God’s Not Their Copilot Anymore

For 30 years, Alaska Airlines gave passengers a card to read while eating their in-flight meals:

(Because, as we all know, Jesus holds the plane in the air…)

Even though only first class passengers have received the cards over the past few years, no one will be seeing them much longer. As of February 1st, Alaska Airlines is getting rid of them:

Airline spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said the airline heard from customers who preferred not to mix religion with transportation. The decision reflects respect for the diverse religious beliefs and cultural attitudes of Alaska Airlines’ customers and employees, the company said in announcing the change.

“Some customers were comforted by the cards and some didn’t feel religion was appropriate on the plane and preferred not to receive one,” she said.

For a long time, Alaska Airlines got more positive comments than negatives ones. But lately, opinion has shifted.

In an email to frequent flyers, AA Execs explained their reasoning this way:

… This difficult decision was not made lightly. We believe it’s the right thing to do in order to respect the diverse religious beliefs and cultural attitudes of all our customers and employees.

Some of you enjoy the cards and associate them with our service. We also know some of you consider the cards to be a tradition that reflects your own spiritual beliefs. At the same time, we’ve heard from many of you who believe religion is inappropriate on an airplane, and some are offended when we hand out the cards. Religious beliefs are deeply personal and sharing them with others is an individual choice.

It’s their decision whether to give them away or not, but it’s nice to know they’re responding to customer preferences and that customers are complaining about it.

Either that, or they’re just trying to save money wherever they can and the Christian cards are low on the list of priorities.

The comment of the day came from one Redditor:

And, in case you’ve never heard it, comedian David Cross did a bit on the Christian cards in 1999, wondering why Alaska Airlines felt the need to give him one:



About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe the cracks in christian privilege are finally getting a bit wider. 

  • Anonymous

    Maybe the cracks in christian privilege are finally getting a bit wider. 

  • http://www.bricewgilbert.blogspot.com Brice Gilbert

    I’ve only ever flown Alaska the 4 times I’ve flown and I missed this? Probably because I’ve never ordered food on a plane before.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=527580163 Elizabeth Klein

      First class only…

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=527580163 Elizabeth Klein

      First class only…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-A-Anderson/100000016895400 John A. Anderson

    If they really want to freak people out, distribute Islamic literature aboard the plane.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-A-Anderson/100000016895400 John A. Anderson

    If they really want to freak people out, distribute Islamic literature aboard the plane.

  • d’Armond

    “religion is inappropriate on an airplane”? Really? That’s what they think the problem was? Not shoving it down the throats of their passengers without regard for their various beliefs or preferences? These are customers who are paying for a service that has nothing to do with religion, not people seeking spiritual guidance. What idiots.

  • Liz Heywood

    God was my co-pilot but we crashed in the Andes and I had to eat him.

  • Liz Heywood

    God was my co-pilot but we crashed in the Andes and I had to eat him.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    I think its weirder that it was first-class only thing. Do they think that only first-class people deserve religious comfort and protection? Did they think that first-class people must all surely be good Christians, but the rabble in economy-class probably isn’t?

    • http://profiles.google.com/tychabrahe Lauren Eve Pomerantz

      Probably only the first class cabin got meals.

  • Alex

    Reminded me of Louis CK’s show… “Uhhhh… Ladies and gentlemen… uuhh this is your captain speaking… we will be experiencing a bit of turbulence as we try to go over the storm… may god have mercy on our souls.”

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RZ5VEXJ3IYNGQBHI5APT4DETJI FSq

    I grew up in Alaska, and in a part of the state where you flew for basketball games, or any other sort of school activity, and flying between Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Petersburg was a normal thing for me. Back in the day, AA would feed and water the stinking masses back in the coach cabin, and yes, they did indeed include lil’ prayer cards with the meals (and back in the day, AA meals were damn good!)

    I also remember AA would have cards printed in Inupiat, Yupik, Tlingit, Haida, and a variety of other native languages, which was pretty cool.

    But yes, it is time to put this stale idea to bed. No one needs a forced prayer with their dry lasagna and shitty red wine in the first class cabin anymore!

  • http://profiles.google.com/tychabrahe Lauren Eve Pomerantz

    It was probably a cost cutting measure more than anything else.  Each pound of cargo an airplane carries require about 1/2 a pound of fuel for a midrange flight.  The apocryphal story  is from the 1970s, when one airline eliminated a single lettuce leaf intended as decoration from its meal service and saved $1 million over the course of the year.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Since I just chastised Jessie for a useless alt attribute on the next story, I should say the card had:

    I will praise God’s name in song and glorify Him with thanksgiving.
    PSALM 69:30

    (In all fairness, you’re pretty good at giving us the text of things Hemant- and it can’t be easy with your hectic schedule)

  • Anonymous

    This is a bit of a personal victory for me.  I grew up in Alaska and have been flying Alaska Airlines all of my life.  I used to fly them so much that I was an MVP Gold and would, most of the time, automatically be upgraded to first class.  I hated the prayer cards!  Many years ago, I wrote them an email about being offended and they essentially said that they operated under Christian principles and the cards were there to stay.  I even scanned one of the cards and sent it to the FFRF.  I’m glad to see these go.

    While I would like to think that this was done for tolerance sake, the skeptic in me tends to agree with other sentiments that this was simply a cost cutting measure. 

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Why stop now, with just 11 months to go before Armegeddon?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Give this one opening to Satan, and before you know it you’ll have snakes on a plane!

    • http://twitter.com/FelyxLeiter Felyx Leiter

      I’ve had it with these motherf*cking cards on this motherf*cking plane!

  • Diablo Scott

    Here’s an idea:  when you buy your ticket on-line, they could have a box to check that would display a selection of religious messages for you to print out and bring on the plane with you!

  • Anonymous
  • et

    so as a super opinionated new yorker born to a non religious culturally jewish family, this floored me the first time I saw it.  blown away.  then not a month later i sat next to Jim Ayer, CEO of Alaska airlines and got the first hand scoop, which I will share here because of the goal of this site.  basically he was newly chairman of the board and the board is old, christian and conservative.  there wasn’t enough love or hate mail to make people change behavior, so it wasn’t impacting their bottom line. and he wasn’t going to pick this fight to win.  he told me (this was three years ago or s0) that eventually it would just take care of itself.  it was really cool to get the inside scoop.

    Oh, and also this is not a first class thing it’s a tray thing.  if they still served trays in coach, it would have been on there too.


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