Best of the Worst Vintage Airline Ads: I’m Cheryl. Fly Me!

BY Cristen Conger / POSTED May 5, 2011
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If Molly and I ever run out of ideas for Stuff Mom Never Told You, I already have a Plan B ready to go: Stuff Mom Never Told You About Airline Advertising. While researching for the new episode on the history of flight attendants, we unearthed so many cringe-worthy tag lines and commercials, it wasn’t easy picking the best of the worst among them.

Oh, where to begin, you scandalous vintage airline advertisements?

The National Airlines $9.5 million “Fly Me” campaign from 1971 certainly tops the Best of the Worst list in terms of overtly sexist shilling. In a run-of-the-mill move for the time, National hawked its lovely flight attendants a its number one amenity. National even painting the ladies’ names on plane noses and mandated attendants them to wear suggestive “Fly Me” buttons during in-flight service.

fly me national airlines

When the National Organization for Women tried to get a legal injunction against the ads, TIME magazine quoted the airline’s PR director: “The stewardesses become an extension of the airline. We had no preconceived idea of injecting a suggestive leer into the campaign.”‘

Following up on the sexist campaign’s progress in 1974, TIME reported that business had leaped up “23 percent during the first year of the campaign.” The airline’s response to that success? Make the ads even saucier! To the chagrin of Stewardesses for Equal Rights, National planned to amp up its tag line by featuring its lovely ladies of the skies “looking seductively into the camera and breathing ‘I’m going to fly you like you’ve never been flown before’.”

Apparently sex can’t sell forever, though.The National Airlines mile high club folded into Pan Am in 1980.

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