American Airlines, A New Partnership


After two high-profile incidents, one AIDS-phobic and the other homophobic, in 1993, American Airlines began a long-term commitment to becoming the official airline of gay events and organizations.

(According to reports, an HIV-positive passenger was kicked off a plane after allegedly refusing to take down his intravenous bag hanging over the seat. In the other, a crew member on a plane flying home a large group from the march on Washington called ahead to request a complete change of pillows and blankets "due to gay rights activists on board.")

This is the first time the carrier's logo appeared in a gay publication, though only through its affiliation with RSVP cruises. It became the airline's strategy to team up with groups but, as a result, the company never advertised on it own in gay magazines.

To its credit, the carrier was the first to hire a person to handle its gay marketing, Rick Cirillo, who discovered people thought the airline was already an advertiser in gay media -- showing that it got the benefit without the expense. So, American kept it that way for years.

While United was the first major U.S. airline to target the gay community with advertising in June 1997, smaller carriers beat United to the market years earlier, including London-based Virgin Atlantic Airways in 1994 and tiny Kiwi International Airlines (now defunct) in 1995.

In 1999, American began advertising on gay web sites.

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