Last week, Air Asia was called out for sexism over a recent campaign advertising direct flights from Australia to Thailand.
Author and activist, Melinda Tankard Reist, was out and about in Brisbane when she spotted the airline’s poster emblazoned across the side of a bus which read: “Get off in Bangkok”.
She promptly shared a photograph of the divisive campaign via Twitter and tagged the National Centre of Exploitation in the post calling out the airline for sexual exploitation.
— Melinda TankardReist (@MelTankardReist) March 22, 2019
Social media users promptly took to the post to agree, as one commented: “Thank you for promoting the global ethics and Thailand from that low ethics/budget airlines”.
While others were not convinced, claiming that the advertisement did not have a double meaning:
Quite obvious its a reference to stepping off the vehicle.
— ThatoldSarge (@ThatoldS) March 26, 2019
Board the bus, get off in Thailand. I don’t see anything inappropriate about it. I think this tweet qualifies as libel.
— Curious Confucius (@alwaysconfucius) March 31, 2019
But it’s not the first time an airline has fallen under scrutiny for inappropriate advertising methods.
Virgin Atlantic’s 25th anniversary advert
Back in 2009, Virgin Atlantic celebrated its 25th anniversary with a 90-second advertisement showing an all-female cabin crew walking through an airport for the airline’s first flight in 1984.
Set to the soundtrack of ‘Relax’, countless men throughout the ad are seen ogling the women with one man so distracted that ketchup from his hamburger splatters across his shirt.
With the slogan ‘Still red hot’, the advertisement ends with two men lusting over the cabin crew.
“I need to change my job,” declares one of the men. “I need to change my ticket,” the other replies.
The Advertising Standards Authority received 29 complaints in total with claims that the £6 million campaign was ‘sexist’.
VietJet’s 2012 advertisement
Back in 2012, Vietnamese airline Vietket came under fire for asking bikini-clad women to dance down the aisle during a flight to reportedly “make passengers happy”.
The airline later used a video of the cabin crew’s divisive dance over the song ‘La Bomba Sexy’ for advertising purposes.
With over one million views and counting, the multi-million pound airline is continuing to draw in customers despite the backlash.
Virgin Atlantic’s 2013 advertisement
Fast forward to 2013 and Virgin Atlantic was in hot water once again with a second campaign accused of pushing ‘depressing stereotypes’.
The advertisement depicts children from across the globe who have ‘superpowers’ in their DNA – which they will use for good when they grow up.
Later in the clip, viewers learn that they went on to work for Virgin thanks to their special skill set.
But as one YouTuber pointed out in the comments section, the campaign only reinforces outdated stereotypes.
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“Fun advert but pushes some depressing stereotypes; white boys are destined to become pilots and engineers,” they wrote. “Black chaps and girls get to be flight attendants. It’s in their DNA. The world could benefit from more little girls aspiring to be engineers when they grow up.”
In August 2017, Kazahkstan airline Chocotravel came under fire for launching a ‘sexist’ advertising campaign featuring a naked all-female cabin crew with nothing but hats to conceal their modesty.
In defence of the controversial video, Chocotravel director Nikolay Mazentsev reportedly said: “The video is bold and shocking but we did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and regret it if it happened.”
“The advertisement shows exactly as much as you can see on any beach or in the pool. You do not attack girls in short skirts and people in swimsuits?”
There is now a second advertisement still live on the company’s YouTube channel which shows a second version of the divisive video but this time with naked male captains.
But social media users weren’t impressed with the second advertisement either, as one account tweeted: “Is something not sexist because you release a naked male version too? We’re going to say no”.
— Venus Communications (@VenusComms) August 7, 2017
Despite the online backlash, neither advertisement has been removed from YouTube.