Joe Brancatelli, the business travel expert, explains:
But it turns out that SkyMall hasn’t been about buying stuff — not even the faux rock that hid your front-door keys — for a long, long time. Its initial iteration in 1989 — you ordered an item using a seatback phone and picked up your purchase at the airport when you landed — was a flop. So was its attempt to sell its own merchandise. For most of the last 25 years, SkyMall was actually a catalog of catalogs, offering up our captive eyeballs to a ever-changing roster of merchants that advertised their own gear and gadgets. Brands such as Frontgate, Hammacher Schlemmer, Brookstone and Design Toscano once paid hundreds of thousands of dollars each quarter to SkyMall for the right to pitch us while our seatbelts were fastened low and tight across our laps.