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1914-First Scheduled Commercial Airline Flight in the world
The first flight of a commercial airline was in a Benoist airboat piloted by Antony H. Jannus. The first ticket was sold at auction for $400 (equivalent to nearly $10,000 today).


Thomas W. Benoist (29 December 1874 – 14 June 1917) was an American aviator and aircraft manufacturer.


Thomas W. Benoist

Prior to 1914, travel from Tampa, Florida, to St. Petersburg, located on a then-isolated peninsula, required a slow steamboat trip across Tampa Bay or a circuitous, five-hour journey by railroad. A bumpy automobile or horse and buggy ride took many hours over primitive, unpaved roads. The airplane at the time was a rare novelty, lacking any practical application. Impressed by the record-setting overwater flight made by Jannus in 1912, Florida businessman Percival E. Fansler approached some St. Petersburg businessmen the next year with a proposal to use Benoist flying boats for "a real commercial line" over open water between the two cities. Convinced by Fansler's plan, several St. Petersburg community leaders, led by L. A. Whitney of the local chamber of commerce and Noel Mitchell, agreed to provide financial support for the creation of an airline service to connect the two cities. A 90-day contract with Thomas W. Benoist was signed on December 17, 1913 (the 10th anniversary of Wilbur and Orville Wright's historic first airplane flight), to provide airplanes and crew for two daily round trips across Tampa Bay, dubbed the St. Petersburg–Tampa Airboat Line — the world's first scheduled airline.


​In 1914, an entrepreneur named Percival E. Fansler saw the opportunity for a regular air service across the bay. He knew it would significantly cut the travel time between the two cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg. He and his investors commissioned two flying boats from the manufacturer Thomas Benoist, along with a famous pilot, Antony H. Jannus, to fly them.Antony H. Jannus was an experienced test pilot and barnstormer.



Antony H. Jannus, pilot of the world's first airline.

A Benoist Type XIV Flying boat over Tampa Bay in Florida in 1914.

The first flight went off on New Year's Day, 1914, with much pomp and circumstance. About 3,000 people paraded from downtown St. Petersburg to the waterfront to watch.

The first ticket for what would become an historic trip across the Bay was sold at auction to a local businessman, Abram C. Pheil, who purchased his place in history for $400 (equivalent to nearly $10,000 today). In a stirring speech at the launch, Fansler predicted, “The airboat line to Tampa will be only a forerunner of great activity along these lines in the near future….what was impossible yesterday is an accomplishment of today – while tomorrow heralds the unbelievable.” 


Just before 10 a.m., after several speeches and many photographs, Antony H. Jannus and Abram C. Pheil squeezed into the small wooden seat. As they took off, Tony Jannus waved to the cheering crowd.


(Left to Right)  Percival E. Fansler, Abraham C. Pheil, and Antony H. Jannus with the , 1 January 1914

He flew the plane no higher than 50 feet (15.2 m) over the water. Halfway to Tampa, the engine misfired, and he touched down in the bay, made adjustments and took off again. As the plane landed at the entrance of the Hillsborough River near downtown Tampa, Jannus and Pheil were swarmed by a cheering, clapping, and waving crowd of about 3,500. 


Abram Pheil went about his business and placed an order of several thousand dollars for his wholesale company. At 11 a.m., Antony H. Jannus and Abram C. Pheil flew back to St. Petersburg. The entire trip had taken less than an hour and a half.


On Jan. 1, 1914, the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line became the world's first scheduled passenger airline service, operating between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Fla.


The airline made two flights daily, six days a week. The regular fare was $5 per person and $5 per 100 pounds of freight. Tickets sold out for 16 weeks in advance. A second Benoist airboat was added, and flights were extended to Sarasota, Bradenton and Manatee. Tony Jannus' brother, Roger, was the second pilot.


The airline operated for nearly four months, carrying a total of 1,205 passengers. Passenger interest declined rapidly when the winter residents began heading back north. On April 27, Tony and Roger Jannus flew their last flight before leaving Florida, putting on an air show over Tampa Bay. 


It was a short-lived endeavor ­— only four months — but it paved the way for today's daily transcontinental flights.