Jets changed the world

first_imgIn the 100th year of the first commercial flight it is fascinating to look back at some of the major breakthroughs that have changed aviation for the passenger and to look at how passenger dress and cabin appointments have changed.When the 707, DC-8 and Comet 4 jets entered service in the late 1950s, there was a scramble to get a seat with many airline’s flights running at an extraordinary – for the time – load factor of 90.8%. Typically airlines flights were only 60 per cent full as this was before computer reservations and of course the internet, which have enabled airlines to dramatically increase the loads on flights.Passengers loved the jets. In the first five years of jet operations, Pan American’s overseas traffic doubled as the airline took delivery of more than 50 new Boeing 707s and Douglas DC-8s.When Pan American launched its jet service its founder and President Juan Trippe said: “Mass travel by air – made possible by the jet age – may prove to be more significant to world destiny than the atomic bomb. For there can be no atom bomb potentaiily more powerful than the air tourist, charged with curiosity, enthusiasm and good will, who can roam the four corners of the world, meeting in friendship and understanding the people of other nations and races.” Mr Trippe was so right.In 1960, for the first time, the number of passengers crossing the North Atlantic by air surpassed those on ocean liners. Pan Am was offering a return trip across the North Atlantic from only $298 – just slightly above what the one-way fare had been in 1952 – or just three weeks’ average salary.Tourist class or economy class as it was now called, dominated air travel in the 1960s to the point where first class had been reduced to just a small section of the jet’s cabin.And that cabin was luxurious with lounges and seating in economy class was very spacious with a seat pitch of up to 40 inches. Passengers wore the latest fashions with men in suits and women wearing pearls. Carry on was still just a hat and a book and overhead storage was just a hat rack.Meals were spectacular affairs– even in economy. The rationale was there was no in-flight entertainment to speak of, so passengers had to be occupied.Not only were fares plummeting, so were traveling times. Australia’s Qantas was able to slash the London-Sydney route from 48 to 27 hours, while the Sydney-San Francisco route tumbled from 27 hours to 18 hours. Interestingly, because of the enormous distances traveled by its passengers, Qantas had one of the biggest first class markets with 23 per cent of its travelers opting for the front end in the mid-1960s.In the US in 1950, air travel accounted for just 14 per cent of travel, with bus and train accounting for 38 per cent and 48 per cent respectively. Thanks to the piston engine Douglas DC-6 and Lockheed Constellation, by 1959 when the first US jets entered service 47 per cent of travelers were in the air, while bus and train had been relegated to 24 per cent and 29 per cent.In the 10 years to 1959, air travel leapt 250 per cent in the US. Ten years later in 1969, the number of passengers traveling by air in the US would triple – thanks to the new jets.And in the 50 years since 1964 the world wide aircraft fleet has grown from 3,137 to a massive 24,613 aircraft. Global passenger numbers have leapt from 412,000 a day to 8.5 million, while fares have dropped by 84 per cent. Air travel is booming!last_img

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