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Airline Mismanagement

Would you be persuaded to fly one airline instead of the other based on the slogans each tags to their advertising?

And even if you read and think about the slogan, what do many of them truly mean?  Is there any point in them?

 
 
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An Introduction to Airline Slogans

Misdirected corporate vanity or valid marketing tools?
 

Offering speed, comfort and regularity - until one sees this poster from probably the 1940s one might think the slogan is promoting a laxative rather than an airline.

Part 1 of a series on Airline Slogans - please also visit the other pages linked on the right

 

 

Companies sometimes seem to place too more time and effort into designing their logo, letterhead, and slogan, while sometimes giving way too little attention to their business basics.

One has to wonder how much airline resource goes into formulating their slogans, and how much good it does them.

But, whether they are truly useful or not for the airlines, they can sometimes be a source of interest and unintended mirth for us.

Here we list the largest airline slogan collection of anywhere on the internet.

What This List Comprises

On these pages we've collated more than 560 different slogans, taglines, and other brief advertising/promotional phrases from more than 200 airlines over the world and over the ages.  We have airlines from all twenty six letters of the alphabet, from all continents, and from all eras of aviation.

The earliest airline slogan?

The earliest slogan that can be accurately dated is a Delta slogan from 1929 ("Speed, Comfort and Safety").  Interestingly, that slogan was replaced only a few years later by a new slogan "Speed, Comfort and Convenience" and since that time, we've found only one other reference to safety, even though the industry has become extremely safe.

Update - here now is a copy of an advertisement from London's Daily Mail of 5 June, 1926 (click on thumbnail for a larger complete image).

It is debatable if the phrase at the top - "For Safety, Comfort & Speed - travel by Air" is indeed a slogan or not, but being as how it is from 1926, we'll give it the benefit of the doubt and name this, to date, the earliest slogan we've found.  (Thanks to Brett Holman of airminded.org for locating this image.)

There are of course earlier slogans than this, but this is the earliest one we have yet sighted.

Update - now here's a poster that may well be the truly very oldest airline advertisement ever.  It dates back to 1919, well before most airlines had started flying.  As you can probably tell, it is promoting KLM, and I've consensus translated the text (based on the opinions of a number of native and non-native Dutch speakers) to read

The Businessman
Travels....
Sends (mails)....
Receives....
per (with/via/by) Air Express
KLM

At the bottom it spells out the name KLM (which means Royal Airline Company) and then says for (of the) Netherlands and Colonies.

The reference to sending and receiving almost certainly refers to airmail letters.  Planes back then were too small and too few for air freight services.

Update :  Here is one more old poster, relating to Aeromarine West Indies Airways, a company that began the first scheduled international passenger and airmail service in the US, starting service between Key West and Havana on 1 November, 1920.

The company is known to have operated for some years in the early 1920s, and and ceased operations in early 1924.  So this poster is older than the Delta poster, but not as old as the KLM poster.

 

Airline Safety in slogans

Back to safety issues, little reference to safety has been made after the brief lived Delta 1929 slogan that said "Speed, Comfort and Safety" although there is also a coy reference that hints at safety from Braniff in 1937 "2 engines, 2 way radio, 2 pilots, 2 rudders for smoother flying".

It is interesting to note though that with the uncovering of these other two airline posters and slogans, the three words 'speed, comfort, safety' were being promoted by all airlines in the 1920s.

But beyond that, claims about safety have been largely absent from airline slogans.  And when they have been implied rather than overtly stated, their subsequent contradiction (in the form of a plane crash) has sometimes had far reaching events.

In particular, perhaps one of the reasons for the cessation of Concorde services was the profound embarrassment Air France and British Airways felt when the plane that they'd always, sotto voce, lauded for being so incredibly safe and having a perfect safety record (achieved as much by there being so few planes in service with so few total flight hours accumulated) suffered such a spectacularly visceral crash on take-off in Paris, captured so vividly on video for the entire world to agonize over.

Other slogans have come from just about every part of the evolution of the airline industry in the 90+ years since this first dated slogan, which itself was released less than ten years since the start of commercial air services (ie shortly after World War 1, in about 1920 or thereabouts).

Many Slogans are Very Similar

Note the similarity of both these Delta slogans mentioned in the preceding section, taken from 1929 and then some time in the 1930s, to the slogan seen on an ANA baggage tag in 1936 and printed on a Pan Am ticket in 1939 and then to the New Zealand airline poster pictured at the top, taken from either the 1940s or early 1950s.

And all of these date back to the advertisement above from 1926.

The original "Safety, Comfort & Speed" becomes "Speed, Comfort and Safety" then  "Speed, Comfort and Convenience", then becomes "Speed Safety Comfort" in Australia in 1936, then "Speed - Comfort - Dependability" with Pan Am and then reappears as "Speed, Comfort and Regularity" in New Zealand.

For another example, compare Air India's slogan 'Your Palace in the Sky' with Air Pacific's "Your Island in the Sky", Biman Bangladesh Airlines' "Your Home in the Air" and even Air New Zealand's "The Ritz of the Skies".  Great minds think alike (or fools seldom differ)?  Coincidence or copying?

Public and Private Battles of Words

Sometimes these similarities have occasioned friction between carriers (for example, Lufthansa felt that BA's slogan "The Way to Fly" was too similar to its long standing slogan "There's No Better Way to Fly").

Perhaps the similarities are sometimes accidental, and perhaps sometimes they are unavoidable (there are, after all, only so many ways to promote very similar concepts in a small number of words), but there are also times when one airline will directly choose a slogan to poke fun at other airlines, either as an 'insider joke' (such things can infuriate one airline's board room while delighting another, in a manner rather reminiscent to juvenile school boys calling each other names) or as an obvious public jibe.

Consider, for example, Hawaiian Airlines tilt at its competitors "Only One Airline is Hawaiian" (which refers only to its name rather than its ownership or base of operations).  You'll find other examples as you read through the slogan pages.

Two Engines or Four?

Sir Richard Branson's chosen iconoclastic persona is well displayed by some of the slogans adopted by his Virgin Atlantic Airways airline (such as "4 Engines 4 Longhaul" - touting what was hinted at being a greater safety/reliability of the Virgin four engined planes (747 and A340) compared to competitors with two engined planes (eg 767 and 777).

There's an interesting further twist to the Virgin slogan.  Back in the late 1930s, Imperial Airways (an antecedent of British Airways, the arch-competitor of Virgin's) had two slogans it was using - "4 Engines for Security" and "Four Engined Air Liners" - meaning that BA had now reversed position from promoting four engines to now being tweaked by another airline that preferred/promoted four engines.

This tale continues.  In mid 2009, Virgin Atlantic announced that it would start flying some long-haul routes using twin engined planes.  Its earlier slogan is now being quietly forgotten about.

The Evolution of Slogans

We can see, by derivation, some of the evolution of the airline industry through the slogans it chooses to use, as well as of course needing to appreciate the slogans in the social context of the time in which they were created.

Discussed earlier was the fleeting reference to safety.  Other casualties of time have been promises of on-time reliability, and even speed - another surprising omission in an industry which, on the face of it, has been offering increasingly fast transportation over the decades (a DC3 cruised at 150 mph with a typical range of under 1500 miles, a modern jet can cruise almost four times faster and up to six times further).

Some styles have evolved, others have revolved.  Slogans have gone from short to long and back to short again.  Racy slogans with double entendres were popular for a while around the 1970s, but no longer are as popular.

Product and feature based slogans have largely disappeared as well - perhaps because the airlines nowadays have very little to boast about.  Instead we have empty and meaningless slogans that mirror the emptiness of the airlines themselves - what does "Good Goes Around" mean, for example (other than being an unfortunate 'insider' joke - a 'Go Around' in pilot parlance refers to an aborted landing - something that is never desirable and seldom good).

Evolution as improvement

We also see slogans that evolve in a sense of improving on the earlier slogan.  Sometimes a word or two will be removed to 'tighten up' a slogan or make it more meaningful and impactful.

Other times, a slogan is simply improved upon, like for example Wien Air Alaska and their substitution of "Alaska's First Airline" for the earlier slogan, "Alaska's Oldest Airline".  Being thought of as the original or first airline is perhaps a good thing, but being thought of as old is probably not such a good thing - this was clearly a positive evolution in slogan.

Product/Feature vs Benefit Slogans

A basic tenet of marketing is that you express the features of your product in terms of benefits to the person who may buy the product.  For example, rather than advertising 'our airline arrives as scheduled 95% of the time' you might advertise 'you can rely on our airline and plan your itinerary with confidence'; instead of offering 'more generous seat spacing' you'd promote 'more room to stretch out in', and so on.

You'll see some of these slogans are strongly product/feature oriented - perhaps reflecting the mindset of the earlier airline managers, who tended to come from a military or engineering background.  But as the products and features erode in value, you'll see slogans talking more about benefits, and as even the benefits too erode, slogans start to concentrate more on meaningless statements that are offered as 'feel good' concepts.

In truth, the greatest amount of 'feel good' sensation these offer is probably at the advertising agencies generating huge fees for such 'branding and positioning statements' and the boardrooms of the airlines where the directors and senior officers feel good about having a new tag line to boast of.  As for those of us who read the slogans and fly the planes, the slogans are meaningless.  Which airline would you choose - the airline that says "It's time to fly" or the airline that says "Flying through the air" - of course, neither slogan has any sense or value to us at all.

Slogans to Achieve a Specific Objective

Sometimes an airline will launch a new slogan because of some change or new feature.

The purchase or upgrade of planes, adding new routes, or buying out/merging with another airline are all examples of these types of slogans.

This can be a good use of a slogan - another way to register a particular point with readers/listeners/viewers.

Part 1 of a series on Airline Slogans - please also visit the other pages linked at the top right of this article.

 

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Originally published 21 Aug 2009, last update 19 Dec 2013

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
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