It’s not uncommon for photos used in advertisements to be a bit over-the-top or unrealistic, and airline marketing is no exception!
A few years ago, I recall flying with a low-cost airline from Dusseldorf Airport in Germany. There were huge check-in queues, and most passengers were waiting so many hours to check in that they were missing their flights. The two staff on duty were totally stressed and copping a lot of abuse from passengers.
During this whole time, most of the check-in area was closed off. Why? Because the airline was using the rest of the check-in counters to conduct a photoshoot, where it was taking marketing photos showing happy passengers checking in and smiling staff helping them! If only the reality were as it appeared in the airline’s marketing…
In my job, I also spend a lot of time browsing airline websites and see a lot of airline promotions. Most marketing images are totally fine, albeit sometimes slightly cringeworthy. But then, occasionally, you see airline marketing shots that really make you wonder what the team behind them was thinking!
Some airline marketing images are so ridiculous, poorly photoshopped or just placed in such unfortunate locations that they’re worthy of a good laugh. Here are five of my favourites…
5. Why is this Malaysia Airlines Business Class passenger playing a ukulele?
Malaysia Airlines offers its Economy Class passengers the opportunity to bid for an upgrade to Business Class (so far, so good). But if you have a look at the MHupgrade page of the Malaysia Airlines website, this is what you’ll find:
I have so many questions about this bizarre choice of photo. Firstly, why is he playing a ukulele? Did he bring it on board himself, or was it provided by the crew? Aren’t the other Business Class passengers annoyed? Or, given it looks like the rest of Business Class is empty, did he scare off the rest of the passengers?
4. American Airlines tells Italians to fly to America for a pizza
I happened to be on the Italian version of the American Airlines website a few years ago, when I came across this marketing campaign on the home page:
Yes, that’s right – American Airlines is promoting the United States to Italians with a photo of American pizza. Admittedly, Chicago-style deep dish pizza is a different style to traditional Italian pizza and is absolutely delicious. But of all the reasons an Italian might choose to book a holiday to the USA… is this the best American Airlines could think of? 😂
The main text over the image, “Una pizza al volo” roughly translates to “A pizza on the fly?” – which is a mildly clever pun. But in case there was any doubt about the intention of this campaign, the English version of the American Airlines Italy website simply said “Fly for a pizza”.
3. China Eastern’s questionable testimonials
If you visit the home page of the Australian version of China Eastern’s website and scroll down a little bit, you’ll find this:
World-class hospitality, maximum comfort… so far, so good. But things start to get weird underneath the “Your story” subheading…
China Eastern appears to be attempting the use of testimonials here, but their authenticity is… questionable. Firstly, we have a stock photo of an unnamed young girl thanking China Eastern for their “help with the careful arrangement”. Next, we have a quote from somebody whose name is apparently “Jane Doe” but looks like a man, thanking China Eastern for allowing them to attend their Chicago-Shanghai route launch event. OK, cool, but even if these quotes were real, I’m not sure why they would make me want to book a flight on this airline?
Since the second stock photo is of a man, perhaps it would be more convincing if they told us his name was Joe Bloggs? 😉
2. The nosediving Rex plane with no engines running
In May 2021, Rex ran a campaign in partnership with the South Australian Tourism Commission offering $100 off Hertz or Enterprise car rentals when flying with Rex to any regional destination in South Australia.
It was a good promotion, but the (hopefully!) photoshopped image Rex used to promote the offer on its Facebook page is… questionable.
Given how low that Rex Saab 340 plane is from the ground, I sure hope there is a runway nearby – although there isn’t any sign of one in this photo. I also can’t help but notice that the plane’s engines are not running and the landing gear is not down. The plane looks like it’s about to crash!
Unsurprisingly, this post is no longer visible on Rex’s Facebook page.
1. An unfortunate Turkish Airlines ad placement
Let’s finish off with an oldie but a goodie. This Turkish Airlines advertisement on the side of an escalator in Muscat, Oman went viral in 2010:
This advertisement would have been absolutely fine if the plane was flying towards the sky, rather than nosediving into the ground – as it was on the other side of the escalator. But it seems the marketing agency made an error and didn’t reverse the image on this side of the escalator.
That advertisement was at least taken down quickly once Turkish Airlines learned of the mistake!
Have you come across some hilarious or bizarre airline marketing campaigns? You can leave a comment or share your favourite on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum.