Citi Turns 200: The bank embraces air travel
June 22, 2012 01:00 PM
In celebration of Citigroup's 200th Anniversary, we are sharing stories from our rich history here on this blog. The 14th installation below covers how National City Bank embraced air travel by recognizing the advantages of air mail and commercial air transport for staff. Read the 13th installment on how National City Bank's new branches and compound interest department helped create new opportunities in retail banking, here.
The bank embraces air travel
In August 1929, National City Bank chairman Charles Mitchell received a letter from the Tokyo branch. It had come by way of the Graf Zeppelin, a German airship, on the Tokyo-New York leg of its first and only round-the-world flight. The letter had taken just eight days to arrive, a new record.
Earlier that month, a branch inspector, J.F. Cannon, had accompanied journalists on the maiden flight by the New York, Rio and Buenos Aires Lines (NYRBA) between Santiago and Buenos Aires. The trip took 10 hours and involved two stopovers in the Argentinian cities of Mendoza and Cordoba. The Cordoba stopover was soon dropped, reducing the flight time to seven hours, a huge improvement over the 35-hour journey by train.
In February the following year, president Gordon Rentschler received a card from the Recife branch in Brazil marking the inauguration of a new air-mail service between North and South America. It had taken 10 days and numerous stops on multiple aircraft to complete the 8,000-mile journey from Santiago to Buenos Aires and then up the coast of South America and across the Caribbean to Miami. Here, the mail was transferred to a train bound for New York. The eight-and-a-half days it took NYRBA Lines to fly between Buenos Aires and New York was 11 days better than the best any steamship could achieve at the time.
The bank saw the commercial advantages of air transport for staff. Three weeks after NYRBA Lines launched its weekly service between Buenos Aires and Miami in 1930, Cannon and fellow branch inspector Malcolm Murrie joined the Recife-Miami leg. They were among the first regular passengers to use the service, which involved multiple flights on Sikorsky and Commodore flying boats. "There is no doubt that airplane passenger service is here to stay, for each month sees an increase in passengers carried," Cannon said.