Cheeky Kiwis use sex appeal, matchmaking to sell airline tickets

At one time, it was commonplace for airlines to use a bit of sex appeal to try to stand out from their competitors.

In the ’70s, National Airlines (later part of Pan Am) used young female flight attendants in its flirty ads to attract predominantly male business travelers.

National Airlines “Fly Maggie” ad from the Seventies

Southwest Airlines went even further by attiring its flight attendants — again, all female — in hot pants and boots, as can be seen below in a 1972 advertisement.

Southwest Airlines “Hot Pants” ad, 1972

Over the years, air travel went from being sexy and exciting to stressful and tedious. The ads changed too. Sex appeal and service were no longer prominent; price became the dominant factor.

However, as the recession takes a bite out of the airlines’ bottom lines, Air New Zealand is reviving the sex appeal concept in hope of filling seats.

The Auckland-based carrier recently launched an attention-grabbing ad that used special effects to show its employees — of both genders — serving passengers, loading luggage and walking through airports seemingly clad in nothing but body paint.

The ad is part of the airline’s “Nothing to Hide” campaign, meant to distinguish it from competitors that use low up-front fares to bait passengers, only to hit them later with extra charges for checked baggage, seat selection and beverages.

Air New Zealand “Nothing to Hide” ad, 2009

Air New Zealand is even taking the theme a bit further with its October “Matchmaking Flight” from Los Angeles to Auckland. The airline is inviting single passengers to get together at Los Angeles airport on the afternoon of Oct. 13th for a two-hour meet-and-mingle party. They then all take off together at 10:30 p.m. for Auckland, and regroup the day after arrival for the “Great Matchmaking Ball” at one of the city’s finest hotels.

No word yet if the airline is planning to enforce a strict “no fooling around in the lavatories or under the blankets” rule on the flight.

Might we see such creative advertising here in Canada?

WestJet is profitable, so they would probably be inclined to stick with the cheerful, family-friendly ad campaign that seems to be working well for them. If it’s not broken, why fix it?

But Air Canada? Pension obligations from the pre-deregulation days, when airlines offered secure, low-turnover jobs at competitive wages, and the cost of replacing older jets have stretched the airline’s finances thin. And their advertising could be best described as staid and conservative. They might have the most to gain by coming up with something a bit more bold, as their Kiwi cousins have done.


About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

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