January 1, 2014 marks the anniversary of 100 years of commercial aviation — 33 of which included the existence of frequent flier loyalty programs starting with American Airlines back in 1981.
The St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line — the first airline in the world — launched its inaugural flight on January 1, 1914, from Saint Petersburg in Florida 18 miles away to its destination of Tampa, according to an article written by Paul Riegle of Frequent Business Traveler magazine. The duration of the flight was supposedly 23 minutes — significantly faster than the two hours required to complete the journey by steamship.
Throughout its lifespan of four months, the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line transported greater than 1,200 passengers — each paying five dollars.
Of course, that did not include frequent flier loyalty program miles — nor was there a Transportation Security Administration with agents to screen you at airport security checkpoints. There was no in-flight entertainment, no meal service — in fact, no flight attendants. Furthermore, there was no choice of seats: the passenger sat next to the pilot in the open cockpit.
Well, I suppose if pilot Tony Jannus told a joke, that could be considered in-flight entertainment.
To commemorate this anniversary of commercial aviation, Scott Mayerowitz of the Associated Press asked the chief executive officers of eleven airlines their predictions for commercial aviation for the next 100 years, which ranged from pilotless commercial aircraft to improved efficiency in terms of fuel consumption to faster travel to airplanes which will be more environmentally friendly.
Perhaps commercial aviation could have potentially formidable competition with disruptive technology within the next 100 years — such as an evacuated tube transport system whose designers and engineers portend that this mode of transportation could transport you from New York to Beijing in approximately two hours.
Even more interesting than what the chief executive officers have to say regarding the next 100 years is what you think: how do you believe that the next 100 years of commercial aviation — or worldwide transportation in general, for that matter — will evolve? Please share your thoughts below.