A budget carrier in Asia has pulled its controversial advertisements featuring women’s rear ends to promote discounted flights launched during International Women's Day.

Firefly, a low cost subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines, ran the ads in local newspapers and online in the run up to the March 8 day holiday that marks the accomplishments women around the world. 

But soon after they appeared, the company faced mounting criticism online and from women's groups who accused the airline of objectifying the female form in order to boost sales.  

In one, a woman seen from behind, cropped from the waist down, has “50% off” written on her behind. The text “Firefly sticks to you" appears next to the imagery. 

The ads, which were also emailed to Firefly customers and posted on social media, caught the attention of Women’s Centre for Change (WCC), an organization based in Penang, Malaysia reports Malay Mail Online.

WCC’s senior advocacy officer Melissa Mohd Akhir said Firefly’s campaign was in poor taste.

“It is clear objectification when the image featured had zoomed in presumably on the buttocks of Firefly’s own women employees in order to sell discounted tickets,” said Akhir in a statement issued to Malay Mail Online.

“In featuring this tawdry advertisement, Firefly and other airlines that have utilised [sic]similarly tasteless marketing ploys, are effectively saying that women are mere objects for ‘sale’.”

There was similar vitriol from many users on social media.  Some Facebook users called the promotional material as “sexist” and “disgusting.”

"For the record, the two ads were not just discriminatory. That's putting it in general and imprecise terms. The two ads objectified women, especially Firefly's own female flight attendants, by zeroing in on their bottoms; and they encouraged sexual harassment ("Come grab it real fast")," Adriene Leong posted on the airline's Facebook page. 

In the wake of mounting criticism, Firefly issued an apology and removed the ad from its official page on Sunday.

The airline Monday posted the following message on Twitter: “It was never our intention to be discriminatory in our advertising and we sincerely apologise for causing any offense.”