Will passenger airships ever make a comeback?

Will rigid airships (aka zepplins) ever make a comeback for passenger cruises? There is no speed advantage over airlines but I can see them complimenting cruise ships. One could “cruise” inland. Cruise lines could even operate them.

I think it would depend on the airspace, since the hindenburg which carried at most a hundred passengers , airspace has become more stacked. Local ordinance may not have balked back in the thirties , when the empire state building was a parking spot for dirigibles, but i dont know what the odds of getting one touring around a major metro now would be. Obviously it happens with the goodyear and fuji blimps, but full scale zeps , ???

It would probably be better if they operated in Africa, South America and Asia where travel requirements might lend themselves to a slower means of conveyance.

But yeah , Holland America operating Zeps would be cool.


I could have sworn I’ve seen this question asked several times before on this board. From the amount of people asking there is clearly some desire for such a thing. But I think it’s unlikely to happen because of how slow it is. A cruise ship is huge and has a shitload of places to go, pools, theatres, gyms, rock climbing walls, huge dining rooms - the cabin of an airship would be too cramped for most people to want to go on a cruise in one.

No. An airship is too slow to compete with fixed wing aircraft and doesn’t have enough of a payload to compete with ships or rail.

The only way airships would make a comback is if they ran on some kind of futuristic anti-gravity thing.

I would love to take a slow trip in one. It’s not the destination that’s important or the time to get there. It’s the mode of travel thats the adventure. I think an airship could be a viable venture, if it’s put in the right area. Some senic area have noisy helicoptor rides that ruin the area for the people not on a ride. I think a place like Wisconsin Dells, the Grand Canyon, or the Everglades would work great. You leisurely fly over areas and can enjoy the senery and animals. Think of a trip over the Seringetti, or Nw Zealand.

You probably were just joking but they never actually did this. It was a proposal made at the time but not very seriously. The Winds were too high to really do it.

Though I do love the scene in Sky Captain when they show the Zeppelin Docking.


Apparently Zeppelins are actually quite noisy (could’ve sworn I read that on the SDMB), both because of the propellors that ,uh… propel them, and the air they displace when moving. So such an idea may not be practical. Still, there’s a scene in an Arthur C. Clarke story where a Zeppelin (being flown by super-chimps) runs down the Grand Canyon. That would be cool.

The mast at the top of the Empire State Building was constructed to permit dirigibles to moor there, but it was discovered that that was easier said than done.

As for the issue of its use, two things make sense:

  1. As noted, air cruises akin to the sorts of things Carnival does.
  2. Luxury travel. For many years, people able to pay for it needing to cross the continent or the ocean would pay for traveling in style, private compartment, formal dinner, and all the rest. Rail on land, luxury liner across water. AFAIK, no such niche is offered today: you fly rapidly by air or travel by bus or train. I suspect it would become very much a prestige, value way to make a business trip.

The rigid dirigibles could fly through weather that the airplanes of the day could not. I suspect modern construction methods would make them extremely safe. And, for the record, they would be the ideal means of getting something heavy somewhere fast.

A good article on the Proposal to dock at the Empire State Building.
ESB official Site
It never happened and could not reasonably happen. The Proposal was mainly a publicity stunt as was the additional structure that would go on to be the most famous observation deck in the US and get put to good use as the base of the antenna completed December 1, 1950.

Jim {sorry for the Hijack}

It was tried once, according to ESB “biographer” John Tauranac. A Goodyear blimp came and tried to hook up, but the winds (excuse me - the Winds) had other ideas. All the blimp could do was drop bundles of newspapers.

IMO overland freight might make the most sense of all. You normally don’t care how fast a load of office supplies reaches you from across country, as long as they pour out of your end of the pipeline when you need them. So it might seem attractive to have “flying boxcars” as it were, that would free up bandwidth on the terrestrial rails and highways.

Of course, there’s always that little problem about airspace with that many Zeppelins flying around.

Two other problems with that:

  1. How much can an airship carry as far as weight can go?

  2. How much will it cost, compared to regular transportation?

What do you think Gulfstreams and Learjets are for?

And speaking of a businessman, the two things we look for are speed and cost in a busines trip. Prestige comes in a distant third.

What do you think Gulfstreams and Learjets are for?

And speaking of a businessman, the two things we look for are speed and cost in a business trip. Prestige comes in a distant third.

How high did the old airships typically fly at? One reason why airships are impracticable is that they fly in the lower, denser atmosphere. Not only is this slow, but it makes things like icing very dangerous. I recall reading the german airship GRAF ZEPPELIN flew at about 5000 ft.-so low that they were concerned about crossing a mountain range in Kamchatka, on a round-th-world trip.Landing was also difficult-you needed still air-high winds mske landing an airship difficult.

Personally, I think it should be looked at and developed. It could be the air equivalent to trains. If it’s REALLY cost effective, it could be used for mass transit for Boston/NYC/Baltimore/Philly, the California coast/Vegas/Arizone and Detroit/Chicago/Cleveland.

Hey, technology has changed a lot. If the government subsidized some research, it couldn’t hurt, right?

I agree with the OP- I’d love to see a return of Zeppelins to the sky!

While we’re here, I’d also like to re-iterate my desire to see Flying Boats operating again, as well.

Technology may have changed, but it’s no substitute for class…

Note that you can get a ride on the Zeppelin NT


The problems associated with making airships a viable form of transport can be gauged from these facts:

  • Compared to a very large airship, a train can carry something like 80 times the payload at around half the speed, with much lower specific fuel costs (per ton-mile).

  • Compared to a very large airship, a large airliner can carry five times as many passengers at five times the speed, with better specific fuel costs (per passenger-mile).

  • Both the airliner and the train are much less vulnerable to bad weather.

Can you back up the fuel use portion of your facts?
Large Jets have an extremely high Fuel usage. I have heard that Blimps use far less fuel. I would love to see the data that supports your facts.
I thought the speed issue would be the overriding issue.