In Flight TV Advertising

Photo by Jessica Northcutt


An emerging form of advertising seen in today's mobile world is in-flight TV advertising. It is a prominent form of advertising on commercial flights which is found on the small television screen located on passenger's seatbacks. The screens offer a multitude of cable television channels and also a channel specifically created to show a map of the location of the aircraft. This channel will feature the map for a specified amount of time, and then will switch to about two or three advertisements before switching back to the map. This goes on throughout the entire flight, with a variety of different ads being shown each time. In addition, passengers are also exposed to the traditional television commercials on the cable channels offered throughout the flight.

Reasons for Use

In a high paced, high-clutter world, advertisers are constantly seeking new and alternative forms of media that will be effective in generating awareness for their product or service. Without the use of their cell phones and PDA's, flight passengers are a highly invovled and active audience, who are likely to pay more attention to ads placed directly in front of them. Passengers are seated in one small area for the entire length of their flight, and seem to be highy receptive to receiving ads at this time. Without the distractions of the cell phones, social media, networking, and e-mail, passengers are likely to take this time to relax and focus more on what is in front of them.


Although these advertisments are placed in the direct vision of the passenger, not all passengers aboard may be receiving the ads. Many passengers spend time sleeping, reading, listening to music, or doing work. The may not even turn the televison on at any point throughout the flight. This may be true for shorter, business flights. However, on longer flights, passengers may get bored listening to music or may not be able to sleep the whole time, and may be inclined to check out whats on TV. If they do so, they will be exposed not only to regular television commericals, but also to the ads placed on the map channel.

Photo by Jessica Northcutt

Although the costs associate with airline advertising may be high, there is potential for the cost to be well worth the benefits. Those who are frequent fliers are usually affluent men and women with a large disposable income. Advertising to these people can be well worth the cost. According to AdAge, the cost-per-thousand rates for airline TV are about equal to the prime-time CPMs for cable TV audiences. Also, some advertisers are currenly purchasing on a monthly basis while others have already made annual contracts (

Reach and Frequency

In flight advertising has the potential for a large reach of consumers. Millions of people fly every day for both business and leisure reasons. This give advertisers a wide variety of affluent consumers with whom they can share their messages. Frequency is generally low; most people do not fly very often. And those who do, mostly business men and women, are usually preoccupied with work rather than watching television during a flight.

Audience Qualities

People fly for an enormous variety of reasons. Those who are frequent fliers, also those who are most likely to be receptive to in flight advertising, are a specific demographic of people who are easy for advertisers to target. At any given time, 63% of airline passengers are traveling for business. 70% of these travelers are men, versus 30% women, and 62% are within the 35-54 age range. These frequent fliers are busy working professionals who are difficult to reach through other forms of media, such as radio and television due to their busy work schedules and high usage of mobile devices and laptop computers. Airline passengers are "80% more likely to have an annual household income of $100,000 or more" and are likely to be sophicticated shoppers with expensive taste. They are likely to be interested in purchasing designer clothes, luxury vehicles, and cutting-edge technology (Arbitron).

Photo by Jessica Northcutt

Response to In-Flight TV Advertising

Public response to in-flight advertising has been mostly positive. Arbiton reports that 60% of frequent fliers usually watch in flight TV programming and half of those who did watch are able to recall specific advertisements. Additionally, 80% of frequent flier reported that they would be upset if in flight television programming was no longer made available. These fliers understand that along with the programming comes a need for advertising (arbitron). Also, because of the funds generated from advertising dollars, airlines that implement in flight programming are able to avoid charging passengers with other fees, such as checked-bag fees - something that travelers are very receptive to.

Advertisers Using In-Flight Advertising

Currently, Delta Airlines, Virgin America Airlines, American Airlines and JetBlue offer in flight television advertising. Current companies include those in the travel and leisure industry - which includes automobile and restaurant companies, business, real estate, and health care.

Photo by Jessica Northcutt

About Airline Advertising Bureau. Airline Advertising Bureau Website. Retrieved November 19, 2010 from <>Alexander, K. (2005, June). Cash Strapped Airlines Try In Flight Advertising. The Washington Post. Retrieved November 19, 2010 from, A. (2008, October). In Flight Ads Flying High as JetBlue Lands at Airline TV. Advertising Age. Retrieved November 18, 2010 from In-Flight Media Associates. (2010). Retrieved Novemeber 18, 2010 from, D. (2006). The Arbitron In-Flight Media Study. Arbitron Custom Research Report. Retrieved Novermber 18, 2010 from