Celebrating a century of commercial aviation at the IATA AGM

Ben Hunt

Group Communications Director, Amadeus IT Group

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A model of the Benoist, which made the world’s first scheduled commercial flight in Florida in 1914.



Doha's Hamad International Airport is so new that when delegates arriving for IATA's 70th AGM arrived over the weekend they were greeted by the tell tale odour of fresh paint.

Hamad, home to Qatar Airlines which is hosting IATA, is another impressive monument both to the ambition of Gulf carriers to capture the world's east-to-west hub traffic but also to humanity's enduringaspiration for air travel. In an interview with the show daily magazine, Qatar Airway's CEO Akbar El-Baker referred to the potential inherent in more than 400 million middle class Indians who have yet to take to the world's skies. As it is, IATA reported that the industry will move more than 3.3 billion passengers in 2014 through 100,000 flights per day on 50,000 routes.

Hoping for a more profitable future

Those airline executives gathered in Doha are looking to what they hope will be a more profitable future, but in the year that marks the 100th anniversary of commercial aviation, it is also celebrating its past. Outside the plenary hall at the Ritz-Carlton is a model of the Benoist, which made the world's first scheduled commercial flight in Florida in 1914.

Richard Anderson, in his capacity as outgoing Chairman of the Board of Governors, noted that at $130 per mile, the Benoist had achieved the industry's highest ever Revenue per Available Seat Mile, and spoke wistfully of a return to such a heady day.

Profit per passenger

The quest for improved airline profitability is never far away from thoughts at IATA events, and this week the Associationreportedthat the industry would celebrate its centenary in the black, as theglobal airline industryis forecast to make profits of $18 billion. A year ago, Tony Tyler, Director General, had bemoaned the fact that airline profit-per-passenger was below the cost of a sandwich. ($4).

While this year's remarks were generally more upbeat - at just shy of $6, the sandwich is gourmet - Tyler bemoaned the fact an industry that was the "life blood of the global economy" was not deriving greater value from it.

"There is a mismatch between the value that the industry contributes to the economies and the rewards that generates for those who risk their capital to finance the industry," he said.

Tyler highlighted three key areas for airlines to work together to ensure they continued to drive profitability: effective regulatory structure, cost-effective infrastructure and a reasonable tax burden.

The AGM will run until Tuesday afternoon when delegates can discover whether Hamad offers as smooth an experience for departures as it does for arrivals.


Middle East, Events