George Clooney Turned Down $35 Million For One-Day Airline Ad

George Clooney Turned Down $35 Million For One-Day Airline Ad

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George Clooney has made an interesting claim regarding a role he was offered in an airline commercial, and I can’t help but wonder what airline it was.

Clooney turned down lucrative airline commercial

On Friday, The Guardian published an interview with George Clooney, promoting his new film, and talking about his success. One of the most interesting points in the interview is regarding him being offered $35 million for a day of work on an airline commercial, but he turned it down:

“Well, yeah. I was offered $35m for one day’s work for an airline commercial, but I talked to Amal [Clooney, the human rights lawyer he married in 2014] about it and we decided it’s not worth it. It was [associated with] a country that, although it’s an ally, is questionable at times, and so I thought: ‘Well, if it takes a minute’s sleep away from me, it’s not worth it.’”

While I greatly value my sleep, I think my “price” for losing sleep is a wee bit lower than $35 million. 😉 But hey, good for Clooney!

Which airline ad did Clooney turn down?

As an aviation geek and someone who is fascinated by airline marketing, I can’t help but wonder which airline he turned down an offer with. The suggestion that the airline was from a country that’s “an ally” but “questionable at times” suggests to me that it must have been an airline from somewhere near the Gulf.

If I had to narrow it down to five airlines, I’d guess Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, Saudia, or maybe even Turkish. While Emirates is the obvious option (more on that below), a few thoughts on the other carriers:

  • While Etihad has had some big name stars for ads in the past (like Nicole Kidman), it probably wasn’t Etihad, since at this point the airline doesn’t have $35 million to blow on a campaign like this
  • Qatar does spend a lot of money on marketing, but typically the airline doesn’t hire uber-famous people for ad campaigns
  • Turkish has in the past used some big-name celebrities (like Morgan Freeman), so I could see this being a possibility, and I think it’s the second most likely explanation (after Emirates)
  • Saudia is a wild card, but who knows, especially with the country trying to increase its tourism industry

Emirates spends a ton on marketing, and several years back the airline reportedly paid Jennifer Aniston $5 million to appear in an ad, which poked fun at US carriers. Ironically Aniston had talked in the past about being afraid of flying, and if I recall correctly that ad was filmed on a real A380 on the ground at LAX, since she didn’t want to fly to Dubai.

I guess my only surprise is that Clooney would be paid $35 million, while Aniston was paid $5 million. Admittedly the Aniston commercial was several years back, so is Clooney just that much more famous, has the rate for celebrity appearances in ads increased that much in the past several years, or is he exaggerating?

Bottom line

George Clooney claims he was offered $35 million to take part in a one-day airline commercial, but turned it down because it was associated with a country that’s “an ally,” but “questionable at times,” so he decided it wasn’t worth it.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is curious what airline we’re talking about. I’d have to assume it’s Emirates, though at the same time, $35 million seems like a lot more than the $5 million Jennifer Aniston was reportedly paid several years ago for her Emirates ad.

What carrier do you think Clooney turned down for an ad?

Conversations (78)
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  1. Nick In Chicago Guest

    Specifically left off El Al which is disappointing Ben. Very well could have been them.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Nick In Chicago -- EL AL is on the brink of bankruptcy, and doesn't have nearly as much government support as the other airlines on the list, all of which have received billions of dollars in government support. You think the airline is going to spend $35 million that it doesn't have for an ad with George Clooney? Please don't infer that I left off EL AL for any other reason. My speculation was...

      @ Nick In Chicago -- EL AL is on the brink of bankruptcy, and doesn't have nearly as much government support as the other airlines on the list, all of which have received billions of dollars in government support. You think the airline is going to spend $35 million that it doesn't have for an ad with George Clooney? Please don't infer that I left off EL AL for any other reason. My speculation was based purely on airlines that have money to spend, and/or airlines that have had ads with A-list celebrities in the past.

    2. Miguel Guest

      Benyamin, don’t be an anti-semite. Apologize for your liable comments about El-Al, just because they serve Matzo-Ball soup in business class doesn’t mean they are broke. That was a mashuga nut statement you just made.

    3. lloyd Guest

      I don't rush to conclusions. But if It was in Israel's considered interests to have this ad campaign for El AL, they would have no trouble raising $35 million. This might have revived EL Al's fortune. Peanuts in big power politics. Cloony's wife is Lebanese and has been a victim of Israel in the past.

    4. Zee Guest

      That was my first thought

  2. Ken Guest

    El Al glaringly absent from the candidates, when in fact it's the most likely option when one considers it's host country's appalling 8human rights violations over the decades.

  3. John Guest

    Good job!!! Turkey not only denies the fact of committing the Genocide of 1.5 million Armenians but also conitnues its genocidial antihuman policies today.

    1. United Doge Guest

      Awww , toll keeps increasing in time so it should already be around 50 millions up until now. Everybody knows entire world was Armenian except few millions of other nations at the time.

  4. John Guest

    How can you compare support in recognition of the genocide of 1.5 millions Armenian done by Turks with being an "ambassador for Nestle"??? How a person like you can talk about morals?

  5. SamOH Guest

    Yeah why not El Al? The so called “only democratic country” in the region with apartheid, ethnic cleansing and human rights abuses on a daily basis…

    1. Taylor Guest

      You have obviously never visited Israel otherwise you would know that you were full of spit.

  6. Air Insider Guest

    It’s obvious is Israel. Theyre an ally but they are questionable at all times. They constantly are in violation of human rights Laws.

  7. InsiderKnow Guest

    1. It was most definitely Turkish.
    2. It wasn’t an offer. It was a hypothetical discussion with his agency.
    3. The number was lower (but not much lower ) than $35m. The number was suggested by his representatives.
    4. The Turkish marketing exec had to leave the company. He was unaware of the statements Mrs Clooney ha made in the past

  8. Jan Moester Guest

    It makes a very good story and I like George Clooney but could it be that he exaggerated the amount to make his point?
    My bet is on 1) Qatar and 2) Emirates but not for that amount.
    It seems to me that QR is most anxious to increase its share of Western passengers (and will do anything to attract them) while EK already has its very loyal following.

  9. Earl Elms Guest

    Definitely Emirates

  10. Ron Erday Guest

    Spirit ?
    Mom refused to fly them thinking it’s associated with the devil.

  11. DCharlie Guest

    Don't know about Hollywood celebrities much. However, I do know that the Turkish airline ads with Man U were the best. I wonder how much they were paid.

  12. Emily Guest

    My be is on Saudia. Saudi Arabia is campaigning vigorously on its credentials as a tourist destination. The inaugural Formula 1 Grand Prix in Saudia Arabia was just held this evening. I can definitely see the Saudi government dish out USD35 million for an ad. Not to mention that Saudi Arabia fits the love-hate relationship with the US best of all the nations behind the other national carriers.

  13. Darren Guest

    It's surprising how ignorant most of your readers are in regard to geopolitics, given that this is a website/community built around travel.

    As some astute readers already pointed out, and Ben hinted at, it's not Turkish nor Qatar (unlikely), and is likely either Emirates or Saudi.

    The history his wife has with Turkey would have been a no-brainer for him to refuse the work from the get-go, and not even bother gauging his wife's...

    It's surprising how ignorant most of your readers are in regard to geopolitics, given that this is a website/community built around travel.

    As some astute readers already pointed out, and Ben hinted at, it's not Turkish nor Qatar (unlikely), and is likely either Emirates or Saudi.

    The history his wife has with Turkey would have been a no-brainer for him to refuse the work from the get-go, and not even bother gauging his wife's opinion--unless he himself was aloof as to his own wife's legal work and history.

    Likely Emirates by his quote, as Saudi Arabia has a much more turbulent history with the US, and its treatment of its citizens is much more public, while the Emirates tends to keep a tight lid on its inhumane practices, both domestic and abroad.

    1. Emily Guest

      While I guessed Saudia from the start, I don't think Turkish as suggested by man was a poor suggestion. Turkey, as a member of NATO, is an ally. However, it has recently been verbally adversarial to the US as well with regards to its own geopolitical issues.

      I am guessing that many, like me, don't follow celebrities nor their spouses much. I certainly don't know anything about Clooney's wife, let alone her work in Turkey....

      While I guessed Saudia from the start, I don't think Turkish as suggested by man was a poor suggestion. Turkey, as a member of NATO, is an ally. However, it has recently been verbally adversarial to the US as well with regards to its own geopolitical issues.

      I am guessing that many, like me, don't follow celebrities nor their spouses much. I certainly don't know anything about Clooney's wife, let alone her work in Turkey. I am also surprised that Clooney didn't associate Saudia with Saudi Arabia and that he needed to consult his wife on the relation between Saudi and the US.

    2. Andrew W. Guest

      El Al. Israel is an ally, but politically correct people choose to condemn Israel for it's treatment of Palestinians while giving most of the rest of the middle east a pass for their treatment of Christians and Jews. The Clooneys fit the bill.

    3. Aaron Guest

      Actually, it has nothing to do with being politically correct. People can condemn both.

      Also, would it be politically correct for people to condemn the rest of the Middle East while giving Israel a pass?

  14. TM Gold

    I would bet it's Qatar. It always amazes me how frequent flyers can so easily gloss over their horrific human rights abuses because of fancy suites.

  15. Matt Guest

    I think it is Turkish because Amal Clooney has argued against Turkey in support of the recognition of Armenian Genocide and has criticized Turkey for its freedom of expression. I think it would look bad for her for George to get 35 million from Turkey’s state airline.

  16. Tom Guest

    Saudia...it best fits the the characterization of an "ally that is questionable at times".

  17. looney Guest

    lol whatever airlines this is should be glad he turned them down. 35 million for commercials? who chooses an air carrier based on a celebrity endorsement?

  18. hwaki Guest

    My guess Saudia.
    Emirates has been associated with Dubai which is not very controversial.
    Saudi Arabia on the other hand has a history of human rights violations, which is what Clooney's wife works on.
    PLus Saudi's are desperate for West's approval and would pay $35 million for someone like Clooney

  19. Eve Guest

    It's hard to image Turkish Airlines would approach him given that he and his wife are very vocal about recognizing the Armenian genocide, she represented Armenia against Turkey in the European Court of Human Rights, and he has been co-chair of the Aurora Prize..humanitarian award founded by Armenians...so it would be a very strange move for them unless they were trying to "expose him" or buy his silence?

  20. Merkava Guest

    I'm guessing, given his wife's antisemitic tendencies, El Al.

    1. EBWaa Guest

      I guess that’s why he refuses to work with Jewish people, eh?

      Oh, right; he doesn’t, but don’t let your knee jerk paranoia stop you from being ridiculous.

    2. ugoren New Member

      He did say that the country is an ally, why would a progressive democrat say this about Israel?

      Also note that the mentioned sun was 35M$, not 35$.

    3. Festus Okoroafor Guest

      It was Turkish. Remember he said the country was an ally of the US. Turkey is a NATO country.

    4. Aaron Guest

      His wife isn't antisemtic. Such nonsense.

  21. Max Gross Guest

    Bullshit. His bleeding heart spouse could have demanded he give it to the sick, lame and lazy.

    1. glenn t Diamond

      It's his business of course, but unless he was totally repelled by the deal, he could have donated it to Basset Hound rescue organisations in the US. He and his wife famously had a basset, although it has possibly passed on by now.
      Good for his philanthropic image, good for bassets, and a charitable donation to help the tax bottom line.

  22. NYGuy24 Gold

    My bet is Turkish Airlines. Initially I thought of Emirates but settled on Turkish for a couple of reasons.

    1. I do think the disparity between what Aniston was paid and what Clooney was paid was too great. I'm sure given the passage of time and Clooney having a bigger status than Aniston he would command far more than she does, but I don't think it would be $30 million more.

    2. Given his...

    My bet is Turkish Airlines. Initially I thought of Emirates but settled on Turkish for a couple of reasons.

    1. I do think the disparity between what Aniston was paid and what Clooney was paid was too great. I'm sure given the passage of time and Clooney having a bigger status than Aniston he would command far more than she does, but I don't think it would be $30 million more.

    2. Given his hesitation and the way he described the country it sounds more like Turkey than the UAE.

    3. Turkish Airlines did a deal with Morgan Freeman a few years ago (do we have any idea how much he was paid?). When Morgan Freeman got #metoo'd Turkish pulled their Morgan Freeman ads so they would be looking for a replacement celeb.

  23. Jetagain Guest

    He should have done the commercial and then donated the fee to a worthy cause(s). Think of the scholarships, school and hospital improvements, food and rent for the homeless that $35M could underwrite. Sleep on that, George.

    1. Aaron Guest

      Or maybe the airline could have just donated that money themselves instead...

    2. Ken Guest

      Antisemitic? - That tired old cliche rendered meaningless by repetition through being a knee jerk response to anyone who dares to look crooked at Israeli human rights abuses, besides most Israeli Jews don't have a single drop of semitic blood in their veins, being descended from white Caucasian Europeans, whereas Palestinians are a true intrinsic race of semites, the irony!

  24. dander Guest

    He could have taken it and donated it to I don't know hundreds of causes near and dear to him and his wife. That kind of money would bought a lot of vaccines or even food

  25. Miguel Guest

    35 Million? Hmmm, second thoughts no way it is El Al !

  26. Miguel Guest

    Oy Vey, I bet 35 Shekels it is El Al !

  27. Always Flying Somewhere Guest

    My bet is Gulf Air. They've been trying to gain some additional market share.

  28. United Doge Guest

    It's extremely likely to be Turkish Airlines considering "ally that's questionable sometimes" and his wife questionable most of the times.

    I'm more concerned of the company asking Clooney for an advertisement like he matters any more or mattered at all.

  29. Phil Guest

    Turkish. Kobe would do anything for money, although erdogan wasn’t the inhuman then he is now

  30. Nicholas Busbee Guest

    Considering that Clooney’s wife is Lebanese, I think it seems fairly obvious to conclude that she is sympathetic to the PLO and the Lebanese people. Therefore, I would not consider it a far leap to conclude that the airline in question is El Al or another Israeli airline.

    1. EBWaa Guest

      You seem very hung up on this. Do you actually think El Al or another Israeli airline has that kind of money to spend on a celebrity ad campaign?

    2. Aaron Guest

      Or, you know, maybe also sympathetic to the the Palestinian people....also people don't need to be Arab to be sympathetic to the Palestinian and/or Lebanese people. Clooney might have already been thinking along those lines on his own.

  31. Mark Guest

    I'd guess Emirates or Qatar, primarily to capture the attention of the U.S. market they want to attract. (Saudia just doesn't have the penetration, Etihad is a dud, although my number three choice is Turkish.)

    I'm glad that Clooney did told them to hit the road.

    While I understand the experience can be incredibly nice, and admittedly I've flown a few, everything else about the ME3 just disgusts me to the point that I will...

    I'd guess Emirates or Qatar, primarily to capture the attention of the U.S. market they want to attract. (Saudia just doesn't have the penetration, Etihad is a dud, although my number three choice is Turkish.)

    I'm glad that Clooney did told them to hit the road.

    While I understand the experience can be incredibly nice, and admittedly I've flown a few, everything else about the ME3 just disgusts me to the point that I will avoid them whenever possible.

    I especially cannot stand QR and its flamboyant-but-closeted-and-overly-entitled CEO; he (as well as other bigoted QR leadership) can rot in a dark, wet, and cold alley for all I care.

  32. Dave Guest

    Good for him! Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are built and continue to be based on slave labour conditions and human rights abuses. This isn't small scale either. There are like 5X more slaves then natives living there.

    1. glenn t Diamond

      Middle East airlines are not alone in 'slave' labour conditions and personal repression. Shine a light on SQ, CX and some other Asian airlines and you will find similar issues.

  33. JK Guest

    Saudia. They just hired Justin Bieber for a major concert during the F1 race in Saudi Arabia this weekend. Clearly on a mission to improve their image. BTW, the fiancée of the murdered journalist Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi has campaigned against the Justin Bieber concert and has asked him to withdraw. That’s my bet. Money is not a problem for them. How much is JB making this weekend?

  34. Steven E Guest

    Well considering he flies privately ( and most people know that ) it seems like a waste of money and do people really choose a carrier based on celebrity , me thinks not.

    1. Nick Guest

      Having flown in F with him on an LAX-CVG flight, I can assure you he does not fly privately, or at least not on a regular basis.

  35. Steph Guest

    I’m interested by Clooney’s quote “although they’re an ally”, like that’s supposed to be the moral metric, that whichever country allies with the US is naturally morally sound. I don’t know but this sort of unique but quite strong American patriotism is seemingly quite common…

    1. Nicholas Busbee Guest

      It IS the moral metric, Steph. The USA, while not perfect, brings stability to much of the world and has been the arbiter of individual and national freedom since its inception. By what nation do YOU gauge national morality, if not the USA?

    2. The nice Paul Guest

      “…brings stability to much of the world”

      Yes, that’s what the British used to argue about their empire (pax Britannica and all that), but it was an entirely self-serving argument and equally untrue.

      Do you really believe US intervention brought “stability” in Vietnam? Or Afghanistan? Or much of Latin America?

      The US can’t even ensure stability in its own country, so the idea that it’s currently busy creating stability in, say, South-East Asia seems far-fetched...

      “…brings stability to much of the world”

      Yes, that’s what the British used to argue about their empire (pax Britannica and all that), but it was an entirely self-serving argument and equally untrue.

      Do you really believe US intervention brought “stability” in Vietnam? Or Afghanistan? Or much of Latin America?

      The US can’t even ensure stability in its own country, so the idea that it’s currently busy creating stability in, say, South-East Asia seems far-fetched (in fact, the explicit US policy there is to create ambiguity over the status of Taiwan and relations with China).

      Anyone who thinks US policy is even mainly driven by “morality” has decided to ignore the lessons of history.

      (None of this is to argue that any other country is much better. The lack of global distribution of covid vaccines is an obvious contemporary example.)

    3. Aaron Guest

      Eh, the it could be argued the US has brought as much instability and repression as much as it has brought stability and freedom.

      Basically, the US only acts for it's own self-interests more than anything else.

  36. Michael Guest

    I’d bet anything it’s Turkish Airlines

  37. Never In Doubt Guest

    All my guesses have been covered.

    Saudia, Turkish or Qatar.

  38. Joey Guest

    He may have been offered $5 million to start, then he turned it down… then offered $15 million, turned it down, etc until the final offer of $35 million. Given his fame of Up in the Air, it makes sense why that airline targeted him.

  39. Chris Guest

    Since he said ally, I would guess El AL. Wouldn't be surprised if the BDS movement threatened him, and he didn't want any bad publicity.

    1. Nicholas Busbee Guest

      Chris, I think your guess is spot on. Only the BDS/PLO would not have to “threaten” him into turning it down. He married one from among their number!

    2. Aaron Guest

      Such nonsense. The BDS movement and the PLO are not the same thing. Also, he married a woman who is Lebanese, not Palestinian. Your ignorance is astounding.

    3. Aaron Guest

      Nah boo, the BDS wouldn't have to threaten him (and if he never took the deal, how and when did they threaten him?) for him to make this decision.

  40. jcil Guest

    Guess I just don't get the whole celebrity marketing thing. I don't give a flying whatever for what airline George Clooney or Jennifer Anniston deign to grace their image to. Must work on many people though--but if I was running an airline and found out my marketing department had offered $35M to anyone for an ad, the folks responsible would be out the door within the hour.

  41. Creditcrunch Diamond

    My bet would be Qatar

  42. innocentabroad Guest

    A brand ambassador for Nestle doesn’t to get claim ethical or moral superiority.

  43. DaninMCI Guest

    I wonder if he had to sign some sort of a non-compete type agreement with AA back when he filmed "Up in The Air". Even if he did it would have expired by now but just made me wonder. I'd guess it was a gulf carrier as well.

  44. glen Guest

    Must be nice to have the luxury to turn down $35 million for 1 day of work!

  45. Mitch Guest

    My bet is Turkish. He said the country is an ally, but that is sometimes questionable. Turkey has played both sides of the Russia/USA table

  46. Rahul Guest

    My guess Turkish as they had Ben Afleck many years ago for a super bowl add.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

LG Guest

El Al

3
Eve Guest

It's hard to image Turkish Airlines would approach him given that he and his wife are very vocal about recognizing the Armenian genocide, she represented Armenia against Turkey in the European Court of Human Rights, and he has been co-chair of the Aurora Prize..humanitarian award founded by Armenians...so it would be a very strange move for them unless they were trying to "expose him" or buy his silence?

2
innocentabroad Guest

A brand ambassador for Nestle doesn’t to get claim ethical or moral superiority.

2
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