This year we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first scheduled commercial flight, which took place between St Petersburg and Tampa, Florida on January 1, 1914.

From a single airplane, a single pilot and a single passenger, commercial aviation has evolved into the global air transport system that this year will safely connect some 3.3 billion travellers with nearly 100,000 flights per day, while supporting some 58.1 million jobs.

Travel helps build bridges between different cultures. But sometimes there are challenges in the experience. In some places, the answer is to build more infrastructure to accommodate all the people who want fly.

And improving the process of travel — from how you book your flight to collecting your bags at the end of the journey — will also help make the trip more enjoyable.

Working with airports and other partners in the air travel chain, we see opportunities in a number of areas to do just that.

It all begins with improving the travel shopping experience. There are lots of choices in products out there. But it is not always easy to access these options.

For example, you may be able to book extra-leg room on an airline website. But it is much more difficult if you make the same request through a travel agent — even an online one.

Why? Because travel agents rely on tried-and-tested systems that were largely developed before the internet became available. They literally speak a different language.

And that language does not have the capability to describe easily additional products and services that might be available, such as a seat with more leg room, a special meal or priority boarding.

That probably helps to explain why two-thirds of people usually choose to customise their travel via airline websites rather than from a travel agent, according to IATA’s 2013 Global Passenger Survey.

This could soon change. Working with other partners, IATA is building standards for a new language for buying travel products. It’s called New Distribution Capability (NDC).

And when it is fully deployed travellers who wish to use a travel agent or travel website will have access to a much richer shopping experience with the ability to compare options based on full descriptions, including photos and videos.

We also want to make things smoother and more convenient at the airport. We know that our customers don’t like to stand in long lines to check-in or check bags and many are comfortable with doing more things for themselves if it will reduce the waiting.

According to IATA’s 2013 Global Passenger Survey, fully two-thirds of passengers would prefer to check-in online or automatically by receiving a text message or email from your airline.

Only 11 per cent prefer to receive their boarding passes from an agent at an airport check-in counter.

That’s the premise behind our Fast Travel project — to create more opportunities for air travellers to do things for themselves through six time-saving, self-service options covering many of the processes travellers go through at an airport.

Simultaneously, we are looking at ways to do an even better job of reuniting passengers with their bags. Currently just 1 per cent of bags are mishandled, but we want to reduce that to 0.5 per cent — less than one in every 100 by 2020, through the Innovation in Baggage (InBag) programme.

And we are targeting long lines and hassles at security checkpoints though Smart Security, a joint initiative with Airports Council International. Smart Security aims to improve security by using information governments already collect to allocate security resources where they are most needed.

Simultaneously, by encouraging governments to invest in state-of-art screening machines and being smarter about some of the processes, we can remove much of the hassle associated with queuing and disrobing.

This year we will conduct airport trials with Smart Security components at airports in Europe and the Middle East.

But the industry needs regulators to do their part by keeping pace. An example is home-printed bag tags. Passengers like the option to bring their bags to the airport already tagged and airlines have shown they work.

Now, governments need to do their part by making sure regulations do not prevent this.

As commercial aviation moves into its second century we look forward to giving passengers a smoother and more valuable travel experience, with fewer hassles.

— The writer is the director-general and CEO, International Air Transport Association.