If you're from the United States and you have been on an airplane, you've undoubtedly rifled through the minimal selection of in-flight reading materials while waiting on tarmac for takeoff. Among the various airline sponsored magazines, a la, Hemispheres and Sky Magazine, one particular publication seemed to reign supreme - Sky Mall.
As a proprietor of myriad "innovative" and "game-changing" products, Sky Mall's seemingly endless catalog of offerings belied the true reasons for its popularity - the sheer entertainment value and camaraderie afforded by disparaging the catalog's laughably pointless (and overpriced) trinkets. Sitting in silence for hours on end, next to a couple of complete strangers can quickly become an awkward experience, but thanks to Sky Mall, many a seat-mate was able to connect over their shared mockery of the catalog's wares and it's beyond-discretionary contribution to the in-flight experience.
Have you ever opened an issue of Sky Mall and wondered, "Who actually buys this stuff?" We have too, and as it turns out -due to Sky Mall's filing for bankruptcy this month- the answer is nobody. In fact, since 2013, 66 percent of Sky Mall's revenue was generated through "loyalty business" from its major partners. Acting mostly as a middle-man, Sky Mall's primary role was fulfilling orders placed by customers redeeming reward-points accumulated through loyalty programs from credit card companies and travel service groups.
While dozens of explanations can be given for Sky Mall's fall from grace (price-gouging, overly-expensive shipping fees, or a lack of a concrete brand identity could all be contributing factors), the executives over at Sky Mall blame something else - The FAA's recently relaxed ban on use of personal electronics by passengers. Whether or not that's the case is still up for debate... after all, the market for creepily-perverse-looking $2000 yeti statues is about as niche as it gets.
As hilariously-bad as Sky Mall could be at times, it's important to give credit where credit is due. Sky Mall was a quintessentially American institution; in the land of the free, innovation is king, and Sky Mall was the go-to source, an aggregator if you will, for all things innovative. Looking for a new pseudo-scientific method to battle male-pattern-baldness using LED lights? No problem, Sky Mall has got you covered. Do you find yourself unsatisfied by the smell of your clothes, even after washing them with a scented detergent? Good! Say goodbye to glacier-scented soaps and lavender dryer-sheets, and open a fresh copy of Sky Mall to purchase a women's tee that smells like pi˝a coladas.
The thing is, no matter how pointless or hilarious (or both) Sky Mall was, we're going to miss it. Will up-and-coming inventors be able to fill the abyss of Sky Mall's absence, and find another venue to peddle their monuments of creative genius? How will restless passengers pass time as they taxi along the runway towards take-off, without the catalog equivalent of professional wrestling to lampoon endlessly with cheap-shots? Who will supply the world with the most comprehensive selection of monogram embroidered doggie-beds after Sky Mall departs from our seat-back pockets?
Much to our chagrin, the passing of Sky Mall at the tender age of 25 leaves these questions and many more pressing issues of dire importance unanswered. Only time will tell if a motivated young hero, or group of heroes, can step up to the plate and fill the massive cultural-void left behind by America's favorite in-flight publication. Until then, we'll have to settle on picking which in-flight Adam Sandler film is the least detrimental to our airline experience.
Rest in Peace Sky Mall. You may be lost, but you will never be forgotten.