American Airlines has partnered with the social media giant that has proven a smash hit amongst Generation Z and the one that President Trump tried to ban last year over fears it could be used by the Chinese Communist party to spy on Americans.
Beginning today, American Airlines will give passengers who are traveling on domestic Viasat-equipped narrowbody aircraft 30 minutes free access to TikTok. Until now, American Airlines customers have had to pay to access in-flight WiFi with the exception of messaging via Facebook Messenger.
On Monday, a spokesperson for American Airlines made it clear that it was providing free access to TikTok as part of a promotional offer – presumably, one that involves TikTok paying American Airlines.
“Faster Wi-Fi allows us to deliver diverse inflight entertainment options and invest in innovative partnerships with platforms like TikTok,” commented Clarissa Sebastian, American’s Managing Director of Premium Customer Experience.
“Customers play the lead role in helping us better understand what content they want during their inflight experience and TikTok is one of the platforms they love on the ground,” Clarissa continued.
Considering the average age and demographic of an American Airlines customer, the airline felt the need to explain exactly what TikTok is, saying of the app:
“TikTok is on a mission to inspire creativity and bring joy through short-form videos. While a hit with GenZ thanks to its dance challenges and lip-sync videos, the platform has something for everyone — from tech-savvy teens to those who were born at a time when you only had landline phones at home.”
The app proved particularly popular during pandemic induced lockdowns with users flocking to the social network to take part in viral challenges and show off their dance skills.
Owned by the Beijing-based tech company ByteDance, President Trump shared unsubstantiated concerns last year that TikTok’s Chinese ownership could allow it to be used as a surveillance tool by the Communist party.
Facing the very real threat of being banned from the United States, TikTok created a separate US-based company. Its servers were already located outside of China.
American Airlines started offering free access to Facebook Messenger on Viasat enabled aircraft late last year but the airline has shown no inclination to expand the range of internet-based messaging apps that customers can access for free.
In contrast, since 2017 Delta Air Lines offers free access to a range of messaging services including iMessage and Whatsapp. In the same year, jetBlue started offering complimentary WiFi without restrictions.
United Airlines is also in the process of trialling free in-flight messaging across a range of platforms iMessage, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.