It’s been a few years now since I left British Airways and whilst I have never regretted the decision I must admit I do miss it sometimes. Airlines have a tribal nature to them and grassroots employees world wide share a kind of masonic affinity. They look out for and take care of each other enroute no matter whether an employee of a competitor or partner. Colin Marshall, then BA’s CEO, once compared this tribalism to the culture of medieval Mediterranean mariners who shared bonds from port to port regardless of origin, religion or language. There was a similar dynamic in the Baltic from the days of the Hansa League and this is how Lufthansa got it’s name. In it’s day then the maritime industry had it’s own cluetrain or clueboat moment connecting and empowering people at the sharp end across the network. I digress. Suffice it to say, the smell of kerosene makes me nostalgic and I know a little too much about the business to ever be a normal passenger again. I am rarely surprised but this week I was on Air Berlin.
Air Berlin acquired DBA some time back but the old routes are still distinguishable as DBA if you look closely enough. In my day DBA was known as Deutsche BA, owned and operated by British Airways. I would have reason to get in touch with the DBA subsidiary a few times a year for CSR issues. One disclosure we would have to figure out was the percentage of sales relating to alcohol, tobacco, firearms and pornography. For some ethical investors if such sales cross a 5% threshold the stock can be excluded from the fund. Of course alcohol and tobacco are sold or available on many flights though smoking is not usually allowed. I never bothered with fire arms and pornography, I assumed it could not be distributed on board.
Well, it turns out that the DBA flights of Air Berlin distribute Playboy with the usual selection of newspapers for in flight reading. I saw it with my own eyes on the way to and from Berlin this week out of Baden Baden. I guess Playboy is at the moderate end of the scale though wikipedia distinguishes it as pornographic. I wonder which of the low cost and full serice global carriers will now follow suit. Lufhansa? American? United? Anyway, IF I had accepted a copy of Playboy on board it would only have been to read the articles.