“Eastern Air Lines Losers” Ad From 1967

Filed Under: Media, Videos

It goes without saying that we’ve evolved a lot as a society (though different cultures have evolved at different paces and in different ways). As you’d expect, marketing has evolved similarly, and was different decades ago than it is now.

That’s especially true in the airline industry. Here in the US many years ago flight attendants were exclusively female, hired based on their looks, and in some cases couldn’t even be married.

I’ve seen lots of airline ads from decades ago that are sexist and hard to fathom nowadays, though my jaw nearly dropped when a friend sent me a link to an Eastern Air Lines ad from 1967. I don’t think sexism even begins to describe this ad.

The ad is called “The Eastern Air Lines Losers,” as the airline highlights “losers” who they rejected for flight attendant positions in both print and TV ads.

First let’s take a look at the paper ad, which simply has the title “Presenting The Losers.” Here’s what the ad says:

“Pretty good, aren’t they? We admit it. And they’re probably good enough to get a job practically anywhere they want. But not as an Eastern Airlines stewardess.

We pass up around 19 girls, before we get one that qualifies. If looks were everything, it wouldn’t be so tough. Sure, we want her to be pretty… don’t you? That’s why we look at her face, her make-up, her complexion, her figure, her weight, her legs, her grooming, her nails and her hair.

But we don’t stop there. We talk. And we listen. We listen to her voice, her speech. We judge her personality, her maturity, her intelligence, her intentions, her enthusiasm, her resiliency and her stamina.

We don’t want a stewardess to be impatient with a question you may have, or careless in serving your dinner, or unconcerned about your needs. We try to eliminate these problems by taking a lot more time and passing up a lot more girls.

It may make our job a lot harder. But it makes your flying a lot easier.”

Then here’s the commercial to go along with it:

This ad was from over 50 years ago, so obviously that was a long time ago. When you combine the sexism and the ad being based around “losers,” it’s hard to imagine how this was ever cool… but I guess it was.

It sure makes me wonder what they’ll be saying about ads from 2020 in 50+ years. Surely they can’t be as objectionable as this?

One other interesting note — the ad suggests that they rejected 19 out of 20 flight attendant applicants, meaning they accepted just 5%. Ironically in recent years when the major US airlines have hired, closer to 1% of applicants were offered jobs. Somehow airlines have become more selective with hiring by some metrics.

Can anyone think of a US airline ad from any point in history that was more objectionable than this?

Comments
  1. Firstly, you’re applying ethics and morality from 2020 to the 1960’s. That’s like looking back to 1350BC and decrying how “sexist” something is. It’s silly.
    Secondly, I don’t think that ad is sexist at all. What they’re saying is, they won’t hire just on looks alone, unlike, presumably, other airlines. They hire based upon the full personality and traits of the individual. I’d say, that’s fairly progressive for an era where so many men and women were hired based solely upon sex appeal.

    As for what people might be saying about ads from today in 50 years time. I’d say if they’d matured, they might be pointing out how incredibly shallow and sensitive the people of 2020 were.

    I do enjoy your pieces, but I’d enjoy them even more if you didn’t indulge in trying to find something to be offended about. I get that must be difficult to do when you can’t travel, but at least give it a go. I for one, get enough of this “I’m offended at this, and I think you should be as well” garbage from the mainstream media.

  2. Objectionable sure. But at the same time brilliant.
    I mean the message is relevant, it’s tight and it speaks to people of that age. It’s also quite quirky and entertaining in its own way.
    Not suggesting it’s appropriate, but pretty sure most 1960 housewives didn’t consider it offensive. Just consistent with every other aspect of their lives
    I think in 50 years most people would look at 2020 ads and notice they were so so bland.

  3. As a man, I was turned away for many reasons:

    I was turned away from American in 1992 for being too heavy (over 175# at 6’2″)
    And United in 1992 and 1994 for being too tall (over 6′ for the lower galley)
    And US Airways in 1993 for, who knows…

    I was fortunate to be picked not for my weight, or height, to be fly the US Military from 1995-2014 and other prestige charters for World Airways. I also did the launch for our Tel Aviv flights, Renaissance Cruises flights, and the code shares with Continental.

    Just goes to show, “A Cover is Not the Book”.

    Here’s to the next generation of not the ideal picture of a “stewardess” making a career of
    caring/giving/living in the sky!

  4. I hate typos…please drop the *be in “I was fortunate to be picked not for my weight, or height, to be fly the US Military”.

  5. “ It sure makes me wonder what they’ll be saying about ads from 2020 in 50+ years. Surely they can’t be as objectionable as this?”

    Of course they will be, just for reasons your 2020 mind can’t see.

    The idea that attitudes won’t change as much in the next 50 years, as they have in the last 50, is silly.

  6. Nice bait on something completely irrelevant. I swear sometimes that you do these posts just so you and Ford can laugh at the comments and entertain yourselves with clapping hands and snide teenage grins. Seriously, get a hobby. And stick to the blog for what you do best, reviews. Or basic updates and news in the industry. The world is getting tired of this crap. I know I am.

  7. You would be surprised how many “complaints” airlines still get about some crew not being “attractive”. Sometimes, passengers even write in to complain that crew refused to give them a phone number/email, or gave them fake contacts. I’ve even had to deal with passenger demands to fire crew because they “look gay” or “their skin is too dark / too fair”.

    Sexism, racism and bigotry are not just 1967 things. They have evolved like everything else. Context is everything.

  8. I have to say, it’s not sexist at all.

    As a previous comment also mentioned, they are highlighting that looks alone are not enough to get a job with them.

    It’s quite the opposite of sexist.

    Quite similar to the fiasco of the world claiming Trump told people to inject disinfectant, he did not say that, and people misinterpreting his words should not expect an explanation – and no, I’m not a huge Trump fan.

    50 years from now, I think they would consider 2020’s ads basic and lacking detail.

    I think society will probably have realised by then, that this era (now) is far too cautious, with both political and social issues, and look forward to a looser, less regimental, and more detail oriented society.

    That’s being optimistic, the way things are going, ‘nanny state’, reduced freedoms, higher taxation, more control, more surveillance, more restrictions, and hypersensitivity seem to be the route of society – so sad.

  9. the author of this piece is not trying to find something to be offended about. there isn’t anything wrong with looking back at history. you don’t have to “try” to find objectionable history.

  10. I wish AA cared that it’s flight attendants weren’t rude and careless as much as this Eastern airlines ad claims to care.
    Sorry, it had to be said.
    Still think “Presenting the Losers” is crass, but that’s kinda what they were going for.
    +1 for them not choosing on looks alone and being fairly progressive for their era.

  11. Ben, thanks for sharing a different view from a different age. While we can’t physically travel, at least we can travel back in time.

    To the rest of the comment section,… “Okay boomers”

  12. Perhaps this is an idea for a future article…now that travel is quiet, perhaps you could write about some of your favourite airline ads (part or present)? Or the ones you hate? Or trigger certain memories?

  13. Anyone realize Ali Macgraw was a loser? She is sitting in front! She was already acting at the time of the print ad.
    I’m sure she never applied to Eastern to become a Flight Attendant.

  14. @Lucky

    This is 2020, SQ still officially have Singapore Girls.

    Now the actual ad for Eastern, I would say back then the disclaimer “Actor Portrayal, Not an Actual applicant” wasn’t a thing yet.

  15. This is another George who travels about about half a dozen times a year, not to be confused with a George who posts here who travels very frequently.

    Re American flight attendants: I remember the very pleasant, helpful and good natured American flight attendants on a Zurich to Philadelphia flight about 5 years ago. They were an extremely nice group.
    (The gods were smiling on sep 18, 2019: the same ZRH -to PHL flight had a mechanical problem about 30 minutes west of Zurich and was diverted to Heathrow where we lined up at rebooking to learn if we would be stranded overnight or longer on the return journey.
    It was a great relief to learn that I was rebooked that afternoon on British Airways nonstop to Miami home base.)

  16. Wow this is an old ad. Nowadays when dating a girl in her early 20s any pop culture reference before 2010 is pre historic.

  17. @george Something to be said when a) a nice flight stood out (whereas that should be the norm) and b) said flight occurred 5 years ago.

  18. Back in the 70s I was part of the hiring team at United Airlines. We were often criticized we’re hiring average looking women. Flight attendants were allowed to be married then but without children. We still had weight restrictions and cosmetic requirements. Most of that today is out the door. As far as percentages, one of 25 would be considered and one of 125 would be hired.

  19. As a society we evolve. Certain things that were ok in the past, aren’t now. But you can’t judge it looking with present eyes. That’s shallow. Keep away from thing you don’t understand. Go enjoy your husband and dog…

  20. I was actually working on airline advertising (Qantas) when this Finnair advertising scandal broke out. Even in 1978, it was hard to imagine how anyone could approve of this. “How Vilho Vatanen, the Finn, created the first sauna when he locked his wife in the smokehouse, set fire to it, beat her soundly with birch leaves and discovered she loved it.”

  21. LMAO – the people saying “People get offended over everything these days” would be the first ones to sue the airlines if their daughter were rejected for wearing glasses. It may of been just how it was back then, but it doesn’t mean you can’t look at it with disgust today.

  22. Dan, you’re really missing the point.

    The airline is promoting the fact they have a better standard of staff.

    If people are getting offended (50 or more years later) that is circumstantial.

    We all need to stop finding flaws that are not intended. This is why I compared this to Trump being said to have suggested to inject disinfectant. That is not what he said.

    Eastern Airlines wasn’t trying to offend anyone with this ad.

    We really need to focus on the intent and the message being given rather than (often incorrect) interpretations we come up with ourselves.

  23. But, but, but… (spluttering)… everyone in this ad is WHITE!!!! And how do we know they all identify as women??!?!? What if some of them are womxn??!?!?! Fun fact: a year after this ad was published, Eastern changed its slogan to “The Wings of Man” which is both sexist and forces a gender binary on the population!!!!! So many hate crimes and so much social injustice happening in this single ad.

    I’m going to send Eastern Airlines a strongly-worded tweet about this. #boycottEastern #mEAtoo

  24. @Turco

    Maybe it is you who don’t understand. Yes, as a society we evolve.
    We learn to express political correctness, while being very careful (paranoid) of everything everyone else does.
    Certain things in the past still doesn’t change, we just can’t talk about it anymore now.

  25. While the manufactured outrage is funny, I’d say their propaganda from the 1980’s was the worst thing they ever did, which was make famous “the customer is always right.”

  26. This ad – while not wildly offensive – is obviously incredibly sexist by today’s standards.

    I agree that we probably live in an overly sensitive society today but it is crazy that some people here are offended by branding this ad as sexist.

  27. Some people have to look really hard to find something that offends them. Context matters. The Sixties were a different time, with different values, different humor and different ads.

    In fifty years, someone will look back at the travel blogs of today and comment how pointless and self-absorbed some of the posts were.

  28. “We don’t want a stewardess to be impatient with a question you may have, or careless in serving your dinner, or unconcerned about your needs.”

    Seems like U.S. airlines could/should re-introduce this into their hiring standards. When companies sell cars and clothing and cosmetics, nearly everyone in their ads has above-average looks and attractiveness. Seems par for the course.

  29. Couldn’t wait to see the comments and at Richard just hit the nail on the head I didn’t continue!

    Way to go @Richard, you took the thoughts right out of my mouth. +1

  30. The main difference between the ad and today’s non-airline employers is that lawsuits have made non-airline employers trickier. They may do what the ad says but they just don’t admit it. They probably say “we select employees is a careful, holistic manner to serve mankind”.

    As far as airlines, many airlines pick nasty and lazy flight attendants who insist that they are only there for your safety and if you disagree, you are to be arrested for interfering with a flight crew and are, therefore, a threat to national security.

  31. This 1% statistic is deceiving. Ok, so being hired by Eastern (or since Eastern is dead, United) has a lower acceptance rate than medical school, United flight attendants must be better! So if you have a brain aneurysm bust open, fly United, who can do brain surgery better than a neurosurgeon.

    Also if this 1% statistic is true, then United flight attendants must be evil and punished as we know that the 1%-ers are bad and must be taxed until they are weeping.

    (ok, truth of the matter is that medical school applicants self select and the ones with bad grades don’t even apply to medical school. ok, truth of the matter is that we should not assume the 1% are evil and must be punished; they have skills are are people, too.)

  32. I’m floored by some of the comments expressed here.

    First, the values in the 1960s were not some static fixed entity that necessarily tolerated these attitudes. The 60s, as you may recall, was the time of the second wave feminist movement and the sexual revolution. It was precisely the attitudes expressed in this ad, and by some posters here, that many young (and older) women rebelled against.

    Second, of course this ad is sexist. Why is it relevant, for example, if a woman is married for this occupation? It was wrong then, as feminists rightfully protested, and it is wrong now. People were fighting against this in the 60s (not to mention earlier), it’s not as if everyone was hunky dory with women being objectified based on their physical appearance. The ad also clearly identifies physical attributes as unpalatable for the work of a flight attendant, e.g. glasses or looking a bit alternative. The narrator clearly expresses delight when a facially attractive woman appears but then is disqualified for some attribute. I mean, even more to the point, why should it matter what a woman looks like for this position? The people trying to justify this here are no better than the sexists in the 60s and the sexists today. They are proof that sexism is alive and well.

  33. Thanks for this brilliant postings. The Neanderthal postings prove that sexism and degradation still exists and is applauded. Really, can’t we advance?

  34. 1967: miscegenation was still outlawed in a number of states in the USA , until the Supreme Court ruling of that year; homosexual acts were illegal in much of the world. The ‘summer of love’ was very localised.
    I wouldn’t be too quick to find outrage in this ( for its time) inoffensive ad.

  35. This offends us now, in 2030 they’ll probably be offended at us not acknowledging that some of the women in the poster could be men or ‘rather not says’

  36. Welp, we know from this post that we’ve come a long way as a society, and we also know that a decent percentage of the commenters are ancient and/or Trump worshippers…so there’s that.

  37. As a flight attendant in europe for a major legacy carrier I find the ad super interesting.

    In the west we’ve pretty much become used to ‘equal opportunities’ and anti-discrimination laws based on gender, race, age etc etc. There are many other parts of the world where things still work differently including when it comes to how they recruit for flight attendants and also what passengers flying from those parts of the world value in air crew.

    At my airline we are able to view some comments that passengers have written about their crew on their flight. On certain routes insults regarding the physical appearance, age, even perceived sexuality of the crew are not uncommon.

    We also have ‘international’ cabin crew based in asia/india/middle east that fly alongside us. One of the absolute best of these I ever flew with – super kind, polite, extremely hard working, empathetic, calm – told me she had been flatly turned down by every single airline in her home country because of the birthmark she has on her forehead. And they were not shy about telling her the exact reason why.

    SQ is pretty famous for marketing their ‘Singapore Girl’. It obviously works for them. But even closer to home it wasn’t THAT long ago that Virgin Atlantic were very heavily marketing the ‘hotness’ of their female cabin crew. It wasn’t until the late 1990’s that they stopped insisting cabin crew be under 28 to apply. And only then because legislation forced them to abandon age discrimination. They continued to focus on the physical attributes of their female crew for a long time though. Only recently did they completely 180 and introduce voluntary measures for their female crew. Some would say this was ‘moving with the times’ other would say it is in an attempt to appeal ‘more relevant’ to their younger target market. Ladies no longer have to wear makeup, heels, can wear trousers. Even the voluptuous Union Jack carrying ‘Flying Lady’ that adorned Virgin Atlantic aircraft was recently replaced with more modern images.

  38. @ lucky
    You seem to have no problem flying with emirates who although they don’t say it outright only has stunning flight attendants so they must be declining many not great looking people and one of their requirements is to have a healthy BMI.

  39. Ad? Definitely sexist. You have a picture of some pretty girls with the caption “pretty good, aren’t they?”. Clearly, the message is that their stewardesses are better looking than this. So not just sexist, but fairly demeaning to any one who wasn’t accepted as a flight attendant at the time.

    I’d also object to the ad on the basis that it’s telling, not showing. Don’t tell me that your flight attendant is superior- show me. That’s why the SQ advertising, despite the other commenter’s allegation that they are sexist, is so effective. https://youtu.be/F_wxDuN3WNA

    Finally, to K4, yeah, Trump did sincerely ask if his doctors could research injecting a disinfectant into Covid positive patients to knock out the disease. People can spin things differently, but facts are facts.

  40. In 1968 United ran their “take me along” ad in which the “little lady” is shamelessly infantilised as she begs her husband to take her along on his business trip in a song and dance routine with echoes of the musical Sweet Charity. Judge for yourself….

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRPWbraGpR8

  41. To be fair to the adults of 50 years ago, they would have been as horrified at the way our national leaders behave in the US today as we are now of their sexism and racism then. And they would be just as right to be horrified. Unlike some of the commenters, I’m not sure how far we’ve really come as a society. We’re just bad in different ways.

  42. ^^^

    John is right. Today we have a president in office who gleefully stokes white nationalism and is on tape admitting to enjoying sexually assaulting women. Definitely can’t say the country as a whole has moved forward when 40% of Americans look up to a guy like that.

  43. Is it just me, or is the group shot here reminiscent of the ill-conceived original cover art of Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland album?

  44. Thank you, original commenter, for taking time out from yelling at squirrels on your lawn in order to use the interwebs.

    The misogynistic comments are probably generational…older privileged white males who are wearying of political correctness (aka: empathy and understanding). I’m a PWM myself, so I know them when I see them.

    I have much respect for what Ben has done and for his views, including his social comments on changing values. He has successfully monetized his passion for travel and has now settled down (somewhat) to more of a family man. Win/win for him…and perhaps irksome for some?

    He’s never going to win a prize for literature, he’s never met a sentence that didn’t end in a preposition and he possibly uses the words “like” and “literally” too much (like literally a million times). However, I must confess that I regularly review his content before flying and he’s steered me toward some awesome travel deals.

    I’ve learned to make half decent sourdough bread during this pandemic, and this afternoon I’m going to settle down with it and read a few old airline reviews. Yes, there’s COVID19, but at least i’m not flying TAAG Angola Airways today.

    Small mercies. Thanks, Ben.

  45. Maybe in 50 years they will be laughing at the sexual confusion, identity politics, and political correctness of the 2020s, and at how politicians used police state tactics to bring life to a screeching halt out of fear of a virus, with the tacit assent of most citizens?

  46. This is just one example of the “Great” that the Trump supporters yearn we can be again. The good old days when it was ok to put women in their place and they didn’t talk back. In fact, they wanted to compete for the approval from men, which all women should want.

    It’s just a relic of the good ol’ days when people knew their place and didn’t cry “injustice” every time they were reminded who was really in charge.

  47. This ad campaign could have been the basis for an interesting episode of Mad Men…

  48. % of applicants hired is a terrible metric. I’ve worked at government jobs where HR will say how selective they are due to the thousands of applications per job. In reality many of the applicants simply want a government job and have no real skills. By the time you narrow down things it is tough to find a qualified applicant.

    A FA is not a highly skilled position. Sure it requires certain skills – patience, ability to deal with customers but nothing that unusual.

    As far as different eras go people also make bad comparisons. For example in baseball they will take some manager from the 60s/70s and said he could never manage a team today because of how he dealt with players. That could be true or if you took that some person and he/she grew up in a different time, they would have a different way of dealing with people.

    And lets be honest, everyone judges a person on first impressions regarding dress, looks, etc. Hopefully most will then decide on a person’s suitability for a job based on skills and not just personality but some never do. I work in tech and after one interview someone said I really like his personality and I said “Uh, this is a tech job, we need problem solving skills, it isn’t a PR/marketing/customer service job”.

    And there are a number of jobs still based on looks – bartenders and servers at clubs aren’t solely based on job skills.

  49. Let’s make a bet. In 50yrs, people (if they are still around) will find it objectionable that so many people polluted the earth by flying – and knowingly did so.

    And they will be shocked, shocked, that other people so heavily promoted, via websites, such a polluting industry.

    They will say flying is worse than smoking.

    Did you ever in your life accept a plastic bag when you bought something and then throw that bag away? Do you do that now?

    Times and attitudes change. It’s bizarre and wrong to put today’s values on old ones – you can’t change the past. The important thing is that they evolve.

    Unfortunately, I’ll be dead well before 2070 so pay my kids!

    Otherwise I do enjoy reading your work.

  50. LOL at all the Trump supporters claiming anyone who thinks this ad is sexist is being thin skinned. Let me guess, y’all are the same ones who have a meltdown over people saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, yeah?

    IMHO, yes this ad is sexist, but also par for the course for those times. We shouldn’t retroactively tar and feather Eastern Airlines, but there’s nothing wrong in being glad that we’ve progressed from that time.

    As far as what people might find offensive 50 years from now, I nominate mileage runs: burning thousands of gallons of precious fuel in order to get status so you can burn thousands more visiting some city across the globe for 12 hours…

  51. Love the old National Airlines “Fly Me” campaign although I don’t remember it.

    Can you imagine if this campaign now would be “I’m Robert..Fly me to LA”

  52. Oh for goodness sakes…. ” i am just sooooo offended”. gimme a break ! I grew up and travelled in that era and dated gals from and in that era. They went right along with it . It was the pill era and free love. The stewardesses loved the travel opportunity and often met men of means who often became serious marriage material – i speak from experience on that.

    Can ya just stop with trying to place the PC mores of today onto the enjoyable past ?

  53. Great ads, great ethos. Hostess for a few years for pretty girls before they get married, works well. A few older ones to keep an eye on service levels. Works well for Japanese and southeast airlines, time for the west to bring it back.

  54. @Lucky said: Can anyone think of a US airline ad from any point in history that was more objectionable than this?

    Yes, Lucky, all the “Singapore Girls” ads since their sexist inception, including those in your all time favourite blog earlier.

  55. These posts really drive the nastiest people out of the woodwork. This ad is sexist and was bad in 1960 and even worse today. If you don’t think so it’s because you’re a sexist.

  56. My mom got married in 1950 to my dad. She was a teacher. She had to quit her teaching job and take a lesser paying job because the school district did not hire married women. Times have changed.

  57. If Eastern at the time were recruiting male FA’s (and that’s the only sexist part of this issue) then the rejected males would have been shown too, because they would have wanted the same adage to apply.

    In the same era the former BOAC (now BA) took 3 out of 1,000 applicants. They probably could do this because they only needed 6 crew (always 3 male, 3 female before equality) and for only 23 aircraft – worldwide! So I think Eastern were being quite generous at 20% (against 0.3% for BOAC, for the mathematicians) Incidentally Air Hostesses (their title) signed a 10 year contract after which they were terminated, with a bonus. Married Hostesses were required to leave immediately, although I know of some who continued without revealing their status. Male crew had a job until retirement. Now THAT is … was …. sexist!

    And have things changed. Not a lot.
    Reality shows routinely select the losers. (yes, I know to prolong the show and receive more $$ from the phone calls)

  58. Look far enough back and everything looks not PC. Even talk about flying, 300 years ago in Salem, and you get hanged!

  59. What must it be like to have your every thought turn into something about Trump? Talk about triggered. Good God get a grip on your TDS people. This was nothing more than a look at a 50 year old add. Kind of entertaining given there isn’t much else going on.

  60. Meltdown Mike in the comment right above mine is mad that most people don’t like our terrible president. Get over it, Meltdown Mike!

  61. Yeah. I agree with Lucky’s sentiment about “how things have changed” until I read the comments declaring “it’s not sexist at all.”

    Have we really?

  62. OMAAT: come for travel news and info, stay for the right wing trolls and a**hats.

    Lucky, you should have a line of popcorn for watching a bunch of boomers get offended at your commentary because it threatens something deep in their psychology.

    This brings out some of the worst of people. No wonder I hate so many people on airplanes.

    Also, to the individual who said trump didn’t say that people should inject bleach, well the exact quote was and to remind you, this is from a supposed genius, that because the virus is killed by disinfectant that he was advocating looking at, “a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning.” So not injecting bleach, but just disinfectant. The president doesn’t get to be sarcastic or make jokes unless they’re actually funny. This isn’t funny.

  63. @ David Kimmey: Good eye. Yes, that is indeed Ali McGraw in the front row.

    Ali appeared in both print and film ads for Eastern Airlines in the 1960’s.

  64. For all the A-holes that love to complain about what Lucky writes about……go somewhere else. It’s his Blog, he can write about whatever he wants to write about, whenever he wants to and if you don’t like it, don’t take the time to complain, just take your opinionated arse somewhere else to hate.

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