A Grand Bargain With American Airlines For Bigger Lavatories: Credit Card Ads While You Go!

Many airlines advertise their credit cards inflight and the reason why is simple: it works. Frequent flyers don’t like having inflight entertainment interrupted and don’t like the announcements on early morning or late night flights when they may be trying to rest, but the President of AAdvantage points out that most of her airline’s passengers fly at most once a year so it’s new for them.

These announcements are so effective that United decided to make them mandatory. About the only thing that stops them is a flight attendant revolt.

The truth though is that there are a lot more opportunities for airlines to market credit cards, there are numerous customer touch points where buy up opportunities to generate ancillary fees are going under-exploited.

American Airlines has discovered one: their paper baggage tags now contain an ad for their Barclays-issued credit card.

Surely there are many more. US Airways used to sell advertising space on first class tray tables.

AirTran actually launched ads on the backs of the tray tables (so you saw the ads when the table was up). United experimented with tray table ads as well.

Currently American Airlines is installing smaller lavatories across its domestic fleet, taking a few inches away from customers who have to go in order to squeeze in an extra row of seats.

The problem is that today American Airlines isn’t generating any revenue from its lavatories so it’s no surprise they’re trying to limit lavatory footprint. Every so often when Ryanair has been out of the news for awhile the airlien’s founder will promote how cheap they are by speculating on a plan for pay toilets. Thirty years ago Alaska Airlines advertised that other airlines might consider such a move.

But there are other ways to generate revenue from lavatories, and align incentives so airlines will want customers to use the bathroom instead of charging a fee for them to do so. Why not advertise the credit card in the lavatory? Instead of taking away space, they could use extra space for advertising. The lav could pay for itself. Win-win.

In fact this is really just a new spin on an old idea, and frankly one that’s long overdue.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. Those credit card ads are stupid annoying, especially on United since the card literally doesn’t give you any benefits if you’re at least a silver. I’m not sure who’s really signing up for the United cards and actually keeping them, the only thing that card is useful for is the bonus.

  2. @Gary, you wrote, “the President of AAdvantage points out that most of her airline’s passengers fly at most once a year so it’s new for them.” Wouldn’t that be twice a year? Once there, and once back? Or is Bridget Blaise-Shamai conceding that, after flying AA “there” and being subjected to the minuscule bathrooms and the credit card pitch, those passengers will be flying DL/AS/B6/UA, etc., etc.) back?

    As for that AS advert, FANTASTIC!

  3. Maybe each leaf of toilet paper could be a pre-printed application form for their co-brand credit card? Certainly would up the pleasure of wiping your ass for most.

  4. @Ray, there are people who fly United without any elite status. Such cardholders may benefit from things like the checked bag fee being waived, or the access to more award inventory, among other things. To me the reason the ads are annoying is that they remind me I can’t sign up because of 5/24.

  5. @CoolHand
    Why didn’t I think of that?
    SMS me and I’ll deposit 100 miles into your FF Account.

Comments are closed.