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New American Airlines Ad Indirectly Touts Safety

August 21, 1987

NEW YORK (AP) _ A new American Airlines commercial indirectly addresses concerns about flight safety, a subject that the airlines have generally stayed away from in ad campaigns.

The 30-second commercial called ″Pilot″ never specifically mentions flight safety, and American says it did not intend to raise the issue with the advertisement.

But Steve McGregor, a spokesman for the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline, conceded the spot - which deals with pilot training - could be viewed ″in a nebulous sense″ as dealing with flight safety.

In the ad, a fighter pilot learns American Airlines has accepted his job application. Even though he is evidently a veteran flyer, the pilot tells his commanding officer, ″It looks like I’m going back to flight school.″

McGregor said the commercial extends a broadcast and print ad campaign that has been running for three months focusing on American’s quality of service.

″We are trying to project an image that we are a quality airline that reaches out for good people, and that good people seek us,″ he said. ″If a viewer infers from this commercial that American Airlines pilots are well- trained, that’s fine with us.″

The spot is tentatively scheduled to appear on network television for the first time Aug. 31.

McGregor said the ad was shot well before the Northwest Airlines crash that killed 158 people near Detroit Metropolitan Airport last Sunday. He said the idea for the commercial also predated recent air mishaps that have included near collisions, a plane landing at the wrong airport and an engine shutdown over the Pacific Ocean.

Airlines have begun stressing service rather than price in their advertising campaigns in recent months. But they have seldom advertised flight safety.

″They have used terms like reliable and dependable, but the word ‘safety’ tends to scare people away,″ said Louis Marckesano, who follows the airline industry for the investment firm Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia.

He said the airlines also may feel that basing a campaign on safety would needlessly tempt fate. ″It’s like walking under a ladder,″ he said.

McGregor said American had no plans to delay the start of the new commercials at the end of the month despite the Detroit accident. But he said top management would make that decision after seeing the final version of the ad.

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