By Courtney Trenwith
On New Year’s Day 1914, the first paying aeroplane passenger flew 23mins across Tampa Bay, US
New Year’s Day 2014 marks 100 years since the first commercial passenger flight - a 23-minute trip across Tampa Bay from Florida in the US.
A century on and an average of 8m people fly each day, from one of nearly 4000 airports hosting 1500 airlines that cover every country in the world.
The aviation industry has blown into a $540bn industry annually, supporting more than 57m jobs and generating $2.2tn in economic activity, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Passenger numbers this year are expected to exceed 3bn globally for the first time, while the entire airline industry turnover is predicted to be $743bn, with an average industry profit margin of 2.6 percent.
Aviation is relatively young in the Gulf, with the leading airlines less than 30 years old.
But in a short time the industry has become a major economic contributor, particularly to the UAE economy.
Dubai-based Emirates Airline, which launched in 1985, carries more than 43m passengers annually and made a $463m profit during the first half of 2013.
Etihad, the UAE’s national airline did not take-off until 2003 but now carries more than 10m passengers a year to about 100 destinations.
Qatar Airways celebrated its 20 anniversary this year.
Aviation also is growing rapidly in Saudi Arabia, where the regulator recently approved the launch of a new privately-owned operator, as well as the addition of a subsidiary of Qatar Airways to help deal with the soaring demand, particularly for domestic flights from the population of 29m.
Aircraft also have significantly evolved in the past century, with the latest now carrying as many as 525 passengers on two levels and capable of travelling 16 hours.
IATA will commemorate the centenary anniversary with events throughout the year, including re-enacting the first commercial passenger flight using a replica of the original Benoist airboat.
“Over the last century, commercial aviation has transformed the world in ways unimaginable in 1914. The first flight provided a short-cut across Tampa Bay. Today the aviation industry re-unites loved ones, connects cultures, expands minds, opens markets, and fosters development. Aviation provides people around the globe with the freedom to make connections that can change their lives and the world,” IATA director general and CEO Tony Tyler said.