If you fly, you’ve seen the SkyMall catalog in the seat-back pocket in front of you. It’s been a great business model, marketing to a captive audience that may have nothing better to do for hours than watch the in-flight entertainment and read the seat-pocket reading material.
Of course a lot has changed since SkyMall came into being a quarter-century ago. Catalogs are getting thinner, and though paper catalogs aren’t going away just yet, less are printed every year. Due in part to reduced mail volumes, the United States Postal Service is losing money, and is slowing service while raising rates.
Catalogs and Olives
Printed catalogs are at a particular disadvantage in the air, where every additional ounce adds to fuel costs – and a plane-full of catalogs adds a lot to fuel costs.
American Airlines famously saved forty thousand dollars every year by removing one olive from each salad. Multiply that by a fleet of aircraft, and there is some real money to be saved by eliminating something if the value to airline doesn’t offset it.
More importantly for SkyMall, the captive audience is no longer captive. Now that the FAA allows passengers to use a variety of electronic devices on aircraft, and thanks to in-flight Wi-Fi from Gogo and others, folks can visit the same shopping sites in the air that they frequent on the ground.
Range of Responses
Admittedly, folks who never fly may not even know what SkyMall is. Those who do fly have responded to SkyMall’s bankruptcy in a variety of ways.
- Some have memorialized their favorite SkyMall products on social media
- There’s a crowdfunding campaign to save SkyMall
- Many people are sounding-off on Twitter:
I have requested that my plane fly at half mast today pilot says no
— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) January 23, 2015
Can I save SkyMall by ordering enough of these? pic.twitter.com/AuIOoXIjT5
— Clara Jeffery (@ClaraJeffery) January 23, 2015
SkyMall had enthusiastic followers who will miss them. The demise of SkyMall is perhaps an important milestone, whatever kind of business we’re in.