Airline: No prayer card for you

A story from the Northwest today reminded me of the show Mad Men, where you might imagine executives from the show's advertising agency coming up with the perfect perk for airline passengers in the 1960s. You could almost see Don Draper talking about why offering prayer cards for passengers offers a sense of nostalgia, tapping into a deeper bond with a product.

Anyway, here's the 2012 story from the Associated Press:

Alaska Airlines is ending decades of giving passengers prayer cards with their meals, saying Wednesday the decision was made out of respect for all passengers.

Airline spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said the airline heard from customers who preferred not to mix religion with transportation. The decision reflects respect for the diverse religious beliefs and cultural attitudes of Alaska Airlines’ customers and employees, the company said in announcing the change.

My immediate reaction was "What? A company would still do this?" Reuters notes how many of the Facebook commentators appear to be upset, though you might expect the people who are upset over change would take the time to comment. I'm somewhat curious if leaders in the airline had religious ties 30 years ago, but it looks like it was simply a marketing technique. The Seattle Times offers this little history detail:

Many people assumed the idea came from former CEO Bruce Kennedy, who did missionary work after leaving Alaska Airlines, but it was actually a marketing executive who brought the idea over from Continental Airlines.

The piece leads with a somewhat humorous story of how an annoyed businessman would recite the prayers out loud--until after 9/11, that is. I also thought these added details were helpful.

Only first-class passengers have received the cards since 2006, when Alaska stopped providing meals on trays to customers in coach.

Even now, the cards appear only on flights longer than four hours, when they can be presented on a meal tray as they always have been, said spokeswoman Bobbie Egan.

The decision was made by top Alaska officials last fall and is not related to a frequent-flier partnership announced last week with the Dubai-based airline Emirates, she said.

Interesting timing, nonetheless. Businesses that feature religious text include Forever 21 and In-N-Out Burgers that print John 3:16 on their bags and cups (you thought Tim Tebow started it?). Still, I'm guessing fewer business offer such explicit religious messages anymore.

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