BREAKING NEWS: Alaska Airlines eliminates prayer cards

While in no way materially significant (in my opinion), the execution of this is interesting. I think the email that was sent out to Alaska Mileage Plan members speaks for itself.

Dear ________,

At Alaska Airlines, we have provided prayer cards to our customers for more than 30 years. A former marketing executive borrowed the idea from another airline and introduced the cards to our passengers in the late 1970s to differentiate our service.

The cards have been provided only to our First Class customers since meal tray service ended in coach six years ago. Beginning February 1, 2012, however, we’ll be eliminating the cards entirely. This difficult decision was not made lightly. We believe it’s the right thing to do in order to respect the diverse religious beliefs and cultural attitudes of all our customers and employees.

Some of you enjoy the cards and associate them with our service. We also know some of you consider the cards to be a tradition that reflects your own spiritual beliefs. At the same time, we’ve heard from many of you who believe religion is inappropriate on an airplane, and some are offended when we hand out the cards. Religious beliefs are deeply personal and sharing them with others is an individual choice.

It’s important that everyone know that this decision does not change our core values nor our care for our customers. We’ll continue to distinguish ourselves through the pride and professionalism of our people on every flight and in our communities.

Our priority at Alaska is to fly our passengers to their destinations safely, on time and with their bags. We thank you for the opportunity to serve you and for the chance to demonstrate this commitment each time you fly with us.


Bill Ayer
Chairman and CEO, Alaska Air Group

Brad Tilden
President, Alaska Airlines

The prayer cards have long been controversial, but what I find so interesting about this is that they think this warrants a lengthy email signed by both the President and Chairman/CEO. We’re talking about a little card on a tray. Yet, interestingly, the last time they substantially devalued their elite benefits (by adding fare restrictions to their confirmable upgrades), no email was sent out to members explaining the change.

Aside from the ridiculousness of the communication (in my opinion), what do you guys think about the change?
a) Dumb move, they shouldn’t deviate from their values
b) Smart move, a prayer card was offensive to many
c) Who the hell heavens cares?

Filed Under: Alaska
  1. If you ask me, I’d guess somebody did a calculation of what they could save by not passing them out. A la AA eliminating the olive.

  2. The real question is: Why would you ever fly on an airline that found it necessary to hand out prayer cards?…

  3. In the first paragraph you said the letter speaks for itself. Then after the letter you wrote two more paragraphs about it!

  4. It’s funny that they couldn’t just hand out something’s else like a card showing various passenger planes or destination scenery.

    And it TOTALLY has to be because of the Emirates assosciation…

  5. I actually thought the email was a nice touch. While I never particularly liked the prayer cards, it is one of their long standing traditions. So on one hand, its sad to see it go. On the other hand, I can certainly see how it can be offensive, so it probably should have been discontinued long ago.

    I understand the mixed feelings expressed in the email, thus I appreciated the message.

  6. Get your religion out of my face, I don’t care which one it is.

    It’s not offensive to me, it’s just as annoying as US Airways pushing/advertising their credit cards on board and RyanAir’s constant sales pitches on their captive audience.

    Either way, I’ll fly USAirways for the *A perks and RyanAir for the dirt cheap fares.

  7. I think if it’s something they want to do as a business, it should be up to them. If you don’t like it, nobody is forcing you to fly with them.

    In-N-Out puts bible verses on all their packaging. It’s less evident but similar, and I don’t have a problem with either.

    I’ve never flown with them but I’m assuming it’s a fairly benign message. Not something like “I pray that you become Christian so you don’t go to hell.” Personally, if I had people of all religions praying for me, it just increases the chances of one of them working.

  8. The suggestion to replace the prayer cards with Dawkins and Hitchens quotes was unfortunately not adopted.

  9. They could’ve maintained the tradition by offering a selection of complementeary prayers during meal service…could be an opportunity for compensation if they run out of your preferred choice!

  10. definitely “b) Smart move, a prayer card was offensive to many” – the cards were only for monotheists.

  11. Before one can answer how dumb it may be — we need to know the original reason for these “prayer” cards. Were they biblical? Did they state “God” or “Jesus?” specifically? Were they mere generalities? Exactly what did they say and for what reason/how did the concept originate? I have never flown on Alaska so I am not familiar with the cards. That being said, I don’t know if it is a bad idea or a good one to get rid of them. I’m sure everyone here that posted an opinion has actually seen them.

  12. A prayer card is not offesive to me. It is about time that Americans realize that we are a Christian nation and those are the people they were sending the email out to, as to not offend them! In today’s time (2012) it is not politically correct to give out a prayer card. But this airline has a long history of being an AMERICAN airline, ie ALASKA, it’s not like the airline name CROATIA airlines.

  13. Landing planes in the frozen north might encourage even the most hardy to cling to religion. Must be getting more confident.

  14. B – Every time I saw one, it would make me think twice about booking my next flight on Alaska (I don’t want to be proselytized in flight).

  15. Ppl were just given a prayer card as such, they weren’t asked to pray, so I go for C and a bit of A. There was no reason for customers to get offended…
    The email was way toooooooo loooooooonnnnngggggg for such an issue, and the closing paragraph way lame.

  16. @22. According to the CIA World Factbook 92.6% of the Croatian population is nominally Christian (mostly Roman Catholic). 78.5% of the United States population is nominally Christian (mostly Protestant). Croatia is more Christian than the US is.

  17. The cards were always a simple quote from the Old Testament and as such would appeal a variety of beliefs. It always made me stop take a breath and think about how fortunate we are. In this fast paced world, it was nice touch.

  18. I am glad to see them go. It was always a bit offensive to be given quotes from a book that professes so much hate and intolerance. I expect it from organizations that actually are anti-gay/anti-women but not AS. I love this humorous relevant quote: “Religion is like a penis. It’s fine to have one and it’s fine to be proud of it, but please don’t whip it out in public and start waving it around… and PLEASE don’t try to shove it down my child’s throat”.

  19. Let’s go with choice C.
    Maybe they could have a cart come around and offer pray cards in your choice of religion.

  20. “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.” – Treaty of Tripoli 1797 (written during George Washington’s administration and ratified during John Adams administration)

  21. There could be a significant number of customers who fly AA as their preferred airline because they perceive them as a Christian airline, hence the reason for the email, hoping not to lose that edge with them.

  22. whew! Can’t blame this one on Shariah LOL.
    and no, this had nothing to do with the Emirates partner deal. As a Non-Christian, I didn’t find them offensive, but I can’t believe it took them this long to figure it out and exclude them.

  23. Well, I’ve never flown on the airline, so I’ve not seen the prayer card. To me, religious and spititual beliefs are a personal matter, so I can understand that some may find it objectionable to be handed out by an airline … regardless of the message entailed. Of course, anyone offended by it could just ignore it and allow it to be enjoyed by, or comfort, those who find it to be of value. Then again, that would require some tolerance, something in increasing short supply in our increasingly PC country.

    As for their communication of the change, it seems highly appropriate and a nice touch. More people care more about religion than aspirational travel rewards, miles, points, etc., so that would explain why management may have decided to communicate about this and not points devaluations…

  24. @31 Except no one is forcing you to fly Alaskan. Look its a private company – they can and should be able to express their beliefs to their customers (beliefs which are held by the majority of the American public I should add). People who found religion offensive don’t have to fly Alaskan. (Just like they don’t have to use faith schools, hospitals and social services either.)

    So my answer is A – dumb move on their part. They should be proud and stand up for what they believe in. They haven’t lost customers because of their religion so what’s the big problem now anyway.

  25. Croatia is a predominantly Christian country, so I’m not sure what point Worldtraveller2 was trying to make. America is not a “Christian Nation”. We do have separation of church and state, and while a large percentage of people happen to be Christian, we should be mindful of everyone else as well. Emirates is based in the UAE, yet you don’t see them bring their religion on board. I respect everyone’s right to practice their religion and I don’t care if people bring their own prayer cards on board. But it makes me uncomfortable when companies in the hospitality industry (hotels, airlines) push a specific religion on their guests. It’s totally unnecessary and inappropriate in my opinion.

  26. Can’t believe no one made the connection between the Emirates tie up and the prayer cards going out the window…

  27. The point of saying that it is an AMERICAN airline is that it is called ALASKA (you know, the 49th state of America?) I could have really chosen any country to compare it to, like EGYPT AIR, or IRAN AIR or TURKEY AIR.
    The founding fathers of the USA were:
    “Lambert (2003) has examined the religious affiliations and beliefs of the Founders. Of the 55 delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, 49 were Protestants, and three were Roman Catholics (C. Carroll, D. Carroll, and Fitzsimons). Among the Protestant delegates to the Constitutional Convention, 28 were Church of England (or Episcopalian, after the American Revolutionary War was won), eight were Presbyterians, seven were Congregationalists, two were Lutherans, two were Dutch Reformed, and two were Methodists.

    Thus, USA IS A CHRISTIAN NATION. Sorry Ariana, learn your history!

  28. My vote: C) Who cares ??

    I’ve personally have never cared for them and thought they were inappropriate. So I simply never read them. If my seatmate or anyone else wants to pray on-board then more power to them. But they, nor the airline, should not try to get me to join in.

    As for the letter, I wonder if Alaska is worried about now offending folks on the opposite end of the scale … as in “I’m never flying Alaska again because they stopped spreading the word” 😮

  29. If ever there is a real in flight emergency or a belly landing you will not need prayer cards. While it may seem harmless to some I note that I am uncomfortable when people come to the door selling their religion or relision for sale pamphlets are placed in the post office or other public places. The thing about prayer in this contry is that you are free to pray or not.

  30. During last night my son and I exchanged this set of messages:
    Are you now safely landed in Seattle? Where were the Alaska prayer cards when one might have really needed them?
    Your Dad
    —–Original Message—–
    Subject: Re: Broken cockpit window at 35,000 feet in turbulence over the Pacific on Alaska 854; happy terra firma in Honolulu now

    Yes. The window was replaced and we are soon off again. 2 am arrival anticipated. Thanks for thinking of me.

    Sent: Thursday, February 09, 2012 08:50 PM
    Subject: Re: Broken cockpit window at 35,000 feet in turbulence over the Pacific on Alaska 854; happy terra firma in Honolulu now

    Thank God you are safe.
    You must be living right.

    —–Original Message—–

    Sent: Thu, Feb 9, 2012 8:13 pm
    Subject: Broken cockpit window at 35,000 feet in turbulence over the Pacific on Alaska 854; happy terra firma in Honolulu now

    The crew and flight attendants were stellar and remained calm. Fortunately the
    window didn’t shatter and depressurize the aircraft. We descended and limped
    back to Oahu.

  31. It doesnt matter if its 2012, 3012, or 10,000 BC…God Word will always be around whether you like it or not. He created the heavens and the earth…and Alaska Airlines and YOU came from HIM…God Almighty…so you might as well get over it..repent and receive Jesus Christ as your Savior. Jesus Christ said that those that profess me before men I will profess them before my Father. Matthew 10:32

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