A video marketing the advantages of flying into San Francisco International Airport from Australia and New Zealand seems to take a racially charged swipe at Los Angeles International Airport, which is the only other direct California destination from those nations. (See the video after the jump).
The video depicts an older, LAX-like terminal crowded with travelers, some visibly Latino, some sitting on the floor, others pushing baby strollers (a crying baby is heard in the background). A sign that says “Caution — Slipping Hazard” is a dead ringer for the ubiquitous “Piso Mojado” signs often placed around your friendly, neighborhood, Mexican floor-mopper.
The caution sign also recalls the famous “immigrant crossing” freeway signs of the 1990s. All the travelers with close-ups in the piece are white. A white man is stressed over the chaos of the baggage carriage. White folks at the San Francisco airport are, however, happy. A white woman has a baby, but it's not crying. No Latinos are seen at the Bay Area facility (although a flight attendant, who played good crew member/bad crew member in the video, could pass for Latina). The subliminal signals are clear: LAX is filled with unfriendly brown people.
The LAX-like facility is dubbed the “bad airport” in the video. One passenger, a white woman, says, “How old is this terminal?”
In contrast, San Francisco International is depicted as an icon of architectural modernism. A terminal with an airy dome and exposed rafters is shown. The camera focuses on a Gucci retail shop, too. The theme? “I wanna go through SFO.” The video even features San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom opening a car door for a passenger.
San Francisco airport officials say the depiction is not intended to be a slight on any singular U.S. facility. But LAX executive director Gina Marie Lindsey saw the likeness right away. “I was startled and a little disappointed,” she told the Daily Breeze newspaper.
Added Patrick O'Neill, executive creative director for L.A.-based ad firm TBWAChiatDay, “I immediately thought the bad airport was LAX when I saw it, but it's done in such a lighthearted way that it allows the viewer to make their own choice while laughing.”
Lindsey notes that LAX is undergoing massive improvements, including a recently inaugurated $1.5 billion expansion of the Tom Bradley International Terminal and a proposed, six-year, $5.6 billion improvement program.