The announcement of the Vietnamese low-cost company VietJet arrival in India’s booming aviation economy attracted a lot of attention in March 2018. It was not because of its competitive prices or the new route  it was opening.

The company, also known as the “Bikini airlines”, used swimsuit-wearing flight attendants to market their arrival. However, good looking and not-so-modestly dressed stewardesses are far from new in aviation, as history shows.

Flight attendant is one of the few professions that have always attracted a lot of fantasy. The image comes from the 60s when flight attendants were known as “stews” and labor laws were not as restrictive or concerned of women’s rights.

At that time, some airlines hired their stewardesses as aesthetic labor to promote their companies. The argument was that the thin figures of employees were intended to reduce weight of aircraft.The most famous example is the late Pan Am, an airline that required of its stewardesses to be unmarried, childless and younger than 32.

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In 1958, Qantas began employing Japanese flight hostesses to work on the “Cherry Blossom” route to Japan. Qantas’s Marj de Tracy had flown to Japan to select, from 150 applicants, Yoshiko Watanabe, Teruko Oshima and Kazuko Otsu. Publicity photos of the new recruits, all in their early twenties, showed them arriving in Sydney wearing full kimonos, similar to the ones they would wear on the flights to Tokyo.
 

Another flight company that had no problem using the image of its flight crew was the short-lived Hooters Air. In 2003, the restaurant chain, famous for its “model” waitresses, decided to buy Pace Airlines and turn it into a “flying billboard” for its company. While the flights were carrying regular flight attendants, dressed in blue uniforms and orange scarfs, who provided usual services, two “Hooters girls” were also there for the passengers’ entertainment. The girls were usually putting on a show while mid-air, whether singing a song or organizing a trivia quiz. All while wearing the company’s signature crop-top and orange shorts. Sadly (or not), the U.S. carrier did not survive fuel price increase after Rita and Katrina’s hurricanes of 2006.

However, VietJet is not as entertaining as it might appear from the first sight. While the company is famous for its bikini-clad flight attendants that are heavily advertised (with their own calendars!), the raunchy outfit is far from being their standard uniform. The bikinis are only worn for special events such as inauguration flights. In fact, it seems that the company has given up on such practices after receiving several fines for putting up “illegal dance shows” during flights. But the popularity of VietJet keeps growing and has already turned its owner Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao into the first female billionaire of Vietnam.