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Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly

American Airlines’ new ad campaign tells fliers to make the best of it

Kai Ryssdal Aug 31, 2016
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Passengers at O'Hare International Airport wait in line to be screened at a TSA checkpoint on May 16, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

American Airlines says it’s found the problem with modern day air travel. It’s not the delays, or the TSA lines, or the overcrowded planes and the person in front of you kneecapping you when they recline.

It’s you.

American’s got a big new ad campaign rolling out in the next month that asks what it means to be a “great flyer.”

On the list? Asking before you raise the window shade, bringing noise cancelling headphones so crying babies don’t bother you and always giving the armrest to the person stuck in the middle seat.
Speaking of the middle seat, this one, from a print ad, is pretty rich: “Always upbeat, great fliers make the best of their situation no matter where they’re sitting.” Hmm.

Also, great fliers “know they have a limited time on Earth — and even less above it.” Uh… thanks?

For their part, American says they’re not trying to shirk responsibility for a good flight, or tell passengers what to do.

“It’s not just like these are tips on how to be a great flier. It’s a way of thinking,” the creative head of American’s ad agency told the New York Times. “All we’re doing is identifying their behaviors … We’re not saying, ‘You should.'”

Some people on Twitter took the ad a little differently.

Not for nothing, American’s president left the company Monday with a $13 million severance deal and immediately took a new job at rival United.

Finally, not not for nothing, we talked with Ed Bastian, the CEO of Delta Air Lines, on the Corner Office podcast this week.

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