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

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. © 2008 J. Small et al.
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