Flying is a Mother

Andrew Sullivan continues his “Creepy Ad Watch” series with this old American Airlines ad with the slogan “Think of her as your mother.”

American Airlines Think of Her as Your Mother

I’ve seen that one before and, indeed, even used it to illustrate my “Fly the Unfriendly Skies” post a couple years back.  I noted then that,

I despise flying despite having done it routinely since I was 6 months old. And it’s getting worse rather than better.

The problem, I think, is that flying has become a commodity. Aside from frequent flier programs and other incentives, most of us book our travel based entirely on cost and scheduling convenience. Carriers that offer better service (larger seats, decent meals, more generous baggage allowances, friendlier waitresses, and so forth) simply can’t pass on the costs in that environment, leading to a race to the bottom. Those who truly want — and can afford — a good experience fly First Class. Otherwise, you’re essentially on a flying Greyhound bus.

Having just returned from Tuscon via Minneapolis, I’d note that First Class* ain’t what it used to be, either.

For one thing, most of the Airbus planes have boarding from the front of the plane rather than aft of the First Class cabin, which means you’re basically trapped in your seat during the interminable boarding procedure.   I swear that on shorter flights it takes longer to get people and their giant roll-on bags crammed into the plane and back off again than it does wheels up to wheels down.

For another, the transformation from “stewardess” to “flight attendant” to “Flight Crew Whom You Must Obey According to FAA Regulations” has yielded a crop of grumpier and less service oriented sky waitresses.


*Flying with an infant, it’s generally cheaper — whether in dollars or frequent flier miles — to get two First Class seats than three in coach.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    This gives the “MILF” term another new meaning.

  2. tom p says:

    never having flown much, I always expected it be an uncomfertable experience, and was never dissappointed. Funny thing is riding on a first class Mexican bus is far more pleasent even with the 3 am wake ups at drug checkpoints (usually while in a sleep induced stupor and with soldiers with fully automatic weapons speaking in a language I am barely adequate with)

    Even the chicken buses at least have the trade off of amusing anecdotes one can relate years later.

  3. Highlander says:


    As you noted,the Airline business has been turned into a commodity business, completely driven by price and scheduling.PERIOD.

    This process was kicked off by airline deregulation in the late 1970’s. The main architects of your deregulated travel experience were those two political geniuses Jimmy Carter and Theodore Kennedy.

    We the American people opted for dirt cheap air travel. Now we have it. There are no free rides in life. The price of cheap tickets is a crummy travel experience. Eventually,there will be no more than three airlines in the country. They will be competing to give the worse service at the cheapest price.

    As of this weekend,the same thing is about to happen to you and your family’s medical care. Enjoy! Health care will not be about comfort. It will be about your family’s life and death. Care will be rationed. Lot’s of luck,on getting what you and your family need.

  4. 11B40 says:


    I’m old enough to remember going to the airport just to check out the planes and the stewardesses whom we did not ever think of as our mothers. Unfortunately, the industry has come into line with its previous propaganda and now most stewardesses do make me think of my mother, visually and otherwise, and not on any of her better days.

  5. Janis Gore says:

    My mama was a pretty good-looking girl, but she didn’t look like that.