Baby Boomer Magazine Recalls Bygone Days of Airline Sex Promotions

Share Article

Travel advertising in the 60s and 70s was suggestive by today's standards

A look back at the sexism that once showed up in airline promotions is spotlighted in a feature story in the new issue of Watchboom.com, an online travel magazine for baby boomers. “It’s hard to believe today, but there was a time – actually, not too long ago – when the concept of ‘sex sells seats’ was a big winner with a number of airlines,” said Watchboom publisher Nancy Clark.

Such campaigns had their heydays in the 60s and 70s, Clark explained. For instance, according to the Watchboom article, the former National Airlines debuted the era’s crown jewel of double entendres in the mid-70s. It was called “Fly Me,” and it focused on gorgeous flight attendants using their first names in ads saying “I’m Cheryl. Fly me” or “I’m Linda. Fly me.” National’s attendants even had to wear “Fly Me” buttons on their uniforms.

Denying a saucy twist to the promotion at the time it was released, a National spokesman was quoted as saying, “We had no preconceived idea of injecting a suggestive leer into the campaign."

Passengers were so turned on by “Fly Me,” the spokesman claimed, that the airline’s
ridership jumped by a whopping 23 percent in the first year alone. But most of National’s flight attendants hated it. One attendant reportedly sketched in the words “Go Fly Yourself” right after “Fly Me” on her uniform’s campaign button.

The article recalled other sex-related promotions, such as Continental Airlines’ “We really move our tail for you” campaign. Again, the airline claimed it paid off, while its flight attendants grumbled about it. Their union wrangled a feature story in the Los Angeles Times in which an attendant, pictured with an adorable tot in her lap, voiced protests against being treated like a sex object.

What could have been the era’s most famous – some might say infamous – campaign took off in the mid-60s when Braniff International debuted its “Pucci Air Strip.” In TV spots, a shapely hostess (as Braniff called its flight attendants) casually stripped off layers of her uniform, unveiling different layers – and successively more skin – against a backdrop of burlesque music and a narrator using subtle sexual references ending with the tag line, “(Braniff) believes that even an airline hostess should look like a girl.”

Among other airlines that jumped on the sex-themed bandwagon, Southwest decked out its flight attendants in orange hot pants and knee-high go-go boots. And mini-skirts became an ensemble for attendants on carriers such as Pan Am, PSA, Air California and Air West.

Watchboom publisher Clark noted that the airlines’ sex-themed campaigns “pretty much ended by the late 70s, the result of wide-ranging cultural changes across the country. Put simply, it was no longer hip to show thighs.”

Published monthly since 2009, the free magazine features articles by 23 veteran travel journalists including the former travel editors of a number of major newspapers and national magazines. Headquartered in Denver, CO, the online free travel magazine is published by http://www.unleadedsoftware.com.

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Nancy Clark
Visit website