United Wants to Personalize Your In-Flight Ads

Skift Take

United is launching its own media network that will use customer demographic data to create more targeted ads and content for passengers.

Passengers aboard a United Airlines flight may start noticing personalized advertisements whenever they try to watch a movie or TV show on the seat-back screens. 

Those ads are part of United’s wider initiative to use insights from travel behaviors to create a more personalized customer experience. United described the initiative, called Kinective Media, as the first media network from an airline. 

Passengers would previously have to see the same ad, whether the product or service was of interest to them, an airline spokesperson told Skift. 

The carrier will now use customers’ demographic information — such as hometown, flight information and age — to create audience segments for personalized ads. For example, a passenger from Los Angeles may see an ad for an event in the city during their flight from Los Angeles to Chicago, the spokesperson said. 

Kinective Media doesn’t use race, ethnicity, disability status, biometric data or personal health information. It also doesn’t collect information from passengers under the age of 18. 

United said the network is already working with major travel, retail, media, automotive and finance brands such as Norwegian Cruises, IHG Hotels, Macy’s and United’s co-branded Chase credit cards. Passengers will also be able to see these ads on the ground, on United’s app, at the airport and in clubs and lounges, the spokesperson said. 

Richard Nunn, CEO of United MileagePlus, told The Wall Street Journal that the creation of the media network won’t lead to more in-flight ads. United’s loyalty program will house Kinective Media. 

United’s move into using customer demographic data for advertising comes as the Department of Transportation announced it would periodically review how airlines handle passengers’ personal information. The United spokesperson said the DOT inquiry didn’t affect the launch of these personalized ads. 

United Makes Larger Investments Into Customer Experience Technology

The move is also part of United’s larger investment into improving its customer experience technology. The carrier has been especially bullish on using AI. At the Skift Data + AI Summit on Tuesday, United chief information officer Jason Birnbaum said the carrier has been even experimenting with AI to help customers catch connecting flights after experiencing lengthy delays. 

“That’s been one way we’ve been trying to use analytics to make sure that we make sure people get to where they want to get to,” Birnbaum said at the summit.

United CEO Scott Kirby wrote in a LinkedIn post on Friday that the airline hired new leadership in order to launch Kinective Media. 

“It’s our goal that the more interesting and relevant content and offers will enhance your experience when traveling with us,” he wrote in the post. 

Airlines Sector Stock Index Performance Year-to-Date

What am I looking at? The performance of airline sector stocks within the ST200. The index includes companies publicly traded across global markets including network carriers, low-cost carriers, and other related companies.

The Skift Travel 200 (ST200) combines the financial performance of nearly 200 travel companies worth more than a trillion dollars into a single number. See more airlines sector financial performance. 

Read the full methodology behind the Skift Travel 200.

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