Marketing yes and no for airports and planes


After two devastating years for the airline industry, we are finally seeing a revival. Many airports around the world are almost completely closed, and instead of thousands of flights a day, many cities saw only a handful of planes take off and land.

The magnitude of the revival was astonishing, and in just a few weeks, mothballed planes were suddenly packed with passengers. While McKinsey says air traffic will not reach pre-COVID levels in the coming years, things are looking good for an industry that has struggled.

Airline passenger at airportphoto credit: Gustafo Fring / Pexels

In addition to this increase in travel, there are also growing marketing opportunities for businesses in just about every industry. That’s because airports are some of the most visited places on the planet, and companies looking to build their brands often see them as great opportunities to gain visibility.

But all this has a price. Smart business leaders need to understand which types of marketing work and which don’t offer a strong return on investment.


If you think about it, signs are one of the oldest forms of marketing on the planet. Archaeologists have found company signs dating all the way back to ancient Greece and Rome — and for good reason: they work! And what better place to have signs than somewhere millions of people will see them? That’s why companies invest so much in putting their logos and other information in airport terminals.

Not every sign is a great investment, but companies like the anti-spam company Barracuda have built global brands by placing signs at every major airport in the world.

Magazines on board

Passengers on airplanes are literally a captive audience. They have nowhere to go and are forced to sit in their seats for extended periods of time. In this environment, airline magazines left in the seat pockets have always been a great way to distract travelers.

Most major airlines have their own publications and the quality is as good as any printed magazine you will find in a newsstand. Unfortunately, with the advent of free Wi-Fi and smartphones, the magazines have become less and less relevant over time. People may look at it from time to time, but the readership is so low that the ROI may not be good enough to justify an ad purchase.

The airlines have recognized this and have migrated much of that content to apps that passengers can access during the flight. Advertising on those digital platforms might be a better bet.

Businessman working on the plane

Paid Programs

If you’ve worked in marketing for more than a month, you’ve probably received a call from a supplier who offers to put your company on a TV show to be shown on flights.

The sales pitch usually involves promising to get yourself in front of “millions of travelers” and having your CEO interviewed by a celebrity. Don’t believe the hype. These are essentially glorified infomercials, and no one in their right mind is going to sit there watching hours of paid interviews presented by a B-list television actor or a former professional athlete.

These shows aren’t exactly scams, but neither are they worth the tens of thousands of dollars the producers are asking for. It’s also important to note that these programs aren’t actually produced by the airlines themselves, so there isn’t even much brand credibility.


This is where branding at airports and on airplanes can get interesting. It’s one thing for people to see your logo on a wall or in print, it’s quite another to actually take it home.

Savvy marketers are constantly looking for ways to get items into the hands of travelers, ranging from coffee cups to flyers to stickers. This is an area where creative marketers can develop campaigns to create items that travelers take with them instead of just throwing them away.


Airports are truly the connection point for the modern economy, and with the resurgence of travel, they are an excellent opportunity for marketers to explore new ways to build their brands and reach a wider audience.

All it takes is a little creativity, plus understanding what works and what doesn’t.

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