Special Report

50 Ways Air Travel Has Changed Over the Last 100 Years

Fox Photos / Getty Images

Over the 113 years since the first airplane passenger, Leon Delagrange, climbed aboard with French pilot Henri Farman, air travel has gone through drastic changes. Commercial aircraft have seen incredible technological developments. Many airlines have come and gone. And the procedures passengers go through, including the way they board jets, are almost nothing like they were back in the day.

But a few of the things airline customers have come to expect had their beginnings a century ago. The first flight attendant was aboard a zeppelin in 1912. The first onboard meal, a cold one, was served on a flight from London to Paris in 1919, according to Fortune magazine. Aeromarine Airways showed the first in-flight movie, a film called “Howdy Chicago,” in 1921 as its amphibious airplane flew passengers over Chicago, CNN said.

Passengers didn’t get their first frequent-flyer program until 1979, but they were allowed to smoke on domestic flights until 1990. (This is the world’s busiest air route.) 

Check out the list of changes in air travel below.

Click here to see 50 ways air travel has changed over the last 100 years

Source: FPG / Archive Photos via Getty Images

1908: First airplane passenger

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Source: Topical Press Agency / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1912: First flight attendant (on a zeppelin)

Source: Topical Press Agency / Getty Images

1914: First scheduled passenger service

Source: Topical Press Agency / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1919: First on-board (cold) meal served

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Source: General Photographic Agency / Getty Images

1921: First in-flight film

Source: Topical Press Agency / Getty Images

1922: First airplane flight attendant

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Source: Fox Photos / Getty Images

1928: First hot in-flight meal served

Source: Central Press / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1928: First female airline co-pilot (volunteer)

Source: Hulton Archive / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1930: First female flight attendant (“stewardess”)

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Source: Davis / Getty Images

1933: First modern airliner built

Source: Fox Photos / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1934: First female airline co-pilot (official)

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Source: A. Hudson / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1935: First air traffic control tower

Source: Stevenson / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1939: First airport lounge

Source: Arthur Tanner / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1939: First nonstop trans-Atlantic flight

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Source: 45379817@N08 / Flickr

1940: First pressured cabin

Source: FPG / Archive Photos via Getty Images

1948: Coach fares introduced

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Source: Central Press / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1949: First domestic “no frills” airline

Source: Central Press / Hulton Royals Collection via Getty Images

1951: First commercial jet airliner

Source: Hulton Archive / Hulton Royals Collection via Getty Images

1953: First nonstop transcontinental flight

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Source: Stroud / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1958: First covered airport jet bridge

Source: Stroud / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1958: First Black flight attendant

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Source: McCabe / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1960: First automated reservation system

Source: Evening Standard / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1965: Overlapping nationwide radar system completed

1965: First Black commercial airline pilot

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Source: Express / Moviepix via Getty Images

1966: First trans-Atlantic “no frills” airline

Source: Tim Graham / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1968: Mandatory flight attendant retirement age lifted

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Source: Dove / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1969: Wide-body jet introduced

Source: Fox Photos / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1972: Passenger screening begins

Source: Angela Deane-Drummond / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1975: First in-flight video games

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Source: Express / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1976: First female airline captain

Source: Evening Standard / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1978: Airline industry deregulated

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Source: Central Press / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1979: First frequent-flyer program

1988: First seat-back video screens

1990: Smoking banned on all domestic flights

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Source: Getty Images / Getty Images

1994: First e-ticket issued

1995: First self-service check-in kiosk installed

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1996: First independent flight reservation service

Source: Tim Boyle / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

2000: First in-flight wifi

Source: David Silverman / Getty Images News via Getty Images

2001: Transportation Security Administration (TSA) formed

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Source: David McNew / Getty Images News via Getty Images

2001: Food service stops on most major airlines

Source: Getty Images / Getty Images News via Getty Images

2003: Reinforced cockpit doors installed on major U.S. airlines

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Source: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images News via Getty Images

2005: Superjumbo jets introduced

Source: Thomas Cooper / Getty Images News via Getty Images

2006: Limits on carry-on liquids introduced

2007: Smartphone boarding passes accepted for first time

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2008: Checked baggage charges introduced

Source: David McNew / Getty Images News via Getty Images

2008: Global Entry begins at some airports

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Source: Win McNamee / Getty Images News via Getty Images

2011: TSA PreCheck introduced

Source: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images News via Getty Images

2018: Airlines begin charging for seat assignments

Source: Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images News via Getty Images

2021: U.S. requires passengers and crews to wear masks

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