, there’s no reason why not.