EBay Looks to the Skies for Holiday Edge

EBay will sponsor free wireless Internet on Delta flights during the high-volume holiday travel period of Nov. 24 through Nov. 30, the two companies announced yesterday. When passengers log on to the in-flight service by entering “EBAYWIFI,” they will be taken here, where they’ll be able to peruse the auction/shopping site’s offerings, or change URLs and surf the rest of the Internet.

Delta spokesperson Paul Skrbec said that the airline would send an e-mail “either [today] or Thursday” to promote the sponsored offer to customers who are currently scheduled to fly during that week. The airline also blogged about it yesterday on its flagship site.

While Skrbec said that “preexisting messages will be modified to include this promotional period,” he wasn’t sure whether or not eBay would receive specific mention during part of the normally generic announcements about Wi-Fi availability from flight attendants.

Delta says that the eBay sponsorship will be carried via 260 Web-enabled planes and on more than 1,000 flights per day. The airline expects more than 1 million passengers to be exposed to the offer during the Thanksgiving period. Gogo, an in-flight Internet provider that also services AirTran, American Airlines, and Virgin America, will power the initiative.

Meanwhile, there has been little doubt recently that airlines and advertisers are looking to capitalize on the growing in-flight online marketing medium. During the first week of November, carmaker Lexus tested to see if sponsoring Internet service on American Airlines would have a positive branding effect. In early October, in-flight marketing technology providers Row 44 and JiWire disclosed they were working with Southwest and Alaska Airlines to let advertisers target passengers with promos via a shopping portal called “Skytown Center.”

But what makes the eBay announcement particularly interesting is that it appears to be one of the first major retail entities to dip its toes into the in-flight advertising space. A spokesperson for the auction/shopping site explained that the Delta promotion dovetails well with the brand’s integrated holiday campaign, “Come to Think of It, eBay,” which launched Nov. 2. The spokesperson also pointed out that the in-flight offer will cover two of the year’s biggest shopping days, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

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