Flight Attendants and more

Written by Al Meder

The crew are unquestionably a critical component for a safe and pleasurable flight.

This starts up front with the cockpit crew.  A few airlines have issued playing cards with a cockpit view.  Japan Air System (JAS) is shown below.

Swedish carrier, Novair, and more recently, China Airlines, have issued a cockpit view with the crew.   Before 9/11 it was possible to sit in the cockpit jump seat as a passenger if you had the right connections. In late 1999 I was invited up to sit in the jump seat on a British Airways flight flying in to London from Chicago.  What a view, and at the time – the London skyline was dominated by the huge Millennium Dome Ferris Wheel built for the Millennium celebrations.

However, it’s the flight attendants that are front and center with the passengers.   Many airlines have highlighted flight attendants on their playing cards.

Braniff Airways, the long defunct US carrier, issued a wonderful pair of playing cards in the late 1940’s showing a flight attendant with a silver tray and silver tea-service.  One deck is brown and the other one blue. These were the first decks featuring flight attendants that I’m aware of.

Flight attendants continue to this day to be a popular topic of playing cards issued by airlines.  The examples below are just a few:

Top Row: Sterling Airways (Denmark), Singapore Airlines, 2 x Air Asia (Malaysia), Aer Lingus (Ireland) Bottom Row: Singapore Airlines, Thai International; 2 x ANA (Japan), Aer Lingus (Ireland)

One of the China Airlines annual set of 12 designs featuring flight attendants was issued in 2008.  This is a sought-after series of playing cards.  Single decks can be found from time to time on eBay and elsewhere.

Singapore Airlines has featured close-up shots of “Singapore Girls” and shots of flight attendants in various scenic and not so scenic locations.

Many other airlines have featured flight attendants include this older design from Cathay Pacific Airways showing the crew standing alongside a Lockheed 1011.

Interior views of the passenger compartment are hard to find on playing cards. Brazilian carrier, Varig, issued this design of the interior view of its DC-10.

In 2003 Singapore Airlines started to promote their Krisworld entertainment service.  What better way than introduce playing cards to help with the promotion?  Ironically, electronic entertainment has become so dominant and this has reduced the demand for playing cards. But airlines should understand that electronic entertainment is “for the moment” and playing cards can provide advertising repeatedly over many years each time the cards are played with.

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Promoting Travel Destinations

Written by Al Meder

Promotion of new destinations has always been popular topic for playing cards issued by the airlines for obvious reasons.

Perhaps the most iconic are the late 1920’s Imperial Airways designs showing an Imperial Airways biplane over the Egyptian Pyramids on the multistep flight from London to Basra, Iraq.

Some of these cards were issued in a neat little leather holder with a snap closure.  The Imperial Airways and logo were hot-stamped in gold on the surface of the leather.

It is the years after World War 2 that destination cards became more popular, the result of passenger aviation changing from focusing on transporting businesspeople and movie stars, to the larger aircraft when promotion of taking families on vacation became an important goal.  No doubt, the introduction of the wide-body aircraft and the Boeing 747 in particular bought prices down and started the upward surge of passenger traffic on the airlines.

In the late 1960s and through the 1970s, Singapore Airlines contracted with local artist Seah Kim Joo to paint a series of destinations Singapore Airlines flew to in the 1970’s. The designs to the left are just part of the series – take a guess what destinations they represent. The Seah Kim Joo playing cards are popular with collectors as there are multiple variations in the colors and designs with later printings.

Scandinavian airline, Conair, has issued a series of playing cards showing vacation destinations. Most of these cards have design variations as well, so a serious collector needs to hunt to find them.

St Louis-based Ozark Airlines had a wonderful set of playing cards featuring cities and states they served.    What is of further interest is that Ozark had two versions of each destination, usually a color change of the graphics. Ozark Airlines, based in St Louis was purchased by TWA in 1986 but their playing cards can still be found rather easily on Ebay and at airline collector shows.

The cards below were issued relatively recently by Southwest Airlines.  There were two different decks published.  This is just a few of the many destinations they showed, all framed by the aircraft window.

Most airlines have promoted destinations one at a time on their playing cards. But what do you do if you want to promote a multitude of destination at one time.  Ethiopian Airlines decided to put an attractive flight attendant on the card standing against a listing of many destinations served at the time by Ethiopian.

Far Eastern Air Transport, an airline based in Taiwan has issued a series of exotic destination playing cards – Phuket, Bali, and Palau.

Singapore Airlines

When Singapore Airlines started flights to the U.S.A. the airline issued two decks of cards to celebrate the occasion.

Subsequently, Singapore Airlines issued playing cards to highlight some of the many destinations it flew to.  The cards at the right feature Las Vegas, Chicago and Moscow.

To highlight multiple destinations, Singapore Airlines issued two decks with destination baggage labels.

China Airlines, the most prolific issuer of playing cards by any airline, have issued a number of decks promoting service to new destinations. This 2018 issue highlights their London destination.

China Airlines has issued several hundred different designs of playing cards covering a wide range of topics.  This grouping consists of structures in various cities served by China Airlines.  From the left.  Osaka, Japan, Sky Tower, Auckland, New Zealand, and buildings in two major Taiwanese cities – Kaohsiung, and Taipei.

Malaysia Singapore Airlines (MSA).

When Singapore and Malaysia combined their National airlines for around a year in 1966, the airline – MSA for short, issued four different decks of cards where their destination focus was displaying like spokes in a wheel.  All four of these cards are hard to find.  In that short period of time MSA issued several more decks of playing cards, all of which are difficult to find today.

Now, as separate airlines again, both Malaysian and Singapore airlines cover the world.

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Cooperative Advertising Promotion

Written by Al Meder

Airlines have issued playing cards for promotional purposes since the earliest flights.  This was very logical as the flights were slow with many stops required to get to a distant destination (and of course there was no digital entertainment in those days)  Originally, the airlines promoted their name and sometimes their aircraft on these early decks but in the 1940’s Jack and Heinz, an aircraft equipment manufacturer teamed up with Mid Continent Airlines, to do the first known joint advertising deck of playing cards.

Since then, such “cooperative advertising” has become quite common with many well-known brands including Pepsi, Coca Cola, as well as credit card and auto rental companies partnering up with airlines to provide free entertainment and the chance to promote their product along with the airline.

Sometimes the airline can get double mileage from promoting itself with another well known brand. The earliest joint advertising cards I’m aware of, is from the 1940’s when Jack & Heinz, aircraft equipment manufacturers teamed up with Mid-Continent Airlines based in Kansas City. Missouri with a dec k of playing cards with their details along with the Mid Continent Airlines logo.

For many years cigarette smoking was permitted on aircraft. As a result, it was inevitable there would be some joint advertising issues. Aer Lingus, the Irish airline had several early jet-age aircraft along with cigarette advertising. The top card is joint advertising with Kingsway Cigarettes and Aer Lingus. There were also several with join advertising with Gold Flake and Aer Lingus. Aer Lingus has issued a number of joint advertising cards.

Given today’s thinking, its hard to believe that this advertising was in the 1960’s and 70’s. But smoking was really in then. Today there are collectors who collect airline matchbooks and match boxes, as well as a good market for ashtrays with airline logos on them – all from that by-gone era.

In recent years airlines have teamed up with various companies to promote both the airline and the product.  The most prolific of these are the Coca Cola advertising which has appeared on playing cards issued by South West Airlines   Delta Express has issued three different decks in conjunction with Coca Cola.

A very elusive deck of cooperative advertising playing cards was issued by Continental Airlines “The Official Airline of Broadway” and featuring the Broadway show Forever Tango.   Continental Airlines on this deck of cards was listed as the “The Official Airline of Broadway.”

The cards above show representative examples of advertising that airlines have done in conjunction with advertisers.

The Pan American NFL design shown here is one of three designs that Pan Am did over a relatively short period. The two others promoted that Pittsburgh NFL franchise.

The Thifty Rent-A-Car advertising involved a new livery for the entire Western Pacific Airlines aircraft.

Western Pacific, operating from Colorado Springs is now defunct.

Credit Card companies have issued a number of joint advertising decks with airlines.  Continental Airlines have issued two decks advertising their association with VISA (Check) Credit Card.  Alaska Airlines, South West Airlines and Delta have also issued credit card decks.  Not pictured here are decks from United Airlines, and Frontier to mention a couple more.

While foreign destinations are typically promoted by the airlines to attract fliers to those markets, Cathay Pacific Airlines based in Hong Kong produced two different designs in concert with Ocean Park, and amusement center in Hong Kong.  No doubt trying to get in-bound passengers to visit Ocean Park while in Hong Kong.

Australian carrier QANTAS Airways and the maker of Jonnie Walker Scotch Whiskey coordinated and issued a joint advertising pair of playing card designs in the 1980s   Although there is no mention of the product being advertised the Johnnie Walker trademarked figure is.

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American Airlines Playing Cards

Written by Luc Mertens

Please allow me to introduce myself as the successor to Fred Chan as Editor of the Playing Cards Section.

I worked for a major manufacturer of playing cards worldwide for 34 years.  In those 34 years I travelled about 5 million miles for the company visting all continents.

As a “professional disease” I started to ask for playing cards on the airplanes and consequently I had a nice collection before I got to know Trev Davis and Fred Chan through some collector friends.  Then the ball really started rolling and now my collection counts for over 4,000 different decks….

In my career I was also a platinum member of American Airlines for a several years so I have known this airline for a long time.

American Airlines was an early legacy carrier and has put out playing cards since 1944 (Figure 1).  In total so far American Airlines has issued, to our knowledge, 75 different decks of playing cards carrying the AA logo.  The subsidiary company American Eagle also issued 3 different decks of which the inaugural flight to Las Vegas is a tough one to find (see Figure 2).

AA always have been very strong in displaying their name and logo on the cards as shown in Figure 3 through Figure 8 .

Recently right after the US Airways merger, AA came out with a deck of playing cards which was a generic deck in a plastic case carrying the AA logo (Figure 9).  This was a disappointment to the collectors and not in line with the old style of issuing playing cards as part of their marketing campaigns ((see 242-A)) .

Another issue AA(L) recently came out with, was a joint deck with their global partner Qantas (Figure 10).

Also shown is the most recent known American Airlines deck, issued on 500 decks only, in a cooperation between the AA museum and one of the playing card collectors. (Figure 11?)

Figure 1   Figure 2   Figure 3

Figure 4   Figure 5   Figure 6

Figure 7   Figure 8   Figure 9

Figure 10   AAL-243-A

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