Should Airlines Be Allowed to Attach Advertising Onto Your Baggage?

This is the front and back sides of the controversial baggage tag in question. Photographs by FlyerTalk member SeaBridge. Click on the image to access where SeaBridge posted the photographs.

It is bad enough when you have to pay a fee to check your baggage — that is, if you have not earned elite level status in your preferred frequent flier loyalty program.

It is even worse when you have to wait at least 40 minutes until you are able to retrieve your baggage after the conclusion of your flight…

…but how would you feel if you found an advertisement strapped to your luggage — and that the application of that advertisement may have contributed towards the delay in you retrieving your baggage?

“My bag dropped about 40 minutes after my flight arrived”, posted FlyerTalk member bjohnsonmn. “I think I’ve figured out why! They took the time to tag EVERY bag with an advertisement for AMEX. Not just the regular bags, but also the Sky Priority bags that obviously were not paid checked bags.”

The following was posted to Facebook by bjohnsonmn, with links added by me to relevant topics posted here at The Gate:

“Hello Delta. I’d like to calmly let you know that I am very, VERY mad about your attaching advertising to my checked bag on my flight to SEA tonight. First, last year Delta begins to devlaue the SkyMiles medallion program. Then, free products in the SkyClubs are no longer free. Then, the MQDs roll in. As if that wasn’t enough, we have a new revenue based model coming soon, without a commitment to have the same or greater seats at the lowest, not just lower, level for reward flying. Let’s not also forget the SkyClub devaluation program from the begining of the year. FURTHER, the FCM/FMC program that is leaving fewer and fewer seats for Diamond Medallions to be upgraded. (My flight tonight went from 13 open in first to 0, and I have both Diamond and AMEX RSRV!)… So, until we start seeing a recommitment to loyalty, STOP PUTTING YOUR ADVERTISING ON MY BAG. Do we have an understanding!?!?!?!?”

To me, the other changes being implemented to the policies by Delta Air Lines and its Sky Club airport lounges and SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program are irrelevant. The delay of the baggage as a result of the placement of the advertising can even be considered questionable. “I suspect that the 40 minute delay was NOT due to the advertising attached to the bag”, posted FlyerTalk member kmovies. “39:55 to get your bag – no problem; 40:00 to get your bag with an extra tag – huge issue.”

Rather, the question is whether or not an airline should be allowed to attach advertising onto your property without your express permission.

I do not know of any provision in the contract of carriage when flying as a passenger on an airplane operated by a commercial airline which gives the airline consent to attach unsolicited advertising on your baggage — which is considered your personal property. To me, it is almost as egregious as finding a flyer placed under the windshield wiper outside the front window of your vehicle as it is parked while you are shopping…

…and it can be mildly irritating as well. In both cases, I would have to remove the unwanted solicitation and properly dispose of it. Although that may consume only a few seconds of my time, I would rather not have to deal with it.

I can understand airlines attempting to increase their revenues in order to maximize their profits — especially when many of them were suffering financially not so many years ago. Advertising was already prominent on ticket jackets, inside the in-flight magazines, on cocktail napkins with every drink served, and via in-flight entertainment; as well as flight attendants hawking credit card applications during a flight or having people competing for your attention in an airport terminal for you to sign up for the latest credit card…

…and then came the idea of placing advertising on such items aboard the aircraft as tray tables and the overhead bins. I have personally met one of the founders of one company — Global Onboard Partners — whose business is to place advertising both inside and outside commercial aircraft.

I can pretty much ignore the proliferation of advertising which seems to envelop me while I am traveling. Unless there happens to be an offer too good to refuse — such as a significant amount of bonus frequent travel loyalty program points or miles or free nights at a hotel property — the advertisers are wasting their time on me. I am not in the market for a new car nor do I want to apply for yet another credit card. I would rather the advertisers leave me alone; but hey — they have to eat too. Besides, they have every right to advertise as much as they want as long as they have permission to do so from such entities as airports — and as long as they pay for it. That does not bother me at all.

However, I draw the line at an agent for a for-profit corporation actually placing something of theirs on my personal property. Unless it is absolutely free — and even then I would hesitate — I rarely wear clothing which is little more than free advertising; so it stands to reason that I do not want anyone placing something which potentially benefits them but does not benefit me in the least…

…especially when it is without my permission or knowledge that it is even happening. I do not even like anyone touching my personal property without my permission — let alone place foreign objects on it for the specific purpose of their financial gain.

You want to advertise on my belongings? Pay me for it. Discount my airfare. Throw in some frequent travel loyalty program miles or points. Give me some incentive to potentially gain from what you want to do…

…and that is another thing: I believe in mutually beneficial relationships and transactions where all parties benefit. I do not benefit directly from a company placing advertising on my belongings.

“No, flyertalk, my web browser is NOT for free advertising,” argued FlyerTalk member stencil. I would say that that is not analogous to a for-profit corporation placing an unsolicited advertisement on baggage which you have paid to check on a flight for which you have paid for the airfare. Although Internet Brands — the company which owns FlyerTalk — is a for-profit company, FlyerTalk is free of charge for anyone who wants to join as a member. Something has to pay to keep FlyerTalk available to its members free of charge.

By the way: I seriously doubt that advertising on my belongings will help keep airfares low in the long term — just as I have always doubted that the proliferation of ancillary fees have helped to keep airfares low as well.

I do not remember the last time I actually have checked any baggage for a flight on which I was a passenger — but I completely agree with FlyerTalk member StayingHomeIsBetter, who summed up exactly how I feel: “Yet another reason for not checking a bag on DL.”

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Comments (Showing 16 of 16)

  • AbuAK at 6:58pm April 04, 2014

    If they can find a way to do it without delays – I’m fine by it. Means additional revenue for airlines that hopefully mean they won’t cut other services.

  • chitownjeff at 6:36am April 07, 2014

    US Air has ads on their tray tables. And their flight attendants pitch the airline credit card over the PA system – heavily!

    As long as the ads are easily removed (are not stickers) and aren’t inside the bag, I think they can get away with it.

    The question will be how long before the baggage carousel is covered by people taking these ads and tossing them aside?

    • Brian Cohen at 9:22am April 07, 2014

      Interesting, chitownjeff

      …so that leads to the question: who would be responsible for cleaning up the litter? Airport staff would not be happy about having that responsibility…

  • theckaman26 at 9:18am April 07, 2014

    If they can do it without a delay, I am perfectly fine by it. I think they should be able to do it because it isn’t that big of a deal. :-)

  • alexmt at 10:50am April 07, 2014

    I think the best response, though I normally hate littering, is to take them off and leave them at the baggage carousel. Airport staff would put a stop to it quickly :)

  • JackE at 4:50pm April 07, 2014

    >…so that leads to the question: who would be responsible for cleaning up the litter? Airport staff would not be happy about having that responsibility…

    That’s between the airline and the airport.

  • bjohnsonmn at 10:26pm April 07, 2014

    Thanks for highlighting my post in your story. Perhaps a little background for those reading it and dismissing this as “Just one more DYKWIA” story.

    Had this been just one small, isolated item, I would not have posted. I would have simply ripped it off, and threw it away. I would have been quite irritated at the attachment of something of this nature to my bag, much like the flyer left under a car window wiper (MUCH different than an add on a website, or a tray liner at your seat). But, in the larger context of the perception of bag delays, even if they were not the cause of the delay, is a reducer in perceived loyalty and service. Add on to that the disappointing moves by Delta to “increase exclusiveness” to the Medallion experience, well, you can understand why someone who largely flies their miles may be a bit more miffed than usual.

    Lastly, I would like to say that I try pretty hard not to be a DYKWIA. I have a number of friends who work for Delta, Southwest, and the regional airlines. I see the treatment GA’s and FA’s get from the trolls of the sky. It makes me sick. Around the holidays, I purchase a stack of Starbucks $5 GC’s. I give them to any and EVERY FA/GA/DA/Captain or FO who I see wearing a genuine smile, or that I see go out of the way to help someone, even if it is not me. I want to at least try to show that many of us appreciate the work that they do to get us somewhere on time, and safe.

    But, “Travel is a team sport” as I like to say when I lift a heavy bag into the overhead for the pax who is struggling to lift it. You know, rather than just scoff and roll my eyes at them. So yes, when I see a member of the team drop the ball, I will definitely call them out on it. But as is the case with any team, they are only a true team player if they learn, and adjust from that feedback.

    • Brian Cohen at 8:22am April 08, 2014

      I personally never thought of you as a “DYKWIA”, bjohnsonmn — and I thank you for relating your experience and thoughts; as well as elaborating on your experience.

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  • Orion at 10:26am April 08, 2014

    I see “South of the Border” bumper stickers on rear bumpers of cars. I wonder if anyone asked for permission to do this.

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