There’s a gem of an observation in Arlie Hochschild’s classic book, The Managed Heart.  She observes that, at the same time that airlines try to ensure that planes take off with every last seat occupied, advertising for air travel typically does not depict fully booked flights.  Frequent passengers covet the flight with an empty seat to their left or right, so marketers make sure that ads and commercials suggest that they might get lucky.

Here’s how American Airlines depicts the experience of flying (from a Google Image search of “cabin” on

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What a great example of not-quite-truth in advertising.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.