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A Century of Connectivity

Tony Tyler, IATA's Director General & CEO

By Tony Tyler, IATA's Director General and CEO

On 1 January 1914 the airline industry was born. A visionary entrepreneur named Percival Fansler brought together investors, a pilot and an aircraft. And Abram C. Pheil paid $400 to cross from St. Petersburg to Tampa, Florida in just over 20 minutes. Over the next 100 years, commercial aviation transformed the world in ways in which those early pioneers barely could have imagined. The first century of commercial flight has given people freedom to push back boundaries, embark on adventures and satisfy their curiosity about the world.

Today we take for granted the ability to use that freedom to connect safely across enormous distances with friends and family, link together businesses and markets, knit together ideas and concepts, grow friendships and transport goods. Even as the Internet grew virtual connectivity, the demand for people to travel and meet only increased. In 2014 we will fly double the 1.6 billion people who travelled in 2000. Change is at the heart of the story of commercial aviation’s first hundred years. Markets were opened for entrepreneurs to bring their products and ideas to the world. People came together to solve problems. Cross-cultural understanding flourished as people explored the world for business, adventure or learning.

Today it would be hard to find any business that is not in some way touched by commercial aviation. Over a third of the goods traded internationally are delivered by air. Over $2.2 trillion of economic activity is supported by air transport. And air cargo supply chains are integrated into businesses ranging from your local florist, grocer, pharmacist or jewelry shop to those that manufacture your phone, TV or automobile.

With the growth of commercial aviation, our world has become much smaller and our future has grown much bigger.

Every day an amazing feat of coordination and cooperation is repeated tens of thousands of times to make it all happen. It involves some nine million people who work directly in the industry. The dedication and commitment of airport workers, pilots, cabin crew, engineers, dispatchers, baggage handlers, security staff, air traffic controllers, office workers and many others keeps our world connected. As an industry, the celebration of our first 100 years provides a great opportunity to share the enormous contribution aviation makes to all of our lives. Everybody who flies has a stake in aviation. Without a doubt, among the billions of passengers who will crisscross the globe next year will be politicians, business people, regulators, artists, adventurers, students, future leaders, and of course, families. Over the next twelve months, IATA will engage in a global conversation rooted in the enormous changes since that first passenger boarded a plane one hundred years ago, and focused on making the next century even more momentous. I invite you to join.


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