Who Needs Business Cards When You Have Model Airplanes?

Filed Under: Business, Media

The always awesome Scott Mayerowitz of the Associated Press published a fun story today, entitled “Airline world’s tiny secret: infatuation with model planes.”

I figured the article would be about model airplanes as such. Back in the day (before I perpetually wandered) I collected model airplanes. Who wouldn’t want to adorn their living room with Lufthansa’s 747 and EVA Air’s Hello Kitty A330?

But the article is actually about the role that model airplanes play within the industry, when it comes to closing deals, which I didn’t realize was a thing.


I knew model airplanes were used as backdrops for photo ops, etc., but I didn’t realize how many industry executives actually collect them in their offices. Which, on second thought, makes perfect sense, given that the airline industry is one filled with a lot of passionate people.

Here’s a short excerpt from the article:

In America, businessmen shake hands. In Japan, they bow. But all over the world airline executives engage in a greeting that is all their own: the exchange of model airplanes.

When airlines start flying to new cities, make deals with other carriers or finance new jets, these high-quality models — typically one to two feet long — provide the perfect photo backdrop, can help break the ice or serve as a cherished “thank you.”

While a business card might be quickly stuffed away in some desk drawer, models remain prominently displayed on the desk of politicians and industry power brokers. Puerto Rico’s governor, Alejandro García-Padilla, has models from JetBlue, Lufthansa, Avianca and local airline Seaborne in his office. Each has established or expanded service to the island since his 2013 inauguration.

“It’s one of these gifts that people get and don’t put in the closet,” says Jeff Knittel, who oversees aircraft leasing for financier CIT Group Inc.

And then here’s the video report:

Check out the full article.

Have you ever collected model airplanes?

  1. I work for a law firm that has one of the leading aviation finance groups in the country and the partners’ offices (even partners outside that group) are littered with model planes. I’ve more than once had to pull it together during a meeting and force myself to stop eyeing the Qatar Airways 777-300 model in the office of one of the partners I work with regularly.

  2. I have four! My favorite one is a Boeing 777-300ER in Boeing’s colours!

    Does anyone knows where we can buy quality ones that are not too expensive? I’d like to grow my collection!

  3. Well, considering that the eyewitness of the Korean Air “Macadamia Nuts” flight was offered a model plane to keep quiet, I don’t think they always work that well… 😉

  4. I read that article this morning too.
    I am in the insurance business, for one of those “big” companies, and have to go to clients offices and homes often. Just last week I walked into an average residential home and on a shelf was a 2ft. A380 model in Airbus livery, I wanted to steal it.

  5. When I worked for an investment firm, one of our clients was an airline and we have the really cool model plane in the conference room. Hard to hide in the closet and definitely a conversation piece when using that meeting room with other vendors

  6. I had established a good rapport with the Thai Airways staff in the Chicago district sales office back when I used to fly TG with some regularity. In the early 2000s they called me to tell me they were closing down the office, and mentioned the large TG 747-400 model they had on display there was for sale. Asking price: US $1,000. Granted, it was > 2 feet long and quite detailed, but the price surprised me. Those things are NOT cheap.

  7. You are correct, Lucky – airline executives all have model planes in their offices, some more than others. A good rule of thumb is the bigger the office, the bigger (i.e. more expensive) the model. I have a few basic models, but it pales in comparison to other cubes/offices…

  8. Back when I was running the national airline of Ghana, we shied away from the usual made-in-china plastic airplane models due to their cliched role in the industry. Instead, we went with locally hand carved wooden airplanes painted in our livery as giveaways. Turned out that these were extremely popular and always wound up with pride of place in displays of model aircraft. Ironically, they were cheaper than the Chinese made plastic stuff as well!

  9. Also, there is a standing joke that you can tell how serious the sales/marketing teams for the various manufacturers are by the type of model plane they gift you when they make their sales/marketing visits. If it’s a generic house livery die cast model (eg. a 1:500 Herpa), then they are going through the motions. If it’s anything 1:100 or better in a custom livery, you are on their preferred “serious customer” list.

    After my first three 1:500 plastic A380 models in house livery from Airbus, I told our account manager that I’d be perfectly happy with a cap or a T-shirt instead. Another manufacturer, whose products we actually operated, gave us a nice custom livery 1:100 model though.

  10. @Marc You can buy model airplanes at hobby stores. Some of them specialize only in airplane models. Airlines may also sell them online through their websites. Airbus and Boeing both have online shops that you can purchase models from. Herpa and Gemini Jets are my two favorite brands. Gemini Jets has a store in Las Vegas with a great selection. For really large scale models (1:100 and above) you really only want Pacmin.

  11. I still collect them. I got so many of them that my wife had to stop me as we ran out of space to display them.

    To get them cheap there is no other place than Asia. I got lots of 1:200/250 scale 747s of different airlines in Taiwan for about NT$650 (~$25USD). They are made of plastics though. But for the price and for displaying purposes, you can’t beat that price.

    I also bought lots of Schubak planes at 1:400 scale, ranging from 747, A380, A330 and 787. I bought them cheap in Japan for about 700-900 yen, that’s like $7-9. It’s metallic and very good quality.

    The best one I have is a 1:130 China Airline’s 747-400 with the plum blossom livery. I got it as a gift during a promotion of 2 year subscription of “Airways” magazine. It is still sitting in my bedroom.

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