American Airlines wants you to pay for their ads

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Because I’ve been flying them for years and have platinum status I end up on a lot of American Airlines flights. I check in online and print my own boarding passes from their site to save myself the hassle of lines at the airport. As you might recall many airlines implemented ‘print at home’ passes in the last few years to help cut costs on their end and it’s a good idea. Last weekend I printed a pass and got this:
AA Boarding Pass

Click through to the photo for additional notes and a larger version. When I clicked print boarding pass I didn’t just get my boarding pass as you can see. I also got a short list of suggestions of things to do in the city I was flying to and a bunch of ads. A bunch of full color ads. A bunch of full color ads that mostly indicate I should click them. Yes, this is annoying and stupid.

Here’s why:

  • I have pay to print the ads. If they were in black and white that would be one thing, but they are full color and color ink isn’t cheap. This is totally inconsiderate that AA is making money by selling an ad that I then have to pay to produce.
  • The ads are useless to the advertiser. As you can see in the larger version of the pic, most of the ads are for something online – requiring you to click them to gain any benefit to the advertiser. Basically they bought and ad that can’t be used in it’s intended format. Maybe you could argue some name recognition, but is annoyance what they want to be associated with?
  • The ads are useless to me. Since I can’t click an ad on a printed page it’s a 100% waste for me. If the ad was a coupon I could take somewhere for a discount that might provide some value. As it stands, that isn’t the case.
  • Travel guide also fails. Since AA doesn’t know anything about me, the suggestions as to what I might enjoy doing in the city are worthless. If they’d partnered with some other site that knew what kind of things I’m into that might be cool. Again, since they don’t the suggestions are things like “Golden Gate Bridge” or names of people who I suspect might be performing or talking or something but I have no context for who they are. Of course, many of these suggestions are links, which again are useless once printed.

The bullshit of all this is that this company Sojern, that handles the ads is scamming everyone. They’ve convinced the airlines that this is useful their customers – it isn’t. They’ve convinced the advertisers that this will bring them some business – it won’t. And they’ve offloaded the cost to people who gain nothing from the whole situation.

This is so disappointing because again it’s a sign of major companies completely missing it. This had potential to be cool. Partnering with a site that knows something more about me could make the suggestions somewhat useful, or a quick glance at their previous records to see if I’ve been to that city before might help tailor it a bit more. If I’m flying to a city that I’m in 20 times a year, the most obvious tourist suggestions might not be fitting for me. The ads could be coupons. Give me a $1 off a coffee at the Starbucks at the airport, or 10% off at one of the airport shops. That would be useful and have value to me. Ads that I can’t click from a printed piece of paper don’t. If they have to have something online with links, promote it as that – after I print my pass give me an option to check out a page with this info full of links and ads. Then I can at least use them.

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4 Comments »

  1. You should do a contest where people re-design this sheet and you submit the top 3 to the airline and Sojern. Eh?

    Comment by Mark Baratelli — December 10, 2008 @ 9:54 pm
  2. As it can be a pain/nuisance, why not just remove ads before you print the boarding pass?

    Comment by John Barker — December 11, 2008 @ 12:04 pm
  3. Hi Sean,

    Find the setting in your printer software that lets you print in grayscale only. Good printer software should make you only click twice (radio button, OK) for it. I basically use this setting all the time unless I’m printing photos.

    -Erica

    Comment by Erica Douglass — December 11, 2008 @ 12:19 pm
  4. Ticketmaster has been doing this with their print-at-home tickets for at least five years. Though they’re all designed specifically for print-at-home tickets (rather than repurposed banner ads) and they’re frequently coupons.

    Comment by Spencer Cross — December 11, 2008 @ 4:51 pm

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