In Flight Advertising


In flight advertising is one of the best ways to advertise to people because flight passengers are a captive audience and cannot just get up and walk away. Some of the ads are highly technological touch screens or other interactive ads and others are very basic, such as the napkin a passenger receives when they request a drink. Also, some of the ads are for the airline itself, advertising new fight destinations or lower ticket cots, and some of the ads are for totally unrelated products, such as Coca Cola or ESPN.

JetBlue airways uses in-flight advertising


Traditional in flight advertising, such as logos or slogans on cups, cocktail napkins and tickets, has been around almost as long as the airlines themselves, but the more technologically advanced advertising is a relatively new concept. The Airline Advertising Bureau, founded in 1987 has generated more in flight TV ad revenue than any other sales organization in the field. During that period AAB has worked with most of the top U.S. ad agencies in helping to create the perfect in flight ad for each assignment presented. AAB has represented every major U.S. carrier at some point. And now that in-flight advertising is doing to so well many companies are forming that specialize in in-flight TV systems , such as LiveTV and Connexcion by Boeing Co.


According to U.S. Airways, onboard advertising brings in about $20 million a year. Advertisers want to use in-flight advertising because they can target specific audiences and reach millions of people on thousands of flights everyday. Since there is not much else to look at on a flight, passengers also remember the in flight ads very well and can recall most their content. U.S. Airways ran a tray table ad featuring the Quebec Department of Tourism and when emailed 6 weeks after the flight, 90 percent of passengers recalled at least some of the ad. In flight ads also help airlines cut costs on ticket prices. According to Advertising Age, “airlines have boosted in-flight entertainment as a means to create revenue to help avoid some of the fees they might otherwise have to charge their passengers in a troubled travel economy.”

seatback TV advertisements

overhead luggage bin ads

Limitation s

Many passengers get tired of the constant in flight ads and announcements. The degree of ads displayed and announcements made during flights varies from airline to airline, but it is clear that some passengers are tired of it. As Mike Flores, president of U.S. Airways, states, “A lot of passengers complain about it because they don't want to listen to ads in flight.” Most passengers would rather have tangible ads that they can read or browse on their own rather that listen to sales pitches and announcements.

Airlines walk a fine line with in flight advertising. No airline wants to upset their passengers, so they have to find the perfect balance of advertising; they need enough advertising to keep their prices down, but not too much that it makes customers angry. According to Brian Martin, chief executive of Brand Connections, “the best on board ads, he said, provide relevant information or fun diversions for passengers.”

In flight advertising and the Internet

Many airlines are offering free wifi on flights, which is another very convenient way for them to sneak in advertising. During the 2009 holiday season Delta Airlines partnered with Ebay and gave passengers on nearly 300 airplanes free access to wifi during their flights for seven days beginning November 24. Passengers were given a promotional code that takes them directly to Ebay’s Holiday homepage which featured daily deals and advertisements for various brands and partners of Ebay. This was a great way for not only Delta and Ebay to advertise, but also for all the other brands featured on the Ebay homepage. This idea was especially successful because it was implemented during the holiday season, which is one of the busiest travel periods and shopping times of the year.

Scheduling of In- Flight ads

There is no airline you can take a flight on today without be exposed to at least a few advertisements. Almost every part of the flight experience is an ad, just because it isn’t high tech does not mean it is any less influencing and effective. For example, when the flight attendant lists off the drinks that will be offered and states that they only carry Pepsi products or have a special on Red Bull drinks; that is advertising. There is no one time of year when airlines advertise, there is constant advertising throughout the year, no matter where your destination may be. However, during certain holidays there may be changes in advertisements or special holiday advertising; such as when Guinness beer is offered for a short period around St. Patrick’s Day.

Companies Using In Flight Ads

  • Johns on and Johnson’s Tylenol PM had a tray table ad that pictured some simple exercises passengers could do in their seat (knee lifts, foot rolls, etc.) so they wouldn't get stiff.
  • Coca Cola has their logo on many airlines’ cocktail napkins and cups
  • Bank of America has flight attendants giving sales pitches for their credit card for a commission of 50 dollars per pitch
  • General Motors has tray table ads featuring their OnStar Navigation System
  • Dove had flight attendants pass out samples of their new beauty bar

a tray table ad for Verizon Wireless

in_flight_ad_1.jpg in_flight_ad_2.jpg

TV in the Sky

Many airlines have installed individual televisions in the seatbacks of their aircrafts so passengers can watch what they choose and advertisers can reach specifically targeted audiences. JetBlue was one of the first airlines to feature individual TV's in it's aircraft seatbacks. Boeing Co., developed Connecxion by Boeing, an in-flight television system that will deliver real time TV to aircrafts and offer targeted ad programs on their on board systems. According to Andre de Greef, president of LiveTV, another provider of in-flight television, “Live TV is something new and it's going to be the new standard.”


With thousands of people flying every airline everyday in countries around the world, in flight advertising has an advantage that many other media vehicles do not: a captive audience. Since most people do not own a private jet, they will probably have to fly commercial flights several times in their life so along with the automatic high reach of in flight ads, comes a high frequency of frequent flyers.

According to Brand Connections Global in-flight advertising network, their ads will reach an estimated 70 Million passengers each year on flights throughout Europe with primary destinations including UK, Ireland, Spain, Italy and Germany. And According to American Airlines, who recently partnered with NBC Universal, brands advertising on board their flights will have access to over 3.4million customers per month on 360 aircraft though the use of 17,000 new television screens.

Audience Quality

In-flight advertising affects every passenger that is exposed to it. So that means that advertisers who use in-flight advertising can reach just about any target market they want to, and have a captive audience. Every airline is different and their passengers are different as well. For example, Southwest Airlines is a budget airline so a company such as Mercedes Benz would not advertise on them because they would be better off advertising on a more expensive airline such as U.S. Airways. Companies and advertisers can target passengers based on the destination of the plane as well, such as when a local Florida Tourism commercial comes on the individual TV’s right before the plane lands in Sarasota. Companies can look at the demographics of all the airlines and pick the one that best suits their needs, which is another reason why in-flight advertising is becoming so popular.

a tourism ad similar to those that appear on in-flight television


  • In flight credit card pitches
  • Laminated Tray Table ads
  • Cups with logos and names
  • Napkins with logos and names
  • TVs in seatbacks
  • Product sampling
  • Overhead luggage bin ads
  • Advertising announcements

*One of the newest types of in flight advertising is interactive. This form of advertising actually lets the passenger choose what ads they wish to view and which ones to skip. Recently, In-Flight Media Associates Inc, an in-flight advertising company, has announced that it has entered into an agreement with Panasonic Avionics Corporation. Their newest project is with Panasonic's OneMedia service and will include click-through banners that take passengers to microsites within the in-flight entertainment system.


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Hampp, Andrew. (2008, Oct. 27). In-flight ads flying high as JetBlueands at Airline TV;
To avoid fees, industry is using product sampling, more entertainment. Advertising Age, Pp.8. Retrieved form Lexis Nexis Academic.

Higgins, Michelle. (2008, July 6). A Plane? More Like a Flying Magazine. The New York Times, pp. 4. Retrieved from Lexis Nexis Academic.

IMA enters agreement with Panasonic Avionics for in-
flight advertising sales.
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Zmuda, Natalie. (2009, Nov. 4). EBay Gets Onboard With Delta for Holiday Promotion. Retrieved from Advertising Age: