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Wendy is an IFE Agent responsible for aggregating airline news specifically related to Inflight entertainment. She compiles stories relevant to business travelers, airline industry folks, marketers and tech geeks. IFE News doesn't create original content, but rather posts compelling editorial from global media outlets.

Selling on Planes: The Captive Consumer

Selling on Planes: The Captive Consumer

The captive consumer

IT USUALLY drives me mad when fellow flyers ignore the “fasten your seatbelt” sign. I make an old-fashioned assumption that pilots switch it on for a good reason. And even if that reason is not immediately apparent, anything that adds minimally to safety is worth an equally minimal amount of inconvenience. So I find myself wishing that cabin crew were a bit stricter with those who blithely wander about while the rest of us are strapped in. (Don’t all planes carry handcuffs nowadays?)

Yet a recent flight from London to Carcassonne in France got me thinking. On what was a beautifully clear, calm day, the pilot kept the seatbelt sign lit after take-off for just shy of half an hour. I have no doubt he had good cause, but this just happened to be exactly the length of time it took the flight attendants to traipse down the aisle four times, first to sell lottery scratch cards, then the Daily Mail and Hello! magazine, then to take orders for hot meals and finally to flog cold snacks and booze.

Just as the last trolley was being stowed, the pilot deemed it safe for his passengers to move around. But then half an hour later, the seatbelt sign came on again for some oddly non-materialising turbulence—and there was more peddling of scratch cards down the aisle.

The Civil Aviation Authority, which regulates aviation in Britain, says that outside of take-off and landing the captain has total discretion about when to instruct passengers to fasten their seatbelts. Cabin crew, meanwhile, are strictly forbidden to perform any activity during take-off and landing. But they are free to trundle their wares up and down the aisle when the seatbelt sign is illuminated during the cruising phase of a flight.

Is this something a carrier might take advantage of to give it better access to what is, quite literally, a captive market? The regulators would take a dim view of such shenanigans and it is unlikely that pilots would accept any meddling from commercial managers in their control of the plane. But what about the cabin crew? To what extent are they encouraged to take advantage of strapped-down passengers to flog the airline’s wares? The carrier that sees turbulence not as a problem but as a commercial opportunity will have the duty-free sales to show for it. But its flyers may be be rather less cheered.


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