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Thomas Claburn
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Ads Come To Boarding Passes

There are many ways air travel could be improved. Putting ads on passengers' boarding passes isn't one of the ways that comes to mind.

There are many ways air travel could be improved. Putting ads on passengers' boarding passes isn't one of the ways that comes to mind.Nonetheless, that's what six major airlines are doing. The major network carriers -- American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines, United Airlines, and US Airways -- on Monday announced that they've joined to participate in an independent company called Sojern that will "provide valuable information to airline passengers who utilize the airline's existing and convenient Web check-in to get their boarding passes."

"Valuable information" isn't in this instance something like the actual arrival time of your flight or the number of hours you will have to wait on the tarmac due to the usual unforeseen snafu. It won't tell you how your luggage got lost. In this case, "valuable information" means ads.

"With millions of our passengers checking in online at each year, the boarding pass becomes an increasingly valuable tool for sharing relevant, timely offers and destination-specific content with our customers before they travel," said Marc Ferguson, general manager of Global Partnerships for Delta. "At Delta, we are always looking for innovative, new opportunities to provide added benefits to our customers, and this customized data from Sojern does exactly that."

It could be worse, I suppose.

Airlines could require that all baggage gets wrapped in ad-festooned plastic, "for your security." They could require that passengers identify a series of products offered by participating retail partners, in order to make sure travelers are fit to fly. They could, like nightclubs, say there's a two drink minimum or ask passengers to chip in for fuel, "just to make sure we have enough to get there."

But not much worse.

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