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Airlines Expanding In-Flight Retail

On Board and Ready To Buy

In a new move to up their retail, airlines may soon be offering more in-flight opportunities to purchase anything from limousine services to Broadway theater tickets. Though The New York Times reports that only American Airlines has begun limited testing of the retail concept, nearly all airline carriers have confirmed that they are planning to unveil similar expanded retail offerings on flights.

So why expand retail, especially in the midst of a recession? Well, according to SkyMall president Christine Aguilera, airline passengers are "some of the greatest consumers on the planet," simply because they've got nowhere else to go and nothing else to do. This aspect makes "onboard" retail unique because, frankly, "operators are able to lock their doors with their shoppers still inside."

To learn more about airline retail, keep reading.

In response to skeptics who argue travelers may not give over to spending so easily, Michael Levy, a marketing professor and the director of the Retail Supply Chain Institute at Babson College, just points to the retail habits of consumers in airports. "Look at what's going on in airports. Anytime you have customers who are captive, who have nothing better to do, they'll shop."

Still, there are complications associated with the plan. For one, flight attendants worry that if pushing products becomes a part of their job description, sales commission may be used to subsidize or replace salaries. Even more worrisome is the safety concern — if flight attendants are attending to sales, will safety issues on board take a back seat? Besides, even the prospect of added retail isn't bound to solve the airlines' greater financial issues.

Image Source: Getty
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