My Biggest Pet Peeve in Travel News Reporting

When something is a devaluation, don’t call it an enhancement. Customers aren’t stupid and they appreciate being told the truth rather than condescended to with obvious spin.

It never amazes me, though, the capacity for media to be spun. I almost can’t even blame Delta, for instance, when they claim their SkyMiles program is ‘a’ best program as judged by an award they didn’t even win — the line gets picked up by either lazy reporters or reporters who don’t know better.

One dirty little secret of journalism, and also of blogs, is that:

  • Everyone needs content
  • No one has enough time
  • People are lazy

As a result if a brand does a good job packaging a story, in essence writing the content for the person they’re looking to publish it, they’re going to get coverage and it’s likely to be the coverage they want.

Joe Brancatelli points out the lunacy of media outlets uncritically publishing the narrative from Star Alliance airline Scandinavian about why they’re dropping duty free sales.

  • SAS admits duty free sales are on the decline.

  • Yet says they are dropping duty free sales ‘for the environment’.

Scandinavian Airlines says it will stop selling duty-free goods on its flights to reduce the weight of its aircraft and save fuel and ultimately reduce carbon emissions, saying “every step on the way to sustainable travel is important.”

…Annamatz said Tuesday that “passengers’ buying behavior has changed with fewer inflight sales and sustainability has become more important than ever before.”

The company did not detail how much weight would be cut by the move.

Skift even calls this “a step in the right direction.”

Customers don’t buy inflight duty free like they used to. American eliminated duty free in 2015. Then United followed suit in 2017. They didn’t have the nerve to claim it was for the environment.

SAS says their duty free sales are down. So why uncritically parrot the explanation that SAS is ending it ‘to reduce carbon emissions’? Notably they did not make this decision when sales were high, only once sales dropped. It’s like Marriott dropping in-room porn for moral reasons, but only after customers stopped buying in-room porn.

The twitter account Awful Aviation Reporting makes a cottage industry out of pointing out inaccuracies in mainstream media coverage of airlines.

One big mistake I make in my own life is to simultaneously know how bad mainstream media stories are covering areas that I know, like that speaking the words ‘revenue management’ is a secret code that forces airlines to upgrade you. Yet I assume reporting outside my areas of expertise is accurate.

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, 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 »

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  1. Oslo has duty free on arrival as well. It’s pretty awesome and I buy stuff that way often. I’ve never bought on the plane that I can recall.

  2. Although mentioning “revenue management” might not get you an upgrade, mentioning “climate change” will always get you the unwavering support of smug, self righteous leftists who lack any ability to think critically.

  3. The biggest problem with media is most of it is for profit. Truth and accuracy are important mainly to the extent they affect profit. Many consumers of media aren’t interested in truth and accuracy. Profit is part of the problem with sensationalizing news.

  4. Media passes off Travel-related press releases as news. Usually nothing more than product placement or spin. Conflict of interest when the travel industry also sponsors news and/or commercials. Paid placement to spin called travel news reporting.

    @John- Without profit, nothing runs. In the case of government tax-funded media (npr, pbs…), losses are subsidized by more taxes.

  5. But Gary, have you ever used the two secret words guaranteed to get the airline to take you seriously?

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