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Do you believe in subliminal messages? The brain surgeons behind cramming people onto a plane certainly do! It’s not just about boarding either. Every element of the flying experience, before and after entering the plane features subliminal messages abound. The design of the cabin, the lights, and each element of the service are tailored to evoke very specific feelings, and probably some things they don’t want us to know! Here are a few “tricks of the trade” that may have subliminally influenced your mind…

Different Color Seats

Picture an arena full of seats, all the same color. It’s immense. Now paint some of them different colors. You begin to think of smaller sections, not just the mammoth stadium. It’s the same on board. Airlines often use two different colors or tones, even in the same cabin, to create a feeling of a smaller, more exclusive space, rather than a cattle car. They even do it in business! So, next time you feel yourself breathing a sigh of relief upon boarding, take a look around and see if there are two tones of seat!

Move Or Sooth? Music Matters…

Dum, dum dum dum dummmm, Flight of the Valkyries anyone? I noticed on a recent flight that while boarding the music was dramatic and up beat. It’s not a mistake, airlines want to keep you moving (and grooving) down the aisles to get everyone on board as quickly as possible. Even with the hour of padding (cheating) airlines put in, flights do still get delayed. You’ll notice far more soothing sounds during safety demonstrations and prior to take off. They might ramp up the tempo again when it’s time to get you off though…

Menus, Even In Economy

Being handed a menu on a flight evokes feelings of prestige and importance. If you’re flying economy, don’t get too excited, it’s still chicken or pasta, but by handing you a menu and allowing you to see that side salad and two choices, it makes you believe you are more important than simply holding two trays and shouting meat or fish over your headphones. I give Virgin Atlantic credit, they hand out water bottles on boarding, and menus to all passengers in all cabins; everyone likes to feel special. 

Upgrades, IF You Fly More

Ok, this one may be more literal than subliminal, but airlines love saying “we only do that for our top tier flyers”. Gee, I wonder what that’s supposed to inspire! Frankly, as someone whose experienced top tier flying, more often than not you’re still out out of luck. Nonetheless,what a fantastic selling tool, telling people if they just fly a slightly more insane amount, their current problems will likely be alleviated, truthful (or not). 

Mood Lighting. Peace. Dinner…

One of the main selling points offered by airplane manufacturers like Airbus and Boeing to airlines is the idea that their “new” dynamic, responsive and programable mood lighting settings can have a great affect on the passenger experience. Millions of dollars are spent focus grouping (wasting money) on finding the most tranquil color settings for overnight flights, the most attentive color schemes for in flight announcements and demonstrations, and of course, the perfect ambiance for meal time. Who would’ve guessed?


I think it’s fun to know that the insatiable feelings running around your head when flying, are for the most part, very easily explainable. I first became aware of the two tone concept with interiors when reading about the new design for Singapore Airlines business class. The seat designer wanted to turn a large space into a focused, beautiful and exclusive feel. Breaking it up did everything. The seat itself helps I suppose?Now you know…

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