What does the future hold for air travel?

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NEW YORK -- Millions of people board airplanes each day, complaining about legroom and overhead space but taking for granted that they can travel thousands of miles in a few hours.

Wednesday marked the 100th anniversary of the first commercial flight: a 23-minute hop across Florida's Tampa Bay. The St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line was subsidized by St. Petersburg officials seeking more winter tourists.

Pilot Tony Jannus had room for just one passenger, next to him in the open cockpit. Three months later, tourism season and the subsidy ended. The airline had carried 1,204 passengers but would never fly again.

With the anniversary in mind, The Associated Press asked today's aviation leaders for predictions on the future of flying.

In Five Years

* Gary Kelly, CEO Southwest Airlines: "We'll have fewer airlines, but they will be bigger, stronger and healthier."

* Maurice J. Gallagher Jr., CEO, Allegiant Travel Co.: "Increasing automation and decreasing labor cost. The industry is already implementing mobile boarding passes, bag drops, even self-boarding. These will become more prevalent and significantly reduce the number of employees customers interact with."

In 25 Years:

* David Barger, CEO, JetBlue Airways: "Travel between any two points in the world will be commonplace. There will be billions of travelers every year flying on new aircraft that will be environmentally friendly; in fact, ... zero-carbon travel may be even a reality."

* Mark Dunkerley, CEO, Hawaiian Airlines: "Many of today's consumers will be priced out of the air -- a sad legacy to 30 years of massive progress in democratizing air travel. Failure to invest in aviation infrastructure and the insatiable appetite for regulation will not be offset by relatively modest further improvements in aircraft efficiency."

* Richard Branson, president, Virgin Atlantic Airways: "I have no doubt that during my lifetime we will be able to fly from London to Sydney in under two hours, with minimal environmental impact. The awe-inspiring views of our beautiful planet below and zero-gravity passenger fun will bring a whole new meaning to in-flight entertainment."

In 100 Years:

* Doug Parker, CEO, American Airlines: "I am quite certain that Tony Jannus never could have imagined the size and importance of commercial aviation today, or the impact it had on changing our world. Similarly, I cannot imagine what commercial aviation will look like in 2114. I imagine whatever state it is, though, it will be extremely important and its continued development will be a key part of the story that built that world."


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