One-armed bandits to help fight boredom on long flights

By PAUL WEDEL  |  Feb. 18, 1981
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SINGAPORE -- Singapore Airlines will install seven slot machines aboard its jumbo jet flights to the United States this summer in a gamble to hit the jackpot by attracting more passengers, an airline spokesman said Wednesday.

The one-armed bandits will be given a two-month trial on four to five flights per week beginning June 1, the spokesman said. If they prove popular, they will be installed on SIA's entire fleet of 15 jumbo jets.

It is the first time a commercial airline has offered gambling as part of inflight entertainment, but SIA officials think 'it may well be as successful as inflight movies.'

Preliminary legal checks indicate the flying gamblers will not be violating any laws even when they fly to countries where gambling is prohibited -- just as the drinking of liquor is permitted in flight over countries which prohibit alcoholic drinks.

Falling operating profits last year, due in part to increased fuel costs, has spurred the airline to seek new ways to increase its passenger loads.

SIA's flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco were selected for the experiment because the 16 to 24 hour flights often left passengers bored -- not to mention the additional amount of money that could flow through the slots.

The airline, which has previously tried to lure passengers with on-board fashion shows and aisle-strolling troubadours, insists the machines will make only a 'minimal' profit.

'The jackpot machines are there for the entertainment of our passengers, no extra money will be charged and no big profit is expected,' the spokesman said.

Seven or eight seats will be removed from the rear section of the Boeing 747 to make room for the mini-casino. Heavy curtains will screen the gambling area from the rest of the passenger compartment. Only adults will be allowed to use the machines.

The spokesman said the original idea was proposed more than a year ago by the Mark X International Corp. of New York, which will provide the special lightweight, low-noise machines and supervise them in flight.

Mark X also will assign personnel to the planes to make change and big jackpot payoffs for gambling passengers.

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