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Fellow Americans and travelers, it appears that a dark day has arrived, bringing the demise of the SkyMall catalog, whose quirky, silly and over-the-top products have kept us all chuckling and/or puzzled on many a domestic flight. To mark this mournful occasion, TPG Travel Editor Melanie Wynne takes a look back at SkyMall’s highs and lows—and offers some solace for the future.
Earlier today in Phoenix, Arizona, Xhibit Corp., the parent firm of in-flight catalog SkyMall, filed for federal bankruptcy court protection, citing a funding crisis and seeking a court-supervised sale of their assets. For those of us who have spent the last 25 years poring over the catalog’s often-ridiculous offerings—such as a bronze garden Yeti and a $1,000 cat bed with mood lighting—airline seat-back pockets will never be the same.
However, the financial failure of SkyMall, which first launched in 1990, doesn’t come as a surprise to many travelers. “To be honest,” said Mike Barish, former product reviewer for travel site Gadling’s hilarious SkyMall Monday, “I’m amazed that it took this long. It’s a relic of the pre-e-commerce days.”
With the rise of in-flight WiFi on domestic carriers in recent years, increasing numbers of passengers have opted to cast aside their SkyMall catalogs in favor of browsing the Web. As of November 30, Delta Air Lines had terminated its contract with SkyMall, and Southwest Airlines let the company know it wouldn’t carry the catalog after April 1, 2015. By the end of December 2014, SkyMall’s operating losses (its revenue fell from $33.7 million to $15.8 million in less than two years) and debts to its creditors (including American Airlines and US Airways) left Xhibit Corp. scrambling to raise additional capital—a search that has unfortunately proved fruitless.
For many of us, the passage of SkyMall represents a real bummer. As Barish goes on to say, SkyMall “was always a celebration of absurdity, novelty and joy. And perhaps even more importantly, it was a joke that everyone was in on. In this day and age, that’s a rarity.”
We here at TPG certainly agree. The Points Guy himself will miss the inflatable SkyRest Travel Pillow, which allowed a plane passenger to utilize all of the seat space in front of them, while I’ll personally pine for gems like the Core Exerciser based on the saddle of a mechanical bull, the Star Wars Darth Vader Toaster, and the insanely creepy eyeball on the Winky CrossBody Bag.
Fortunately, like a ray of sunshine breaking across the friendly skies, you’ll be relieved to know that some of SkyMall’s most off-the-wall products will still be available from Chicago-based manufacturer Design Toscano—such as the Sixteenth Century Italian Replica Globe Bar, and the truly incomparable Zombie of the Montclaire Moors.
What were/are your favorite SkyMall products? Please share with us in the comments below.
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