Airline discontinues prayer cards on some flights

As if air travel weren’t stressful enough already, now some travelers will be flying on a wing, but not a prayer.  An airline tradition is coming to an end:

Alaska Airlines’ prayer cards always offended Gordon Bowker, not because the Seattle businessman cared what religion they represented, but because they suggested in-flight prayer was a good idea.

“I’d get a clutch in my stomach when I read it,” said Bowker, who co-founded Starbucks and Redhook Ale Brewery.

“My reasoning was, if they put that card on the plate, they must be worried that something bad was going to happen. If they’re worried, I’m worried.”

So, Bowker took the ornery road and began reciting the prayers in his most resonant voice.

“I could respectfully remain silent, but it’s their prayer and here we go — better to be safe,” he joked. “We’d be flying along, and I’d say, ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.’ ”

The recitation provoked various responses, from deep embarrassment in one of his regular flying partners to nods and smiles from some fellow passengers to begging from flight attendants for him to stop.

Bowker did stop after Sept. 11, 2001, because he did not want to get kicked off a plane.

Now he won’t have to stomach the cards at all.

Alaska Airlines will end its 30-plus-year tradition of presenting prayer cards on customers’ meal trays next Wednesday.

Only first-class passengers have received the cards since 2006, when Alaska stopped providing meals on trays to customers in coach.

Even now, the cards appear only on flights longer than four hours, when they can be presented on a meal tray as they always have been, said spokeswoman Bobbie Egan.

The decision was made by top Alaska officials last fall and is not related to a frequent-flier partnership announced last week with the Dubai-based airline Emirates, she said.

Read more.


  1. “My reasoning was…”

    I doubt it. What a pitiful man, so bent on resisting God that he has recourse to desperate public mockery. What pitiful Christians, that evidently no one seized the opportunity to join him in prayer, transforming blasphemy into worship.

  2. They should send the remaining cards to Costa cruise line….

  3. We always say a little prayer for a safe trip whenever we go out of town (road trips, we don’t fly much). Just seems prudent, also helps focus one’s attention on safe driving.
    Unless there is something else on the back of the cards pictured here, I don’t see anything in these quotes from the Psalms to scare anyone. Rather uplifting; wouldn’t you want that on a flight?

  4. When last I flew a UAE airline, a prayer was said (in Arabic only) for the safety of our travels just before we took off….

  5. I remember those cards. They were nice. What a pity.

  6. This reminds me of the first time I flew to the States from my home country. In 1983, I flew on Aer Lingus (the national airlines of Ireland), we landed at JFK airport in New York and everyone on the plane started to clap their hands. My first thought was, everyone was surprised we made it so they congratulated the pilot, but I am more inclined to think we clapped because the prayer we said at takeoff for a safe flight was answered. In the years between then and now I have flown a lot of different airlines both within the States and internationally and never once have I heard clapping when we have landed. So, if you are on a flight and you hear that one person clapping when we land – that’s me. Slainte.

  7. Maurice- I have heard the round of applause on almost every flight to or from Puerto Rico over the years.

  8. I know I’ve heard clapping on landing, but not what airline that was. I fly Aer Lingus fairly often myself, so maybe that’s where I hear it. Never gave it much thought.

    But I do have a funny prayer on planes story. In September 1987 I took a British Air flight to London. It’s long been my own practice to recite (silently) the Benedictus on take off and the Magnificat on landing and I was prepared for that. However, on my very diverse flight the following happened (no joke!). I was seated at the left end of the fourth row of the main coach passenger area of a jumbo jet. To my left (i.e., across the aisle from me) the first and second rows were filled with Hasidic families, the men easily identifiable by their clothing. In my section the extreme right of the first row had about 5 Arab men, in their distinctive attire (headcoverings with those circular bands around the crown). As the plane left the gate and began to taxi, the Hasidic men stood up and began that rocking motion that they use when praying. And the Arabs also stood up and bowed (I guess there was no room for kneeling). Then from behind me I heard a low pitched rhythmic mumbling sound. Looking behind me I saw an Indian family (mother, father, boy of around 12) and they were chanting something. And, as I turned around the face forward again, I noticed that immediately across the aisle from me an older woman was praying the Rosary. That was one flight I didn’t worry too much about!

    I guess the next thing to go will be the hotel room Bible, if it hasn’t gone already.

  9. We never lest on a trip without saying a prayer with our family. On longer vaction trips, we would often say the rosary as well. Our kids knew to have their rosary with them. Recently went on a trip with my son and his family and noticed when we put on our seat belts, he pulled out his rosary and so did our grandkids.

  10. Gordon Bowker is successful at creating a product that has made him wealthy and enjoyed by millions. Yet, he is offended by a prayer to his Creator. How sad!

  11. I have never seen one. I’m surprised airlines ever did this. From an airline’s point of view I can see how this projects a lack of confidence in their capability. If I were an airlines CEO, from a marketing perspective I would not have them out for passengers. Passengers would surely be free to pray on their own.

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