A wise man once said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
Certainly a poetic way to encourage people to cross boundaries, whether these are the outskirts of a state or a nation’s borders. Deep down, most people hold on to a form of wanderlust, a need to go out and travel, to see the world.
Back in the day, it took Columbus a little over two months to sail to America. Nowadays, I could get that done in under half-a-day. If you think about it, the fact that you can board a plane to pretty much anywhere has made the world so much smaller.
As the year starts off, this seems like the perfect time to reflect on 101 years of commercial air travel.
Let’s go way back to 1909…
In 1909, the world’s oldest operating airport was in the city of College Park, Maryland. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places and lovingly dubbed “the cradle of aviation”, the airport has one very special feature – a single runway measuring 2,600 feet (793 meters) in length.
In 1914, the first scheduled commercial airline flight took off, carrying a single passenger: Abraham C Pheil, former mayor of Saint Petersburg. Sure, that flight is a far cry from what we’re used to these days. For one thing, they had no television on board although the amazing view probably provided all the “in-flight entertainment” Mr Pheil could possibly ask for.
…and fast-forward 100 years
Today, an average of 50,000 flights take off every day, carrying more than 6.5 million passengers – more than the entire population of Denmark. These passengers generate over 1.3 billion dollars in revenue for the aviation industry.
Aviation is as competitive as it is popular. Delicious snacks, competitive prices and top notch in-flight entertainment isn’t enough anymore. To add value, aviation experts are closely examining what makes the ideal passenger experience.
Passenger experience takes center stage
Passengers are savvy creatures. They notice when airports and airlines go, so to speak, the extra mile. Take, for example, KLM’s recent #happytohelp campaign or Copenhagen Airport’s Christmas Surprise – both campaigns shot the “feel-good factor” of flying through the roof, wowing their passengers in the most unexpected ways.
— Royal Dutch Airlines (@KLM) October 13, 2014
At the end of the day however, what passengers – business travelers in particular – truly want is much simpler: A quick, comfortable, stress-free way of getting from point A to point B. And that ties back to efficiency.
Magic behind the scenes
The challenge to providing hassle-free travel is that there isn’t one single party in charge of the entire travel experience. The passenger’s experience is influenced not only by the airlines and airports they have chosen, but by extension, also the air navigation service providers, ground handlers, flight caterers, and many others.
These diverse services are interdependent, so the key to efficiency is collaboration. Sharing relevant data across the board influences what choices are made and can therefore drastically reduce waiting time for passengers. Collaborative decision-making ensures the flexibility needed to create a valuable passenger experience.
The future is closer than we think
The aviation industry shows no signs of slowing down: Boeing predicts a need for over half-a-million new pilots in the next 20 years and the UN expects a growth in air travel of more than 4% over the next 50 years.
These are clearly exciting times to be in aviation, so here’s looking forward to all the new and exciting developments the next 101 years are sure to bring.