While researching the fight insurance angle for my TGA (“Airport” movie) Ticket Package assembly, I discovered a rich, although brief history of airport flight insurance sales. It all started with the “Great Lakes Fidelity” Airline Trip Insurance Receipt I had to design, as a major component of the overall ticket package, as fans of the “Airport” movie or novel know.
Flight insurance vending machines and booths were a very common sight at airports throughout the 1950s and 1960s, with the larger US insurance companies raking in semi-big bucks.
Although not dwelled-upon in the 1970 movie, in the novel Airport, Arthur Hailey's character, Capt. Vernon Demerest, is a staunch opponent of flight insurance availability at airports. As Haley wrote, Capt. Demerest thought that…
"…airport insurance vending...was a ridiculous, archaic hangover from flying's early days. The very presence of insurance booths and machines, their prominence in airport concourses, were insults to commercial aviation, which had a finer safety record, in relation to miles traveled, than any other form of transportation.
"...Demerest had prepared his case thoroughly. Using charts and graphs, he demonstrated that well known in-flight disasters caused by bombings and other acts of violence averaged one and one half per year. Motives varied, but a consistent, prevalent cause was financial gain from flight insurance... He named classic incidents: Canadian Pacific Airlines, 1949 and 1965; Western Airlines, 1967; National Airlines, 1960 and a suspected sabotage in 1959; two Mexican airlines, 1952 and 1953; Venezuelan Airlines, 1960; Continental Airlines, 1962; Pacific Air Lines, 1964; United Air Lines, 1950, 1955, and a suspected sabotage in 1965."
And Hailey wrote this about his story's mad bomber:
"D.O. Guerrero had had this plan in mind for several months while his fortunes were worsening. During that time he studied carefully the histories of air disasters where airliners were destroyed by individuals seeking to profit from flight insurance. The number of instances was surprisingly large."
In the real world, airline pilots in the late 1950s and early 1960s were vocally opposed to flight insurance machines and kiosks at airports. After a real-life bomber killed 44 people on a United Air Lines DC-6B over Longmont, Colorado in 1955, the State of Colorado banned airport insurance vending machines. But other than that one legislative action, there would be no further outlawing of flight insurance kiosks or machines at airports in the United States.
Over the years and in the end, the airport flight insurance kiosks and machines mostly just faded away, as travelers grew accustomed to air safety, and insurance from other sources reduced the need (and sales) of flight insurance at airports. What was once a common sight throughout most American airport terminals would today seem odd and out of place.
— Chris Bidlack