By 2114, more jets, more destinations, more automation
NEW YORK — Millions of people step aboard airplanes each day, complaining about the lack of leg room and overhead space but almost taking for granted that they can travel thousands of miles in just a few hours.
Wednesday marks the 100th anniversary of the first commercial flight: a 23-minute hop across Florida's Tampa Bay. The St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line was subsidized by St. Petersburg officials who wanted more winter tourists in their city. The alternative: an 11-hour train ride from Tampa.
Pilot Tony Jannus had room for just one passenger, who sat next to him in the open cockpit. Three months later — when tourism season ended — so did the subsidy. The airline had carried 1,204 passengers but would never fly again.
With the anniversary in mind, The Associated Press reached out to today's aviation leaders to see what they are predicting for the next century of flying. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
In 5 years
— Richard Anderson, CEO Delta Air Lines: “Just over a decade ago, airlines seemed to be buying every 50-seat aircraft they could get their hands on. But the real utility of those small jets has come and gone, and in the next five years, we'll see their numbers in the U.S. continue to dwindle.”
— Gary Kelly, CEO Southwest Airlines: “We'll have fewer airlines, but they will be bigger, stronger and healthier.”
— Maurice J. Gallagher, Jr., CEO Allegiant Travel Co.: “The next five years will be all about increasing automation and decreasing labor cost. The industry is already implementing mobile boarding passes, bag drops, even self-boarding. These processes will become more prevalent and significantly reduce the number of employees the customer needs to interact with.”
In 25 years
— David Barger, CEO JetBlue Airways: “The freedom to travel between any two points in the world will be commonplace. There will be billions of travelers every year flying on new aircraft that will be environmentally friendly; in fact, they will be making zero-carbon travel maybe even a reality.”
— Mark Dunkerley, CEO Hawaiian Airlines: “Many of today's consumers will be priced out of the air: a sad legacy to 30 years of massive progress in democratizing air travel. Failure to invest in aviation infrastructure and the insatiable appetite for regulation will not be offset by relatively modest further improvements in aircraft efficiency.”
— James Hogan, CEO Etihad Airways: “A new generation of airlines, who have the vision and willingness to be different, will succeed in cutting costs, improving productivity and finding affordable ways of accessing new markets. The emerging markets — the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia — will become established markets, and Abu Dhabi will be one of the uniting global hubs.”
— Sir Richard Branson, president Virgin Atlantic Airways: “I have no doubt that during my lifetime we will be able to fly from London to Sydney in under two hours, with minimal environmental impact. The awe-inspiring views of our beautiful planet below and zero-gravity passenger fun will bring a whole new meaning to in-flight entertainment.”
— Jeff Smisek, CEO United Airlines: “The airframe and engine manufacturers continue to develop aircraft that are more fuel-efficient, have lower maintenance costs and have greater range and utility. Longer term, I believe manufacturers will explore engine and airframe technology that could significantly reduce travel times, but advances in this area would have to be safe and economical to make a real impact on our industry.”
In 100 years
— David Siegel, CEO Frontier Airlines: “The first flight was just 18 miles long, but now look how far we can go. Perhaps in the future, experts will be designing futuristic propulsion systems. We could see innovations in aircraft design, local community-based air transport with smaller, higher efficiency aircraft, and maybe even pilotless commercial aircraft.”
— Doug Parker, CEO American Airlines: “I am quite certain that Tony Jannus never could have imagined the size and importance of commercial aviation today, or the impact it had on changing our world. Similarly, I cannot imagine what commercial aviation will look like in 2114. I imagine whatever state it is, though, it will be extremely important, and its continued development will be a key part of the story that built that world.”
— Ben Baldanza, CEO Spirit Airlines: “Google's ‘put me there' technology implemented into its maps software renders all airlines obsolete.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- U.S. employers add 223K jobs, jobless rate falls to 5.3%
- Gulf states reach $18.7B settlement with BP over oil spill
- H-D Advanced Manufacturing in Franklin Park buys aerospace components maker Firstmark
- Kraft shareholders approve merger with Heinz
- Government contests sale of GE appliance business to competitor Electrolux
- Alpha Natural Resources buys out European partner in Marcellus venture
- Rules holding for-profit schools accountable for student earnings go into effect
- Halliburton to close Indiana County office
- SEC votes to expand clawbacks of executive bonuses
- U.S. Steel, Alcoa lead June decline
- Stocks rise on wind of Greece resolution