Today marks 76 years since aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart took off in her Electra on a flight that would lead to her disappearance somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.
Six years before that planned world flight, Earhart served as vice president of Ludington Lines, an airline set up to shuttle passengers around the northeast corridor of the U.S. in ten-seat Stinson aircraft. In that capacity, Earhart was invited to write a viewpoint for this magazine, then called Aviation, on the ins-and-outs of running an airline. Her viewpoint, which was originally published in May 1931 then reprinted in an August 1991 edition of Aviation Week & Space Technology, highlights how little the mechanics of running an airline have changed in over eight decades.
Writing about the significant growth in air passenger travel, mostly due to “real service” and “convenient schedules,” Earhart argued that “the passenger traffic problem boils down to the best methods of broadcasting one’s wares and to giving as much satisfaction as possible before and after the individual passenger takes a trip.”
This, she said, includes “making reservations, easily accessible knowledge of where this can be done, accuracy in the final sale, certainty of arrivals and departures of planes, quick refunds when weather causes cancellation, low fares, combined with as much comfort as can be indulged without pampering.”
In her detailed account, titled ‘Putting Air Travel Into Mass Production,” Earhart covers virtually every element of running an airline including fare rules, ticketing channels and cabin comfort. She talks about the importance of maintaining a comfortable cabin environment to reduce air sickness and says “probably no single mechanical measure has meant more to the traffic department than the heated airplanes throughout the winter.”
On cabin interiors, she notes that “I believe nothing gives more confidence to a first rider than a neat interior with clean windows, brushed carpets, and literature and signs as well placed as possible.”
Aside from managing today’s modern passenger demands for adequate (and more) legroom, more in-flight entertainment choices and sufficient in-flight connectivity bandwidth, it appears little has changed in the fundamentals of the air travel business since Amelia Earhart’s day.