The evolution of aviation in business travel

Today, August 19, marks National Aviation Day, a nationwide celebration of the development of aviation. We’re taking the time to look back on the history of aviation, and how its constant growth and development affects today’s business travel.


Early Days

You can thank Orville and Wilber Wright for being able to fly from San Francisco to New York in six hours instead of taking a train and losing three days to travel. The Wrights took the first powered flight via airplane on December 17, 1903, and five years later, in 1908, Léon Delagrange became the first person to fly as a passenger. No records exist as to whether or not he was served roasted peanuts on board.


Fast forward to January 1, 1914, when the first scheduled air service began. The St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line, whose fleet consisted of seaplanes, shuttled one passenger at a time across Tampa Bay in Florida. The two-seater wooden-hulled planes traveled about 20 miles in 23 minutes, flew about five feet above the water, and cost $5. Unfortunately, the service only lasted four months before it had to shut down for the winter.


Going After the Business Market

Business aviation didn’t truly take off until after World War II, when a surplus of aircraft became available. In 1935, the Douglas DC-3 began delivering passengers from New York to Los Angeles in a single day, proving that commercial air travel could be consistently profitable—and not just for the airline. Commercial flights ushered in a new age of global business, making the world a much smaller place. Companies recognized that while flying was expensive, it saved time and enabled them to do business on a larger scale. The cost of travel was often offset by the new business it brought in.


Advances in Technology

In 1958, Grumman, a global aerospace and defense tech company, began selling the Gulfstream I twin turboprop, the first business airplane worth $1 million. By the 1960s, business aviation had become the preferred mode of transportation for corporate America. It set a new standard for businesses, offering the potential to open new markets and bridge the gap between far-flung places.


As business travel grew, so did the infrastructure around aviation; these days, there are very few places left on Earth that you can’t reach by some kind of plane—you can even get to Antarctica by commercial jet.


Today, thanks to travel and expense applications like the ones we build here at Concur, business travelers now have unparalleled ease of booking and visibility into fares that are lower than at any point in the last century. It’s easier to find the right fare to the right place, book the right hotel at the right price, and make your business happen. Itinerary management applications like TripIt help business travelers keep track of their reservations, their loyalty memberships, and their travel preferences. Even duty of care is easier, thanks to real-time updates on travelers’ whereabouts.


Business travel and aviation have grown rapidly in the last 100 years. We look forward to seeing what’s in store for the future of air business travel, but today we celebrate how far we’ve come. Happy National Aviation Day!  Come chat with us about it on Twitter.

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