Planes were added at the start of Season 7 alongside the wintery part of the map and other features. Up to five players can fit into one X-4 Stormwing Plane, the passengers on the wings able to use their weapons while the pilot has a mounted machine gun at their disposal. They provide lots of benefits with no real downside since players just go into a freefall where they can redeploy their glider if things go poorly and the plane gets shot down, but that might soon change.
Eric Williamson, the design lead for Fortnite Battle Royale, replied to a user on Twitter who questioned Williamson about the lack of consequences for getting shot down in Fortnite. The user proposed that players should take at least some damage when they bail out of a plane or get shot down, the Williamson agreed while saying that Epic Games has already considered that mechanic and is working in deciding what amount of damage feels fair.
@erwil9 just to ask if there’s any plans to make it a bad thing to be shot down in a plane? Atm players essentially then get to reposition themselves for a fight or glide away. Perhaps receiving damage upon vehicle explosion OR can only FF/Glide if you bail out before explosion?— Nekro (@Nekrospike) December 9, 2018
Yes, we’ve discussed a small amount of damage to passengers when a plane is destroyed. Still determining what amount feels fair— Eric Williamson (@erwil9) December 9, 2018
The amount of damage the planes will apply to passengers remains to be seen, but should that mechanic be added like Epic Games has considered, it’ll force players to be a bit more conscious of their aerial maneuvers. Players can still be shot directly off of or out of the planes if enemies manage to hit the actual character models instead of the planes, but shooting down the vehicles is the outcome seen more often, assuming the plane user doesn’t bail early anyway.
Fortnite’s planes have other mechanics besides just letting players ride in or on them while shooting at others. You can boost, fly upside down, and perform other stunts as well, all of which were detailed through the Fortnite patch notes for Season 7’s first update.