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Responsible Marketing

The Southwest Airlines Bikini Controversy

By March 10, 2009October 27th, 20218 Comments

Remember a few years ago when a woman was thrown off of a Southwest Airlines plane because her outfit was too revealing?

Imagine her surprise when Southwest launched the “SI One,” to promote Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition last month.

Southwest Airlines "SI One" featuring a Sport Illustrated swimsuit model

The airline expected controversy, but probably didn’t expect how polarizing the image would be.

A few comments on the company blog include:

Awesome!!!! Makes me want to fly SouthWest!

Kudos to Southwest for being savvy in its marketing.

Your planes are sexist and completely inappropriate. I (and my family) will NEVER FLY YOUR PLANES AGAIN!!

Looks like a Las Vegas Strip taxi cab!


So what do you think?

Is Southwest Airlines responsible or not?

Comment below to weigh in.

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. . .
Thanks to Lissa Boles for sharing this with me.

Image: Nuts About Southwest Blog

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Jeff says:

    It’s not a question of whether they’re being responsible…it’s a question of where they draw the line in selling ad space on their planes. Would they take the same money from a company that wants to put a guy in a Speedo on one of their planes? I’m guessing so. A cigarette ad? Probably not.

  • Tania says:

    Excellent point Jeff! I think it’s all about money but where do they draw their line?

    Interesting nonetheless that they have been in the news for imposing their morality on their customers yet they place such an image on their planes.

  • Mark says:

    Harmless in my opinion. Do the same people who are outraged by this cover their kids’ eyes in the supermarket when they pass the magazine rack?

    Kudos to S-west for livening things up. We Americans are too conflicted/repressed/confused when it comes to viewing a beautiful person.

    I’d love to know what the critics have to say about the millions of catalogs Victoria’s Secret sends out every year. How irresponsible are they?

  • Many people have apparently forgotten Southwest’s origins in the “free flying” 70s, when their ads featured flight attendants in hot pants. To this day, Southwest’s stock symbol is LUV. And you can see sexier outfits on Dancing With The Stars. In any case, if you’re trying to build a strong brand, it’s better to be polarizing than to be invisible (Frontier Airlines, anyone?), and a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model is about as safe as polarization gets.

  • I don’t think it matters what is painted on a plane, as long as it flies. The image is harmless, and I don’t blame Southwest Airlines for taking this on. Sports Illustrated probably paid a decent bag of nickels to get the image on the plane. As long as companies want to spend money in this economy, even if it’s on slightly controversial things, they should be free to do so without being scrutinized.

  • Chris Kraemer says:

    Bad move for SWA..they are swapping a family image for a good ol’ boy business airline image like they had in the seventies. I think images do matter when it is controvercial and in public. The same goes for magazines in check out isles. Don’t put controvercial stuff where people “have” to see it if it. They can avoid Vegas. However, the plane “will” taxi in front of their families at the airport…banal.

  • Clint says:

    Is the old adage true in this case – there’s no bad publicity except no publicity? Is this marketing campaign a success simply because we’re discussing it? After all, despite what we may think about their move to place this image on plane, they are getting their name out there in the media and people are taking notice.

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  • Vlatko D. says:

    I think it´s not the about being irresponsible in a way that there is a semi-naked woman on the plane. Here in Europe we don´t have such strict views about human nudity, it´s natural and when shown natural (which is here the case) and not vulgar I find it ok.
    BUT there is still one problem here. Passangers flying Southwest are not only men but also women – and here is the irresponsible part.
    Some planes should use pictures of men in speedos and I really doubt the Sothwest would do it and that is false!
    Making money in this financial crisis with a tastefully made photo of a man or a women on a plane – reasonable and nothing to frown about.
    And trust me, kids won´t be shocked by such a photo, they are exposed to similar sights on a beach or public swimming pool – nothing shocking or vulgar about that.

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