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100 years on, flying still begs for open skies

Iata chief calls for easing of ownership and merger rules

Published Mon, Jun 2, 2014 · 10:00 PM
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[DOHA] On New Year's Day, 1914, Abe Pheil squeezed into the open cockpit of a Benoist Type XIV boatplane in St Petersburg, Florida and became the world's first airline passenger, flying 20 miles (32km) in 23 minutes for a specially auctioned fare of US$400.

Last year, three billion people followed in his footsteps. But while the first century of paid flight has transformed the passenger experience from a bone-shaking wooden biplane to frills such as flat beds, for many investors it provides the same risk of getting wet as the original hop across Tampa Bay.

Global airlines made US$13 billion last year, but an ongoing centennial gathering in Doha will hear that margins remain thin, and the industry has rarely if ever covered its cost of capital since the original St Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line.

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