During a career preparation talk at flight school, an administrator asked my class what we though the greatest single threat to our career progress was. I had a ready answer, "the advent of the single-crew airliner cockpit." I remember getting the most supercilious glare possible from the instructor before being told the correct answer was "recession." I don't think she was thinking long term. Recessions come and go, was my opinion. But once the airlines' pilot complement halves, it's game over.
She said that would never happen, but while it isn't as inevitable as death, taxes, and the next recession, it's not an impossibility. It would require a lot of advances in automation, and telemetry, and security, but such things have considerably reduced the number of people in airplane cockpits over the years. It's a bigger jump from two to one, but I don't think it could never happen. It would make flying a lot less fun and somewhat less safe, but probably more cost effective for the airlines. At first. Then after twenty years or so of the system operating, accidents would spike. As much as I rant about both people in the pointy end being pilots, and the first officer/co-pilot not being a trainee, there is a bit of an apprenticeship going on. The new hire FO doesn't know as much about flying an A320 as the captain does (and sometimes the new hire direct-entry captain doesn't know as much as the experienced FO) but together they have the experience to get the job done. The pilot with the experience appropriate to a situation will take over if they suspect the conditions may be beyond the other's abilities. The newer pilot learns from the other and gains experience without it having to be paid in blood or bent metal. By having to be the person who knows what is going on, even if you don't, you learn more. Kind of like being a parent. Having a single-crew cockpit with a ground-based telemetric backup wouldn't provide the same apprenticeship-type situation. And that might not be so cost effective in the end.
Ryanair carries most international passengers of any airline in the world. Most of these are short hop European flight. They have cheap tickets, and the cheesiest nickle-and-diming fee structure imaginable. For example, they charge you money, I think it's five euros, as an online check-in fee. But you have to check in online. There is no airport check in available. Your base fare might be only twenty euros, but they charge extra for everything. The obvious jokes about "insert two euros to start the flow of oxygen, then place the mask over your nose and mouth, securing behind your head with the optional (one euro) elastic strap," have all been made. The company even makes the jokes.
It's a little scary because you can't tell when they're serious. The Irish accent is hard to take seriously -- sorry, Irish people, some kind of cultural thing. They're semi-serious about eliminating the copilot, according to this Salon article.
I'm not in a position to replay the YouTube clip out loud right now, so you'll have to tell my why my notes for this post say "strip poker." And if it doesn't make sense, I'll have to make something up about Ryanair getting passengers to play strip poker for available seats, in order to facilitate security screening.