On a recent Alaska Airlines flight, passengers were told to remain buckled and seated for the last 30 minutes before landing at Reagan National...
On a recent Alaska Airlines flight, passengers were told to remain buckled and seated for the last 30 minutes before landing at Reagan National Airport. It was a standard security measure for flights heading into restricted airspace over Washington, D.C.
It also turned a planeful of passengers into captive customers who were then pitched a Bank of America Visa card with little chance of tuning out.
Over the intercom, a flight attendant encouraged passengers to sign up for the credit card. Then other flight attendants went down the aisle handing out applications.
Marketing now follows potential customers into the skies. In the airlines’ newest way to drum up revenue, carriers have become aggressive pitchmen at 30,000 feet for a range of products.
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The airlines say the ad revenue helps in these tough financial times. But some passengers liken the pitches to ads in a movie theater before the main feature.
“It’s worse than the idea of cellphones in flights,” said flier Sylvia Caras of Santa Cruz, Calif.
Advertising in the air is not new. Most airlines run some commercials during in-flight entertainment, and their magazines carry ads. But until now, passengers could ignore it.
For insurance agent Alexander Velaj, the latest trend in on-board salesmanship is another reason for “purchasing the Bose noise-canceling headphones.”
But Montgomery College English professor Chet Pryor said he accepts the pitches as the trade-off for lower fares. “They’re simply something that must be endured,” he said.
Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Amanda Tobin said passengers had expressed an interest in learning more about applying for Visa credit cards and that the airline’s flight attendants share “basic” information.
Alaska isn’t the only airline to push products. Since August, Bank of America has paid US Airways employees $50 for each new applicant they get to sign up for a Visa card. The employees who nab 15 new applicants receive $750, plus a $75 bonus.
The payments extend not only to flight attendants, but also to US Airways customer-service and reservation agents.
US Airways spokesman David Castelveter said employees were not “required” to make the announcements and did so “voluntarily and with discretion as not to inconvenience” passengers.
Bank of America offers joint credit cards with Alaska Airlines and US Airways that allow customers to earn frequent-flier miles with purchases.
The airlines declined to comment on how much revenue they receive from the product pitches.
Since 2003, America West Airlines has sold advertising space on its tray tables. Companies such as Bank of America, Saab, Dillard’s department stores and the History and A&E cable-TV channels regularly purchase spots on America West’s seat-back trays. Companies pay to have their products painted on the tables for 30 to 90 days.
Saab is also paying America West to promote its new sport-utility vehicle during flight announcements. The airline has the Saab logo on napkins.
Painting the products onto the tray tables is an “innovative way to give exposure to a company without being too intrusive,” said America West spokesman Carlo Bertolini.