The History of Commercial Air Travel


There have been countless flights made since the Wright brothers invented the airplane in 1903. Since the airplane was invented (more than 100 years), the first aircraft have brought about a revolution in the manner that people travel. Commercial air travel has a long history as well, longer than many people would believe. The commercial airline business is a major industry relied upon by millions of people for travel, transport cargo, as well as giving many people employment.

The first ever commercial flight occurred in the United State on January 1, 1914, just three years after the United States entered the first World war. This flight took place between Tampa and St. Petersburg and flew a total of twenty-three minutes between the two cities separated by 21 miles of bay waters. The plane was Benoist XIV that had only two seats and was piloted by Tony Jannus and his one paying passenger. The sear was auctioned for this inaugural flight, many people took a bid for the only seat, and the winner was Mr. Abram Phiel (a former mayor of St. Petersburg) who paid a sum of $400 that would be more than $5000 in today’s currency value.

Early 20th Century

Although there were a few commercial flights from 1914, flying was a risky endeavor until 1925. In this year the Air Mail Act led to the development of the airline industry whereby it allowed the postmaster to contract private airline to deliver mails. Shortly thereafter, the Air Commerce Act gave the secretary of commerce the power to certify aircraft, establish airways, license pilots and issue as well as enforce air traffic regulation. The first airline to enter the business included the Ford Transport service, Pan American and western Air Express.

In 1936, there was the establishment of the Civil Aeronautics Board. The function of the board was to determine the airlines routes and to regulate the prices for the passengers fare. This regulated the fare by making sure that the airline did not compete on offering lower fares rather the airlines had to compete in terms of the quality of the service delivered. In addition, there were advancements in technology that improved the passenger comfort and increase in speed of travel. The cabins were updated to have upholstered seats and better ventilations. The manufacturers also used stronger materials in constructing the body of the aircraft that allowed them to cruise in high altitude making it easier to reduce noise and turbulence. In the end of 1937 the commercial flight were doing well where more than one million people took flights.

The British airlines come into play in mid 1970’s where they offered inexpensive transatlantic flights that led to the U.S based airlines to lower their fares. The airline Deregulation act in 1978 ushered a new era of free market competition. This led to entrance of new carries in the market and as a result, the fare went down. This also increased the number of people traveling as well as increased the amount cargo transported by aircrafts. In 2001, the aviation industry faced an economic downturn because of the increased labor and fuel costs. After a few years, this seemed to improve and in 2011, the U.S department of transportation issued a number of rules that mandated the airline to provide quality services to their passengers as well as cargo.

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