Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Monday, July 7, 2008

For sale: your eyeballs

We used to put up with commercial advertising in exchange for free television programming. Then commercials started appearing in movie theaters, where we paid for the privilege to sit through obvious ads before the less-obvious ads (previews) started. Now, your eyeballs are for sale aboard airplanes too.

Marketing messages used to be confined to the in-flight magazine. Then, when airlines like JetBlue debuted TV programming, commercials wormed their way aboard your flight. The analogous platform made it palatable: travelers watch TV commercials at home, so they shouldn't mind seeing them in flight. And besides, the OFF switch was always available.

But now, as airlines struggle to remain solvent, they're becoming bolder when it comes to selling your eyeballs. On many flights, you'll now find that your tray table is skinned with advertising. As the New York Times editorial that inspired this blog posting notes, flight attendants frequently hawk credit card applications. Perhaps someday soon, lavatories will be wallpapered with advertising from Charmin or Pepto-Bismol.

All this comes as no surprise. Airlines are trying to find any way possible to offset rising fuel prices. But look at the bright side: if the airline can find companies to sponsor lavatories and overhead compartments, maybe the dark future depicted in this brilliant TV commercial from Southwest Airlines won't actually come to pass.

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