Women in Airline Advertising

Ryanair passengers are being asked to vote on what they would like to see in the airline’s next charity calendar.  A nude way to engage customers or easy PR? 

An online passenger poll will decide whether the 2011 calendar will feature sexy female crew, sexy male pilots, sexy passengers or the Icelandic Volcano ‘Eyjafjallajokull’.

The annual calendar, which has raised nearly €300,000 since the first edition was published in 2008, has faced heavy criticism from women’s groups for objectifying women, but Ryanair is hardly the first airline to do so.

Beautiful women have been used to advertise airlines for years.  When commercial flights were beginning to take off in the 50’s, popular airlines focused their advertising efforts on the attractiveness of female flight attendants and the exotic local women of the foreign lands they flew to.  How much has airline advertising changed more than half a century on?

Last year’s Virgin Atlantic “Still Red Hot” 25th anniversary campaign featuring the famous scarlet-clad female cabin crew, raised significant controversy, prompting 29 complaints to the ASA.  The advertising watchdog later dismissed these complaints arguing that “most viewers would understand that the ad presented exaggerated stereotypical views of the early 1980s and played upon perceived attitudes of that time in a humorous way”.

Many will argue that carriers like Ryanair and Virgin Atlantic are merely perpetuating outdated stereotypes that flight air hostesses have been fighting for years.  But is Ryanair or society to blame when over 800 of the airline’s 4,000 cabin crew applied to be in the 2011 calendar?

Others will argue that the glamour in air travel has gone.  Sexist or not, it’s hard to deny the artistic merit of airline adverts through the decades:

So what would you vote to see in the next Ryanair calendar? Something tells me Eyjafjallajokull will be low in the poll.