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Passengers want cheap airfare, but not if it means having no pilots

According to new research by investment bank UBS, pilotless planes would save the airline industry $35 billion a year and could lead to substantial fare cuts—that is, if airlines can convince people to actually fly in them.

Per The GuardianUBS asked people to reveal their deepest feelings about pilotless planes and 54% of respondents said they were unlikely to take a pilotless flight. Additionally, only 17% said they were likely to choose a plane with no one at the wheel.

Because airline passengers are generally keen on bargains—hence the rise of “basic economy” class on airlines—one of the most surprising revelations from the report is that half of the respondents wouldn’t take a pilotless flight even if it was cheaper. It seems passengers really prefer to believe that someone (ideally Sully Sullenberger) is actually driving the metal tube that is hurtling them through the sky at 30,000 feet. Luckily for airlines, cargo planes aren’t subject to the whims of weak-kneed passengers and UBS expects they’ll be use for air taxis and cargo flights by the 2020s.

One ray of light for airlines looking to add pilotless passenger planes to their rosters is that younger respondents were generally more willing to hop aboard a pilotless plane. “This bodes well for the technology as the population ages,” the report said per The Guardian. Until the old pilot-loving Luddites “age” away, perhaps airlines who want to roll out pilot-less planes now, should take a cue from Hollywood and set up an inflatable automatic pilot to put passengers’ minds at ease.

ML