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How Airlines Quietly Became Banks

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How Airlines Quietly Became Banks

Wendover Productions,

5 min read
3 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

If you’ve enjoyed any frequent-flyer perks lately, thank your local airline/bank hybrid.

Editorial Rating



  • Eye Opening
  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging


If any industry can claim to have huge overheads, it’s the airlines. A safe and on-time flight depends on highly technical equipment managed and maintained by well-trained employees navigating myriad moving parts – airports, passengers, schedules and international law, among others. So how is it that airlines can afford to give away free flights and special perks to their loyalty program members? In this eye-opening video, Sam Denby explains the hidden financial scheme that makes airlines profitable. If you have ever wondered why airlines and banks are teaming up to make you offers you can’t refuse, here’s the answer.


The first airline loyalty programs started in 1978, and airlines have been turning into banks ever since.

In every US airport terminal, advertising displays entice you to join an airline loyalty program. Then, when your plane reaches 30,000 feet, a flight attendant makes a sales pitch for a co-branded airline credit card.

Loyalty program members get access to special lounges and priority lanes that move them through security faster, and their checked baggage fees are often waived. They also get extra airline points for booking with specific cruise lines or rental car companies.

Air carriers lose money as transportation companies, but they more...

About the Speaker

Wendover Productions is an educational YouTube channel created by Sam Denby in 2010. Denby’s other channels include Half as Interesting and Extremities.

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