Before airplanes really took off, the best and sometimes only way to travel long distances over the air was the airship. In fact, the first airship lifted off more than fifty years before the Wright brothers achieved the first powered flight.
Instead of achieving lift through the physics of wing design, they used lighter-than-air gases to raise themselves into the air. Even after airplanes hit the mainstream, airships were a common way to travel trans-oceanic distances that planes couldn’t yet handle. The Hindenburg disaster more or less ended the airship’s tenure as a mode of travel and the number of blimps or zeppelins you were likely to see in the sky decreased dramatically.
Today, there are only 25 blimps still in operation and they’re largely used for advertising purposes, (via Reader’s Digest). While the airship appears to be a slowly dying technology, that might be about to change.
As explained by SingularityHub, several companies are working toward reviving airships as a method of passenger or cargo transportation. Instead of taking a flight around the world, the next generation of airships could offer slower, more ponderous and comfortable, journeys more akin to flying cruise ships.
One company, Ocean Sky Cruises, is offering flights from Svalbard to the North Pole by airship beginning in 2024. Passengers will get their own cabin and all meals and drinks included. The only downside is the price tag of two million Swedish Krona, or roughly $200,000 USD.