Barbie fever: long-standing partnerships between Mattel’s iconic doll and aviation

Mattel / Pinterest

It’s hard to exist in the world right now without experiencing ‘Barbie mania’. Wherever you turn, from social media to shop windows, supermarkets and even Google, the Barbie movie, produced by Warner Bros, is seemingly turning the world pink, one brand collaboration at a time.

Just before its July 21, 2023 world premiere, hundreds of global brands launched its official partnership with Barbie. Even those that do not have official partnerships with Barbie are riding the wave and started pushing pink products.

From fashion and cosmetics to food and beverage, brands worldwide are cashing in on Barbie fever by launching collaborations with Mattel’s world-famous 64-year-old brand.

But there’s one affiliation that many people might not know about. Barbie has held a long-standing, steady partnership with aviation brands, starting decades before the 2023 pink mania.

Barbie, whose official name is Barbara Millicent Roberts, was officially born (aka introduced to the world) on March 9, 1959. This was coincidentally at the height of the jet age and the advent of space exploration. 

From astronaut Barbie to the Barbie Dreamplane, here are some of the most popular Barbie tie-ups with aviation brands.

Astronaut Barbie

Image: Barbie Facebook page

Four years before Neil Armstrong took one giant leap for mankind, Barbie had already “landed” on the moon with the launch of Astronaut Barbie. This Barbie in a silver space suit was designed and created by Mattel in 1965. 

Barbie’s trademark slogan is “You can be anything” and encourages young people to pursue their dreams, whatever they may be. 

The Astronaut Barbie was both ahead of its time, and also helped shape the dreams of its doll owners. Women became a part of NASA’s astronaut corps in 1978, 13 years after the launch of Astronaut Barbie. 

Astronaut Barbie was donated by Mattel to The National Air and Space Museum in 1995.

Pan Am Barbie

Image: Ebay

Now-defunct United States airline Pan Am (Pan American World Airways) paved the way for the golden age of travel in the 1960s. 

Released in 1966, the Barbie Pan Am doll donned the Pan Am uniform worn at the time: a blue twill jacket with Pan American wings, a white short sleeve blouse, a blue twill skirt, short white gloves, a black shoulder bag, a blue hat with Pan Am emblem and white trim, and black closed toe heels. 

In 2009, Mattel released a recreation of the Pan Am Barbie as part of its “My Favorite Career” series. The now-discontinued 2009 version fetches for $500 and above on bidding sites like eBay. 

American Airlines Barbie

Image: eBay

In 1961, Mattel released its official American Airlines Barbie which featured the airline’s uniform at the time: a navy Jacket with wings, a navy sheath skirt, a white body blouse, a navy hat with wings, a black shoulder purse, a navy flight bag and black open toe heels. 

In 1964, Barbie was joined by Ken as an American Airlines pilot. The Ken doll also came with an American Airlines logbook. According to a Barbie Fandom page, when the logbook is opened, the word, “Japan” is written in small typeface. 

Bessie Coleman Barbie


In January 2023, Mattel and American Airlines collaborated to honor the legacy of Bessie Coleman, who became the first Black and Native American woman to earn a pilot’s license in 1921. The doll was part of Barbie’s ‘Inspiring Women’ series.

On January 26, 2023, Coleman’s birthday, all American Airlines passengers on Flight AA771 from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) received a Bessie Coleman doll. 

Mattel said that Barbie’s ‘Inspiring Women’ series pays tribute to incredible heroines of their time; courageous women who took risks, changed rules and paved the way for generations of girls to dream bigger than ever before.

Virgin Atlantic Barbie (flight attendant, pilot and engineer)

Image: Virgin Atlantic Facebook page

In 2019, Mattel and Virgin Atlantic partnered to create Barbie dolls that represent its female flight attendants, pilots and engineers.

The goal of the collaboration was to show young women that they can pursue many different career paths within the airline industry.

This was part of Barbie’s Dream Gap Project, launched to address the fact that girls as young as five years old begin to develop limiting self-beliefs and doubt their full potential.

This partnership between Virgin Atlantic and Barbie was the start of a wider initiative from the airline to encourage more females in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and aviation careers.

The dolls are still currently sold on the Virgin Atlantic website for £28.00 ($36.00)

Singapore Girl Barbie

Image: Thiti Pinterest

Flight attendants of Singapore Airlines carry the most ‘doll-like’ image, with the airline having The Singapore Girl as its brand iconic symbol. 

The airline created its own Singapore Girl doll in the 1970s, but in 1991 Mattel acquired the license to create the official Singapore Girl Barbie. 

Singapore Airlines’ flight attendants have been branded as “Asia’s Barbie”, so the collaboration seems rather fitting.

Pilot Barbie with Steward Ken

Image: Amazon

While not the first time Mattel launched a pilot Barbie, the toy maker’s Pink Passport series Barbie pilot was sold as a playset that saw Barbie as an airline pilot and Ken as a flight steward.

Selling the two dolls as a set was an effort to normalize equal gender roles, with Ken taking on a more “supportive” role. This goes along the theme of the 2023 Barbie movie’s tagline, “He’s just Ken, she’s everything.”

“Barbie can chart a course to anywhere in the world in a one-piece pilot outfit detailed with a white shirt, blue pants, black belt and a pink tie. Black boots and a pilot’s hat complete the look. Ken doll helps serve up more storytelling opportunities dressed as a flight attendant in a top decorated with a vest and matching pink tie, blue pants and black shoes,” the official product description reads. 

This 2018 Pink Passport series playset was not in collaboration with any brand, and has sice been discontinued.

Top Gun Barbie

Image: Mattel

Though not a collaboration with an aviation brand, Mattel released a special edition doll in May 2022 as part of a movie tie-up with Top Gun:Maverick.

The Top Gun Barbie is based on the movie’s character “Phoenix,” a pilot trainee played by Monica Barbaro. 

The doll shows Phoenix rocking her pilot trainee uniform: an army green jumpsuit, helmet and the American flag on her shoulder sleeve. The packaging also comes with aviator sunglasses, dog tags and a watch.

Top Gun Barbie can be found at both Walmart and Amazon for $40 each.

Japan Airlines Barbie

image: eBay

In 1997, Mattel created an exclusive Japan Airlines (JAL) Barbie, which was only available to buy on all domestic JAL flights.

The Japan Airlines Barbie came in complete uniform with an apron and handbag, a serving cart complete with tiny coffee cups and cutlery, and a tiny book of inflight announcements. 

Mattel swapped Barbie’s trademark blue eyes for brown for this JAL collaboration, but interestingly kept her traditional blonde hair. 

Barbie Dreamplane Playset

Image: Mattel

Released in 2021, the Barbie Dreamplane is not modeled after any aircraft or airline, but features a lot of interesting details like reclining seats, seatbelts, overhead luggage bins, and a food trolley with drawers.

Though the Dreamplane does not come with dolls, it comes with a pet dog in a carrier, a realistic scenario indeed given that plenty of pet owners fly with their pets (some even in business or private jet) these days. 

Do you own any of these Barbie dolls and playsets? More importantly, have you seen the Barbie movie? 

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