Missing the proverbial boat

Low-cost carrier AirTran (formerly ValuJet) is running a promotion in partnership with Sports Illustrated, featuring the magazine’s famed swimsuit edition.  To this end, AirTran has bedecked one of its 737s with the following swimsuit-clad figure.

Said adornment has caused the AirTran chapter of the Association of Flight Attendants to note its displeasure, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (and also via Gawker):

“It is our feeling that this is not only contrary to the family image that this company tries to promote, but also potentially offensive to their female employees, the majority of their flight attendants who will have to work on this aircraft,” the union said, adding that it “creates a potential for verbal abuse by male passengers.”

— Yamanouchi, Kelly.  “Flight attendants protest AirTran swimsuit plane.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2 March 2010.

The airline feels, correctly, that a swimsuit-clad lady ornamenting a single aircraft fuselage is not unduly concupiscent.  Being in the tradition of beautiful yet tasteful Second World War bomber nose art; or the even more recent revival by Virgin Atlantic.  Which is some twenty-five years old now, and your correspondent is not aware of any swimsuit-lady-driven spike in male-initiated verbal abuse of female flight attendants in Virgin’s operating history.

Considering that such art adorns every Virgin Atlantic aircraft (and there are some 37 of them), one must, by the Association’s reckoning, assess the risk to those cabin crews as being several times greater than that borne by AirTran.

One may also wish to remind the Association that the swimsuit lady was on the outside of the aircraft, so the time of the greatest risk of inappropriate male behaviour was pre-boarding, while the AirTran 737 was at the gate and the passengers were still outside the aircraft, capable of seeing the woman on the fuselage.  After boarding, the greatest risk is to the cabin crews on adjacent aircraft, whose passengers still have a shot at seeing the swimsuit-clad woman on the 737’s exterior.

But that is all based on the Association of Flight Attendants’ fatuous reckoning of human nature.  In reality where adults dwell, the Association’s biggest blunder lay in focusing on the symptom, not the cause.

Swimsuit-clad ladies painted on airplanes are not the problem.  The airline trying to lure male passengers by dangling a pathetic chance of chatting with SI swimsuit models on a flight from New York to Vegas, plus two weekend parties with same, is the problem.

Party with the SI Swimsuit Models in Las Vegas!

Is Sports Illustrated your favorite magazine? What about the Swimsuit edition? Well if you love both, this is the event of a lifetime. Travel on AirTran Airways with the 2010 Sport Illustrated Swimsuit models from New York to Las Vegas for the party of the year! One winner and their guest will fly on AirTran Airways along with SI Swimsuit Models featured in the 2010 SI Swimsuit issue.

The winner will receive

  • Airfare for two (2) to New York to board the flight to Las Vegas
  • A two (2) night hotel stay in Las Vegas
  • Two (2) tickets to the SI Swimsuit On Location Party at the The Mirage Resort & Casino
  • Two (2) tickets to the Club SI Swimsuit Party at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

— “AirTran Airways Sports Illustrated® Swimsuit Fly Away Sweepstakes—Official Rules.” AirTran Airways, 2010.  Web.  2 March 2010.

So, the SI swimsuit models were contractually obligated to fly from New York to Las Vegas with the contest winners, and probably also to mingle with them a teeny bit at said SI-sponsored parties (all of this having wrapped up, in actuality, by February 12th, 2010).

To be blunt, the contest involves flying across the country in order to converse with contractually-obligated attractive women in three carefully controlled situations.  The only chaps this is likely to appeal to are those that don’t think they have a shot at chatting with any locally-derived attractive women who can stay or depart at their own leisure.  And such chaps might, indeed, decide to make a play for a flight attendant, or behave inappropriately.  If that were to happen, however, it would have nothing at all to do with a woman being painted on a 737 fuselage, and everything to do with the contest which caused that woman to be painted on the fuselage.  And the management which endorsed said contest, which would be properly understood as the root cause.

Rather than start a round of hand-waving over something utterly inconsequential, AirTran’s members of the Association of Flight Attendants would be much better advised to address the root, and not a mere symptom.

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