Air travel has become the mode of choice for business and leisure travelers around the world and is now considered one of the fastest, most convenient and safest forms of long-distance travel. But how did commercial flights go from being exclusively for the wealthy to the mainstream, affordable option they are today? Artemis Aerospace guides us through the different decades of air travel and how it has shaped modern life
WITTON, England, August 9, 2022 /PRNewswire/ —
The first commercial flight
The very first passenger flight took off in May 1908 when Wilbur Wright gate Charles Furnas just 2000 feet across the beach at Falcon kitten in North Carolina. A year later, the world’s first airline, the German airline DELAG, was founded.
In 1914, the world’s first scheduled passenger service, a hydrofoil piloted by Tony Jannus, departed from Saint PETERSBOURG in Florida and landed at Tampa – about 27 km. The service only ran for four months, but it had whetted the appetite of those who wanted to exploit the novelty of air travel.
A new era of aviation
However, it was not until the 1920s that commercial flights carrying paying passengers began to become commonplace with the introduction of the multi-engine aircraft, the Lawson C-2, which was built specifically to carry passengers. .
During this time, more and more start-up airlines were created – some of which are still in operation today. These include KLM in particular in the Netherlands (1919), Colombia Avianca (1919), Qantas in Australia (1920) and Czech Airlines (1923).
Aircraft of this period would land frequently to refuel and fly at lower altitudes due to unpressurized cabins. This made air travel noisy, cold and expensive. Flight times were long and turbulence frequent. Passengers regularly suffered from airsickness, and many airlines hired nurses to reduce anxiety and care for those affected.
In 1935, one of the world’s oldest airlines, Qantas, operated its first international passenger flight, departing from Brisbane at Singapore. From there, the British company Imperial Airways connected this flight to the United Kingdom. It was about setting the wheels in motion to create a regular travel route between Australia and the UK in the decades to come.
Although flying was incredibly dangerous and extremely expensive in those days, it was still a fashionable mode of transportation for the wealthy. According to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the number of air passengers rose from just 6,000 in 1930 to almost half a million in 1934 – the aviation industry was on the way to becoming extremely important to the global economy.
An innovation that has revolutionized air transport
The introduction of the Douglas DC-3 in 1935 also had a significant impact on the future of commercial flight. The propeller-driven airliner was a larger and much improved aircraft compared to its predecessors. Faster and more reliable, it could carry up to 32 passengers and had a cruising speed of 207 mph with a range of 1,500 miles. This made it popular with well-established airlines, including Delta, TWA, American and United, who soon added the aircraft to their fleets.
During the 1940s, the onset of World War II led to a considerable slowdown in the development of commercial aviation. However, by the end of the decade, the industry was heading into a new era as Pan Am began operating its fleet of Boeing 307s, which featured the first-ever pressurized cabin. This transformed air travel for passengers, allowing them to have a comfortable experience at an altitude of 20,000 feet. Major airlines were now increasing their advertising spend and offering travelers seamless travel to distant destinations and business hubs, including the iconic Pan Am New York at London itinerary.
The Golden Age of Air Transport
The 1950s and 1960s marked the era of jet aircraft and, with them, an upsurge in commercial flights, air carriers and international air routes.
Commercial air travel was booming, and major airlines were highly competitive, offering passengers more and more in-flight perks, including lavish cash meals and fine wines.
Pan Am Airline was one of the first to offer and market the best in air travel. It was the first airline to fly worldwide and introduced revolutionary changes to the industry, such as adding jet aircraft to their fleets and using computer reservation systems.
In the 1960s, work began on creating the world’s first supersonic aircraft and what would become an iconic symbol of commercial flight, the Concorde. Offering transatlantic flights in just 3.5 hours, the aircraft has been a hit with business travelers and royalty. However, tickets were extremely expensive and only a select few could afford to travel via Concorde.
The rise of the no-frills airline
Seeing a gap in the market to make air travel more accessible to ordinary people, British company Laker Airways, which was founded in 1966 by Freddie Lakerwas one of the first airlines to offer an economical alternative by adjusting its in-flight offer.
Using the low-cost airline business model that is common today, Laker was able to offer lower fares by reducing in-flight services and luxuries, such as free meals. The airline has also found innovative ways to reduce fuel consumption and engine wear by introducing the reduced-thrust take-off technique and faster climbs to achieve the optimum flight altitude in the shortest possible time. Unfortunately, the airline fell victim to the recession of the 1980s and then went bankrupt. However, it had paved the way for budget travel and opened up a world of possibilities for millions more people to have the chance to travel by air.
Today, the largest low-cost carrier in the world is Southwest Airlines in the United States. Synonymous with budget travel, the company’s low-cost domestic and short-haul offering has undoubtedly inspired many other well-known brands to tap into the no-frills market, including Ryanair and EasyJet.
Air travel for the masses
Larger, more economical aircraft, such as the Boeing 747, had also made cheaper air travel possible. Airlines could now carry more passengers than ever before, which meant ticket prices could be sold at a discount. Vacations abroad were no longer just for the wealthy.
This change in dynamic meant that airlines began to look at different ways to retain the luxurious service and long lunches that had been synonymous with the golden age of travel, without compromising the offer of a budget alternative.
First-class cabins, sophisticated onboard bars and exclusive-use airport lounges allowed those who could afford it to travel in style.
During the 1980s and 1990s the low cost airlines Ryanair and EasyJet were launched. Offering plane tickets for as little as £20, they changed the face of commercial flying and pressured traditional carriers to lower ticket prices.
Strengthening security in the 2000s
The tragic events of September 11 have had a profound effect on air transport. Airport security was significantly tightened, and passengers without tickets at US airports could no longer escort friends and family through security to the gate.
Cockpit security has also been enhanced. Previously, it was possible for passengers to visit the cockpit and talk to the pilots. However, after 2001 the cockpit doors were locked, with only the pilots controlling who could enter.
A new era for air travel
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, it took until 2004 for air passenger numbers to reach pre-9/11 levels and until 2007 to reach an all-time high.
During this period, low-cost carriers saw increased demand as the popularity of booking sites grew, and in 2009 figures from tourism research firm PhoCusWright indicated that half of all travel-related bookings were done online.
Passenger numbers continued to increase throughout the 2010s and by the end of the decade the volume of travelers using commercial airlines was at an all time high.
The post-pandemic era – flying in a new era for aviation
Prior to the pandemic, the International Air Transport Association predicted that the number of air passengers could reach 7.2 billion by 2035. However, no one in the industry could prepare for global aircraft groundings and travel restrictions. unpredictable trips caused by COVID-19.
Despite this, the industry is full of optimism. As we enter a new era for aviation and reflect on the past, we can be sure that whatever obstacles we encounter, air transport will prevail.
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SOURCE Artemis Aerospace
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