You’re Equal In The Eyes of the Lord, Airlines Are Another Unholy Story

Money talks, but in airports and on board airplanes money screams. If you’re a first class passenger, for instance, you get to jump the line. It’s the way of the world. We respect influence, and influence can be purchased for a pretty penny.

NPR produced a segment today on travelers stranded in Newark and unable to get a flight to San Francisco, due to the crash of Asiana Flight 214 from South Korea.

The report highlights the inequity of the bumping system employed by airlines at a time of severe delays.

It turns out there is a method to this madness: It’s called customer relationship management — or CRM — and airlines helped invent it.

Each passenger’s rights on each flight are determined by a complicated calculus. It includes how frequently they fly and how much they paid for the ticket in their hand.

Are you offended in the least by these practices? Airlines, hotels and other businesses with rewards programs rank your importance by how much money you spend. If you’re a business traveler who flies weekly on full price tickets, you’re king of the jetway, simple as that.


Let’s examine the issue from a different angle. How does it make United Airlines look when it bumps reserved passengers from a flight in order to put aforementioned kings of the jetway in their seats on their totally overbooked planes? There’s no democracy or good will between men here, that’s for sure. Rather, it’s an unwelcome reminder of our class system, and a ding on the brand that passes out favors in a way that makes others feel small.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.