Are You Ready To Go Shopping On Your Next Flight?

American Airlines is beginning to experiment with turning flights into shopping opportunities, reports the New York Times. We’re not just talking about in-flight purchases of Sky Mall schwag, either: the paper reports that limousine services, tickets to theme parks and Broadway shows, and train tickets are some of the offerings being considered or currently being tested.

If the idea of having your flight attendant also act as a salesperson for any number of non-airline companies bothers you, you’re not alone. Flight attendants seem kind of iffy on it, too.

“There are a myriad issues surrounding SkyMall,” said Diana Dunn, a member of the union’s negotiating committee. “What is the commission they want to pay us? What if a customer returns something, how are they going to get the money back?”

Flight attendants at other airlines are also worried that retail commissions may be used to replace salaries, according to Corey Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants. “If airlines are encouraging flight attendants to participate in selling of products and services, it needs to be done when the flight attendant has completed safety and security activities onboard the flight.” Ms. Caldwell said. “It’s definitely a proceed with caution type of thing.”

“Airline Tests Retail Sales at 35,000 Feet” [New York Times]
(Photo: Aaron Escobar ? (the spaniard)™)

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  1. Orv says:

    It’s bad enough when they pitch credit cards to a captive audience on the plane. This sounds like it could be pretty awful.

    • floraposte says:

      @Orv: All the annoyance of telemarketing with the inability to hang up the phone, at 35,000 feet. I swear, if they wake me up from my Xanax nap to try to sell me something, they’ll need to land the plane in Boston to arrest me.

  2. bornonbord says:

    Most of the international flights I’ve been on have had the flight attendants offer luxury watches, perfumes, electronics and the like.

    I’m sure they’re just going to emulate how those other airlines have run it.

  3. dohtem says:

    These guys have a lot of balls. They raise prices, tack on baggage fees, eliminate food service on domestic flights, make it hell to redeem vouchers and now airline travel is just aggravating.

    Now they want to hawk luxury items while you are trapped in their cabin.

    This has to be a cruel joke.

  4. dohtem says:

    Currently, the average amount a passenger spends with an airline after purchasing a ticket is $1, according to statistics prepared by GuestLogix. At Ryanair, by contrast, Mr. Cawley said customers spend on average about $15.

    Comparison fail. RyanAir is a no frills airline. You fly with them knowing that everything is à la carte. RyanAir’s customers have to spend a bit more because nothing is included.

    That shouldn’t be the case with AA.

    • kmw2 says:

      @dohtem: Exactly. To even make Ryanair liveable you have to spend a certain amount. I’d be really annoyed to pay AA prices to fly Ryanair style.

  5. Digitizer says:

    No, thank you. I’ll just wait until I land and get my tickets at the cheaper, retail price.

  6. Donathius says:

    How about lowering the airfare or getting rid of the dang luggage fees in exchange for making a sales pitch to us once we’re a captive audience?

  7. larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

    As if the earlier story wasn’t enough to prove that AA just doesn’t get it.

    Simple rule for all businesses: Make your customers happy, don’t treat them as bottomless cash dispensers.

  8. t0ph says:

    I went to a movie tonight and was forced to watcg 21 minutes of commercials from showtime until the movie started. Not including the commercials before the showtime. At least I had the option of laving the theater. I could not imagine being trapped on a plane with sales pitches and come-ons.

    • ecwis says:

      @t0ph: You can always go to the theatre after the commercials are over.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @t0ph: I love the commercials. I love trailers, and we’re usually at a movie 20 minutes early, and I like sitting in the dim theater, watching commercials. It’s weird, I know.

      • t0ph says:

        @pecan 3.14159265: I love the trailers also, but I am not kidding there were like 10 minutes of Sprint commercials among others. Previews are the best, I even like the trivia they put up at some theatres.

        By the way, The Men Who Stare at Goats was just alright, it was a good effort.

  9. Shoelace says:

    I doubt I’d ever fly AA again (for other reasons), but this is just another example of how inconsiderate they’re willing to be for the sake of profit. Wearing earphones for the duration of each flight might help passengers ignore these come-ons.

    It’s just not right to do this to a captive audience.

  10. MFfan310 says:

    Now-defunct Skybus tried selling watches, perfume, and other schwag. It failed. (And yes, the flight attendants were paid on partial commission.)

    Still, tickets to Broadway shows, Disney theme parks, and such, I could see being sold on board. At the same time, I saw on an American flight from DFW to Paris-CDG that their flight attendants are not so enthused at the idea, right down to the name badges: one said that he was a “Professional Flight Attendant-NOT A WAAl-Mart Associate”. (Gotta love those stuttering AAs…)

  11. menty666 says:

    I don’t see this as so bad really. I often carry some of my glass art with me, as long as I can have equal time to sell to the attendants, I’m cool with that :D

  12. Gaianna says:

    Anytime anyone ever mentions selling items on an airplane, all I can ever think of is Zug’s Airline credit car prank. The calls the head of Executive Office’s and pitches her their credit card. The best part is that she will not admit what they are doing is annoy even after saying what he is doing is annoying.

    You should read the whole thing it is great
    [www.zug.com]

  13. StanTheManDean says:

    Short-short Flights: The flying waitresses barely have time to do the complusary safety briefing and then pass out the 1/4 can of soda to do much of a selling spiel.

    Medium-short range Flights. Skip the peanuts. Might have 30 minutes to strong arm passengers to buying some crap.

    Standard (medium range) flight. Skip the pseudo-meal that sometimes might happen, skip the peanuts. Got a FULL Hour, maybe even 2 hours to twist my arm.

    Cross-Country. Hello, Mother-Load. 3,4 maybe even 5 or 6 hours of arm twisting, begging and pleading.

    I suddenly see a number of senior flying waitresses signing up for the short-short flights.

  14. PLAAND88 says:

    This could go one of two ways.

    First, airlines could negotiate for some neat exclusive offers from the tourism industry. After all they’re coming to the table with a completely captive audience to exploit, why wouldn’t Disney cut prices a little bit if American Airlines agreed to pitch Disney World over Universal Studios on flights going into Florida. If that’s the way it happens, fine by me.

    Second and far more likely the Airlines decide that they have a captive audience likely to make bad impulse purchases and start schilling a bunch of crap deals and products at intolerable mark-ups.

  15. scoosdad says:

    Whenever I see something that interests me in the SkyMall magazine in the seat pocket, I take the page home with me and look for it elsewhere on the internet. Guess what? I always find it somewhere else for much much less.

    This whole thing will just serve to distinguish some airlines from others. Like the ads currently running for Southwest, where the baggage handlers are scoffing at the other guy’s baggage fees. I think that ad is great.

  16. Chairman-Meow says:

    Ahhh It’s sad to see the dinosaur airlines slowly sink deeper into the tarpit.

  17. burnedout says:

    @Ronin-Democrat: Amen!

  18. danger the pirate says:

    @gStein_has joined the star bandwagon: but thats the kind of stuff they can stick in a vending machine.

  19. Shoelace says:

    @catastrophegirl: Mirrored sunglasses sound like a good idea too, though we may have to hold up a little sign saying ‘No thanks’ for especially persistent panderers.

  20. mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

    @TechnoDestructo: Nice theory, but it doesn’t work.

    Rather than expounding for several paragraphs; which company earns more: Neiman-Marcus or Walmart?

  21. TechnoDestructo says:

    @mianne:

    Okay, fine, it’s not all of them. It’s just everything that isn’t a fast food place and isn’t in a strip mall.

  22. jamar0303 says:

    @hotdogsunrise: Maybe to someplace they don’t go or they codeshare? Continental somehow codeshares with Amtrak for certain routes (mostly the DC-NY-Boston corridor with some branches off that trunk).