Why air travel needs to change, according to one expert
Bayram Annakov is the innovator behind App in the Air — a virtual travel assistant that keeps track of all your travel admin. Here, he discusses the challenges of air travel.
If there’s one thing you could change about the world of travel, what would it be?
I would enable every person to visit any country without any significant challenges. I was born in Turkmenistan and am not yet an American citizen, so it can be difficult trying to sort visas for destinations across the world. So many of us want to travel. Exploring cultures and heading to far-flung places develops empathy — it’s so important for us as humans. But we do need to make it easier to switch between destinations.
How do you think travel is changing?
It’s getting more challenging. I like to think of myself as a global citizen. I don’t like any borders or barriers on free travel. But getting into some destinations can be so bureaucratic — it feels like something out of the Middle Ages. I also think the flight experience needs to change — I understand the main focus is on security and safety and that’s right, but I think the industry has focused so much on safety, it’s neglected other innovations. The experience needs to be more digital, more interactive for flyers.
What’s the biggest challenge for the travel industry right now?
The travel experience can be very segmented. If you’re flying from say London to New York, you’re interacting with lots of suppliers — the Heathrow Express, for example, the airport itself, the airline — all of which have their own rules, their own data entry. There’s a lot of duplication and a lot of unnecessary stuff. I think this is always a challenge for passengers to navigate.
What are some of your favourite destinations?
Hong Kong — it’s one of the most eclectic cities I’ve ever been to. It has a distinct combination of being a New York-style city with an almost village-y feel and interesting neighbourhoods. I love the street food there, too. I also love Japan — I can’t pinpoint a specific city in Japan, I mean the length and breadth of the entire country. You can’t compare cities like Tokyo with Kyoto — they can be worlds apart. It’s so mysterious, so exotic, and Japanese culture is fascinating. I’m also going to say New York. The first time I visited, I thought I’d stepped into a movie. Greenwich Village has to be my all-time favourite neighbourhood — the architecture, the buzz…
What helps you to reduce stress as a frequent flyer?
Good headphones. I travel for around 500 hours every year and a good pair of headphones is priceless. For me, travel is about unplugging from life. And with headphones, you can block out the noise and the chaos, helping you to focus on your 30,000ft view of what’s happening in your life. Plus, there are add-ons that can make a huge difference — fast-track through security, access to a lounge and so on.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, pre-App in the Air, what would you tell him?
Never assume that other people want the same thing you want. It’s an assumption we often make, and it can lead to conflict. Spend more time thinking about and listening to what other people want. If we do this, and learn to do this at a younger age, we can overcome a lot of challenges.
What is App in the Air?
“It’s a single go-to travel app. When you’re travelling to different destinations, using different airlines, different lounges, different hotels, the app bunches it all into one handy place. You don’t need to be switching between apps to pull out your boarding pass or hotel reservations, for example. It’s constantly evolving and now you can upload vaccine certificates, test results and the like. As for my favourite feature, it’s our statistics element, where you can visualise your travels across the globe in a fancy, 3D map.”
For more information and to download the app, visit appintheair.com.
Find National Geographic Traveller (UK) on social media