Vintage Badvertising: Flirty Flight Attendants

Cristen Conger

Courtesy: Newsweek Archivist

I wonder whether Ellen Church, a registered nurse who became the world's first flight attendant in 1930, knew the job she was trailblazing would soon require a whole lotta sexiness. So-called "sky girls," as Boeing would call the women who followed in Church's footsteps, had to fit strict criteria of being under 25 years old, 5'4", 115 pounds, and -- of course -- unmarried. That way, the male clientele could feel as free as a metallic bird to flirt with them.

After all, the uniformed eye candy in the aisles was marketed as a travel perk in those early days of commercial flight, hence this nauseating ad from Continental Airlines, which billed itself as "the one for fun." And by "fun," Continental appears to mean fraternizing with the apparently flirtatious flight crew, which Continental heartily encouraged since "[a smile] is what they have for you" -- unless one of them doesn't get hit on, in which case she'll wear a pouty face until some Don Draper pinches her behind and thus validates her existence.

Oh, sister.

Courtesy: BBC

The airline wasn't alone in this flight attendants-as-sex-objects approach, either. National Airlines' "Fly Me" atrocious campaign was so overt in its innuendo the National Organization for Women tried to win an injunction to take down the ads. And just back in 2012, Britain's Advertising Standards Authority banned sexpot ads from Ryan Air because, as the BBC reported, "the women's appearance, stance and gaze - together with the headline - would be seen as linking female cabin crew with sexually suggestive behaviour and breached the advertising practice code."

Surely, the same assessment would be made today about the hostess on Flight 2 to Chicago.