Flight attendants and pilots for Spirit Airlines Inc. want the company to pull a series of sexually suggestive advertisements, along with a new requirement they wear a patch advertising Bud Light on service aprons.
Patricia A. Friend, head of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, complained in a letter to Spirit executives this month. When the airline refused to change the ad campaigns and the aprons were handed out Monday, the union issued a public statement Tuesday.
"I feel as though I have entered a time warp and am reliving the battles for respect and justice for women that we fought for 40 years ago," Friend said.
Some of Spirit's ads invite customers to enjoy its DD's [deep discounts] and "MILF" [many islands, low fare] specials — double entendres also referring to large breasts and a crude acronym popularized in the 1999 movie "American Pie" that describes an attractive mother.
Spirit pilots announced their support Wednesday.
Spirit spokeswoman Misty Pinson said the union was consulted last year when the carrier began the discussion on selling apron ad space, and it raised no concerns. Further, Pinson said some of the ads in question have been used for more than a year, with no customer complaints.
"Actually we've had great response from passengers that love the fares we offer through those promotions," Pinson said.
She disputed the flight attendants' characterization that the aprons made them "walking billboards," calling them "small and tasteful."
The union argues they undermine flight attendants' federal obligation to cut off drunk or unruly passengers, and are offensive to employees with religious objections to alcohol.
The apron space is available in Spirit's larger push to sell advertising in any plausible format — including seat-back trays, overhead bins, napkins and cups. Spirit, located in the Miami suburb of Miramar, Fla., describes itself as "ultra low-cost." It does not offer any complimentary snacks, beverages or checked bags.
The company has a history of off-color advertising. In 2006, it was forced to pull a promotion called "The Hunt for Hoffa," playing off the FBI's search for Jimmy Hoffa's remains, after receiving customer complaints.
Other recent campaigns include the "Threesome Sale" and December's "Cheap and Easy and Nothing to Hide" sale.
"These initiatives not only support continued growth of the company, but also help keep secure jobs for our valued employees, at a time when the airline industry continues to cut capacity and jobs," Spirit said in a statement.