On a Wing and a Prayer: Alaska Airlines Loses Its Religion

Posted by - February 12, 2012 | Category: Library

Alaska Airlines Ditches Prayer Cards

What’s that in the sky? It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s — well…it’s certainly not Christ.

A couple of weeks ago Alaska Airlines announced they were doing away with a 30-year old tradition – offering prayer cards with in-flight meals.

Yes. They jettisoned Jesus.

Alaska Airlines prayer cards

Seems most passengers nowadays prefer their snacks a little more secular. Much like the separation of church and state, it’s the separation of church and plate.

Personally, I’d much rather have seen the removal of the Sky Mall magazine. I find that much more offensive. Give me a Psalm any day over having this shoved down my throat…

Toilet dog and cat water bowl

Or, even worse, this…

Madamoiselle floor lamp

But there you have it. Materialism trumps Catechism.

The Prayer Card Pickle

I feel bad for Alaska Airlines. They can’t win with this one. Keep the prayer cards, and be seen as a conservative dinosaur. Lose the cards, and be seen as anti-Christ (not the Antichrist, just anti-Christ – see the difference a hyphen makes?)

In times of moral crisis like this, I look to bumper-sticker theology to guide me.

WWJD What Would Jesus Do bumper sticker

That’s a head-scratcher for sure. If Jesus took the wheel (or in this case, the yoke), what would Jesus do? I’m hoping (dare I say praying) J.C. would come up with a solution that would be suitable for everyone. After all, he was winning friends and influencing people long before that other guy. And hasn’t he had some prior success with feeding the masses? That whole fishes and loaves bit?

Maybe he would have conjured up something like Indonesia-based airline Lion Air has done: multi-denominational Invocation Cards. Every seat pocket has one of these prayer pamphlets, wedged somewhere between the safety instructions and the barf bag.

Lion Air Invocation Prayer Card, Indonesia

Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Confucianists are treated to one-of-a-kind prayers (in five languages) imploring their deity to shepherd the craft safely to its final destination.

Lion Air Indonesia Invocation Prayer Card front side alternative to Alaska Airlines prayer card

Lion Air Indonesia Invocation Prayer Card inside Alaska Airlines

Muslims get showered with blessings…

Lion Air Invocation Prayer card on plane -- Islam Alaska Airlines

…Catholics get good weather…

Lion Air Invocation Prayer card on plane -- Catholic Alaska Airlines

…and Protestants get a Lord with a “holly” name. Plus the added bonus that they arrive on time and “save”. (I hope I didn’t pay more for the flight than they did.)

Lion Air Invocation Prayer card on plane -- Protestant Alaska Airlines

Rounding out the Invocation Card are prayers for Buddhists…

Lion Air Invocation Prayer card on plane -- Buddhism Alaska Airlines


Lion Air Invocation Prayer card on plane -- Hinduism Alaska Airlines

…and Confucianists.

Lion Air Invocation Prayer card on plane -- Khonghucu Alaska Airlines

Did I get offended when I saw these? Not in the least. (There was the S.E. Asian equivalent of a Sky Mall magazine to draw my ire). Much like how I don’t get offended when I see where Mecca is on my in-flight screen, or if I see a Gideon bible in my hotel room drawer, I just see it as someone else expressing their faith.

Airplane TV showing direction of Mecca Alaska Airlines

Some people find comfort in those things. I find it kind of folksy. If the airline crew were baptizing people in the aisles, or handing out communion wafers, that might be a different story. But I think a Psalm here, a prayer card there are perfectly okay in my books.

My God. I’m starting to sound a lot like Sarah Palin.

Pray for me?

What’s your take? Do you think Alaska Airlines was right to remove the prayer cards from flights? Is there a better solution?

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83 comments - add one
  1. Hey, great post. I totally agree with you. I think the better move would have been to offer something for all denominations, or something that could be suitable for all.

    A bit of reflection, contemplation or prayer wouldn’t hurt. Just as these Bibles in hotel rooms, or stickers indicating the direction of Mecca. To each his/her own.

    1. Then again, I read that some folks think “How much faith should I have in the pilot if they have prayer cards? Do they expect something to go wrong?” — seems some people find it just plain spooky. 🙂

  2. I was prepared not to like this post, given the topic but you rocked it. It’s well done and not at all offensive. I laughed so hard when I got to the Sarah Palin part.

  3. I think those airlines that have a bad track record for turbulence or crashes should definitely have these in there! 🙂

    You are right through – Alaska really can’t win with this. I’ve flown with Alaska and never knew they did this.

  4. What a shame. I’m too late now for Alaska Airlines. I’d have loved a prayer card. I always use boarding passes as book marks, a prayer card would be much more helpful. I wonder if they now become collectors items. As to offensive: how in the world could tolerating other people’s faith or belief (or the lack of same) be offensive? I also like to know where Mecca is, just in case…

  5. I’ve never seen anything like this on any airline. Still, I guess people can still “bring their own” on board. Now.. if they stop serving alcohol.. there’s a problem.

  6. Well done, sir!

    I think few people could write about an issue like this is such an open-ended, unoffensive sort of way. Seriously impressive.

    Now I probably could have done with a few more Michael Stipe references, though…

  7. I was pleased to hear that Alaska x-ed the prayer cards. As our airline of choice, we always found these to be a bit presumptuous and ill-placed. I was never offended by them (I save my outrage for much more important things), but I always felt a little, er, uncomfortable having my airline promote religion.

    For what it’s worth, I can assure you that Sarah Pailin would not have spoken so eloquently.

  8. I agree with this article 100% – especially the knock against SkyMall magazines and the like. Every time I am flying and I start flipping though the pages of SkyMall, in the back of my mind I curse myself that did not prepare better for my flight. Just think of all the reading opportunities that airlines could foster if they provided a magazine with some good short stories or some well written essays! Or at the very least, they should put those essential documents that people should review periodically – like instructions on giving CPR or rules of the road for driving.

    1. I love the idea of CPR instructions. Or maybe tips/benefits on recycling — something that is going to do our world some good instead of flogging more junk for people to buy.

  9. Spot on, my lad! But…

    “My God. I’m starting to sound a lot like Sarah Palin.”

    Ummm, shouldn’t that be “My Deity. I’m…”??? 😉

    (and btw, about that Sky Mall mag? My dear, I dare say that in some societies, the “mall” is their church, and $$$ is indeed their deity.)

  10. This is a really entertaining and informative article, Raymond. I never realized that Alaska Air even had the prayer cards. I do disagree with you about SkyMall though. I love reading about all that crap!

  11. I had no idea that prayer cards even existed on airlines. I don’t really see the point, if someone wants to pray (in whatever religion) surely they can do it without prayer cards?

  12. I’m “on board” (HA!) with you – whatever – hand it out if you want, I don’t have to read/believe it. Like the entire idea of organized religion, it does have a folksy charm (when people aren’t killing each other over it – that is less charming and never the subject of a Normal Rockwell. Well, there was that dark period, but they don’t let the public see that side of him.)

  13. I agree with Vera.

    I must be sheltered because I had no idea airlines were doing things like this. I do not really understand the need for it unless they are trying to actually convert people. If you’re religious, you should be able to pray or do whatever without a prayer card being handed to you.

    1. I think it was more about the religion of Alaska Airlines than of its passengers. I thought it was kinda cute and folksy though — like a denominational fortune cookie. 🙂

  14. There is so many ways to make good image and I agree, this prayer card thing won’t work. It’s really up to the passengers if they want to pray or not. Just a thought. 🙂

  15. You would think that with all the tragedies in the world, people could come up with some worthy cause to go after! I enjoyed your post. And I like the multi-denomination prayer card. But, then I’m sure someone could find something wrong with it. I thought the prayer card tradition was cute. Too bad.

  16. I think we need to hang on to a few traditions these days even if they are stupid… especially one that involves hurling through the atmosphere at 600 mph and seems to have worked pretty well for the past 30 years.Political correctness can be so disconcerting…

  17. Hmmm I think I would be shocked (and maybe a little offended) if I was given a prayer card with my airline meal. I hate it when I feel religion (or any strong opinion) is being forced at me, and even more so when I am trapped in a confined space and also paying quite a bit of good money to be there.

  18. I get really frustrated at how PC the world has become. It’s getting to the point that companies (and people) need to be sterile and generic to avoid offending people.

    A good read. I had no idea Alaskan Airlines did this – and I’ve flown with them :-/

  19. A religious themed safety card? That does not instill confidence in the pilot ha! He/She must need all religions praying for some reason. Joking aside, these things don’t bother me. I think as long as you say they aren’t baptizing people in the aisle, what does it really matter.

  20. How interesting! I’ve never flown with Alaska airlines, but I have to admit that prayer cards would probably have bothered me a little. I think if faith/spirirtuality was important to a company, they should probably go the non-demoninational route. Doing away with it completetly? I guess if their company philosophy has changes… but you’re right, they probably made some frequent flyers angry.

  21. I can’t say I had any knowledge of airlines passing out prayer cards, but color me informed now! I loved this post – you had me laughing multiple times!

  22. I have never flown with Alaska Airlines which would explain why I had never heard of these. But now I’m left wondering what other airlines have these… I clearly need to start looking through the pocket seat in front of me.

    p.s. Love the first image you used.

  23. Such a great idea! It’s really good that they are spreading the word of the Lord.. For that they will have a blessed trip. Thanks for sharing this.. good job!

  24. I agree that most passengers really prefer to have their snacks a little bit secular and I even have that kind of attitude too…

  25. While I’ve done my share of traveling, and on Alaska, no less, I have to confess (pun intended) that I’ve never seen these prayer cards on the flight before. Nonetheless, I think it’s a good thing they’re scrapping the whole tradition. I mean, the last place most people want to be reminded of their mortality is 35,000 feet in the air…

  26. I don’t mind if they want to put them in the seat pocket, but I don’t want a one-sided prayer card with my meal. Now, if the card had prayers from different faiths, that wouldn’t bother me as much.


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