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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Boarding Pass or Billboard?

Can a boarding pass be a billboard? Apparently, it is so, according to cash-starved airline executives. You have gotta love the creative twists and turns airline executives are taking as they scheme up new ways to make money. The latest twist in the revenue ramp-up is the addition of ads on the boarding passes that passengers print up at home. That's right--valuable printer ink will now get consumed publishing advertising for the airlines.

Of course, the airlines would have us believe that new policy is merely a service for passengers. For the boarding pass that's printed will be highlighted with targeted ads, coupons, and shopping and dining recommendations based on where passengers are going. People can opt out of printing the ads. On the other hand, they can also choose to provide the participating airlines (Continental, Delta, Northwest, United and US Airways) with a host of information in order to get ads that are specially personalized. Of course, this option is also likely to get people bombarded with unwelcome e-mail blasts as well.

The five participating airlines have minority stakes in Sojern, the Nebraska-based start-up that's behind this venture. While revenues will be split among the concerned parties, the potential size of the purse is unknown. Sojern figures 40 percent of 700 million annual flight check-ins are conducted online, leading to 280 million blank billboards. Methinks Sojern overestimates that percentage, and neglects to take into account those who will opt out of the game. Time will tell if this commercial scheme goes the way of advertising on airsickness bags.

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