Near-Nude Lady to Decrease Southwest’s Popularity?

Posted March 5, 2009 by Nicki Krawczyk

The upside of loyalty and popularity is pretty obvious. The downside of popularity and loyalty? People feel very possessive of you. They take the things you do personally. And they have no qualms about making it known.

Case in point: Southwest’s decision to plaster a shot of model Bar Rafaeli in a swimsuit on one of its planes to advertise the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. In response, Southwest has received a hailstorm of criticism by people who have never seen a woman in a bikini before—ahem—by people who are offended by what they see as gratuitous sexuality on the side of a Southwest plane.


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In a letter which will now forever link the words “boobies” and “Chris and Sharon Kraemer” on Google, the disapproving Midlothian, Texas, couple wrote to the airline, “Many women do not enjoy having their husbands exposed to explicit pictures or explaining to young children why the lady on the plane is 'showing her boobies'."

(Factual insertion: she’s wearing a top. A triangle bikini top to be sure, but a top, nonetheless.)

A quick perusal of the Southwest blog has turned up fewer specific anatomical mentions, but plenty of people who find this ad technique “tacky”, “trash” and not “family friendly” (sic). Oh the rage.

Okay, I get this. There’s a difference between having sexuality thrust in your face on the newsstands and on a great big ol’ plane at the airport. However, this isn’t much different than what you’d find on the beach. (No different at all if the beach happened to be populated by gigantic women.) And, to Southwest’s credit, the picture is relatively tasteful; Rafaeli is lying on her side and giving the camera a look that isn’t so much “come hither” as confused and vaguely annoyed.

But the people in opposition to this campaign obviously care deeply about Southwest. They feel loyal to Southwest. And now Southwest has betrayed them. On the blog, poster Jim Dawson has this to say: “I'm acutally sort of let down that Southwest, a company I really admire, would stoop this low.” (sic) while Kevin says, “Having a woman in a bikini on the side of the plane hardly seems like the epitome of the friendly, down-home airline I've grown accustomed to.” And there you have the negative aspect of a strong customer base: When you try to break out of the box, you’re going to tick people off. When you tick people off who used to love you, they can become just as rabid opponents as they had been supporters.

Could Southwest’s publicity- and income-garnering antics alienate enough of a base that it could cost them market share? Well, let’s put it this way: There’s a reason that politicians change their message based on what they think their biggest audiences want to hear. They want to stay in office...and Southwest wants to stay in the skies.

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Reader Comments

What surprises me most is not that an airline put a hottie on the side of their plane, but that said airline wasn't named Spirit.

Posted on March 05, 2009 at 02:28 PM by Zak Patten

This is one of the funniest things I've read in a long time. I love the snarky commentary, Nicki.

Posted on March 08, 2009 at 12:43 PM by Josh

I would like to get further info.Thank you.

Posted on March 21, 2009 at 09:53 PM by Simonn

Give me a break pepole need to get a life she should be proud of the work that she has accomplished! she is not naked and i dont think southwest has done anything wrong. and if your man or child can not handle this i woudl shelter then from everything

Posted on March 25, 2009 at 07:57 AM by Ttato

I too am shocked to see this mural on the outside of a plane. The proper place would be on the inside of the cabin. Certain seats could have a higher price and would be sold out.

Posted on May 28, 2009 at 06:31 AM by DA

Why do we always have to be bombarded with "sex", "sexy", or the likes everywhere we go? There are many more important things to portray to our world and to our families than something like this? What kind of statement are you truly trying to make?

Posted on July 27, 2009 at 02:43 PM by vicki

I for one, think it is cool. I haven't seen a paint scheme as nice since the Boeing 747 built for All Nippon Airways, sporting a whale, and all kinds of sea life. Dull aircraft should be delegated to dull people. I fly SWA every chance I get. They still fly totally american made aircraft.

Posted on August 30, 2009 at 03:09 PM by bob graves

I too am disappointed in this ad on the side of the plane. I have flown many times with Southwest and brought teenagers with me. I think this is very poor taste.

Posted on February 18, 2010 at 03:02 PM by Jim Hoffman

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