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Promotion leads to sticky situations

By STEVE HUETTEL

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 30, 2001


Like popcorn and movies or hot dogs and baseball, chewing gum and airplanes go hand in hand. At least for fliers seeking relief from air-pressure earaches.

AirTran Airways, the low-fare carrier based in Orlando, parlayed the connection into a marketing deal with Wrigley's for Eclipse, its sugar-free gum. "Ask flight attendant for your free sample!" read an advertisement in the cover agents wrap around AirTran tickets.

But the deal resulted in an unforeseen problem: gooey messes stuck on cabin carpets and passenger seats. This was particularly vexing when the gum messed up AirTran's brand-spanking-new Boeing 717 jets.

After two months, the airline pulled the plug on the Wrigley's promotion (although ticket covers with the ad were being passed out to passengers last week).

"The gum was showing up in a lot of hard-to-clean places," AirTran spokesman Jim Brown said. "It didn't make sense to encourage the activity by giving it out in flight."

This might give Tampa International Airport veterans a sense of deja vu.

George Bean, the longtime TIA executive director, prohibited airport vendors from selling gum starting the day the airport opened in 1971.

He didn't want people messing up what was at the time an airport innovation: wall-to-wall carpeting. Like AirTran, the airport didn't keep people from chewing gum they brought themselves.

In 1998, two years after Bean's retirement, the agency that runs TIA relented and lifted the ban.

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