A critical discourse analysis of in-flight magazine advertisements: The 'social sorting' of airline travellers?

Channel View Publications
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change, 2008, 6 (1), pp. 17 - 38
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The in-flight magazine is one of many industrialised print media to which the traveller is exposed. In-flight magazines, however `ideologically innocent' they may appear, can be very powerful in representing the norms and values to which travellers should supposedly adhere. This paper builds on arguments that there is a lack of research on representation in tourism and focuses in particular on how in-flight magazine advertising produces, mediates and reproduces discourses surrounding air travel. Using Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), advertisements from a selection of Qantas and Air New Zealand in-flight magazines from 2005 were studied. The content analysis of these texts reveals that the magazine advertisements wish to speak to a certain `elite' type of traveller who is mobility-rich as well as financially wealthy, with the time to pursue a raft of travel activities and the money to buy an array of expensive luxury products. Essentially, the paper argues that magazine advertisements can be a subtle (or, perhaps, not so subtle) way of `socially sorting' airline travellers into those who are socially and culturally acceptable airline travellers and those who are not. The advertisements can also be seen as a means of socially sorting the airline traveller from other types of traveller and from the non-traveller. No matter which way the sorting occurs, in-flight magazine advertising appears to be a powerful medium that overwhelmingly appeals and speaks to privileged groups in society.
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