The best airline adverts of all time

May 2, 2020

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Airline advertising over the years gives a fascinating look into the trends in fashion, travel and the global mood. Some airlines threw millions of pounds at campaigns to put them in front of the minds of prospective passengers.

For me, aside from the historical look back, many of these adverts evoke strong emotional reactions — and I know I’m not the only one. Here are 14 of the absolute best airline ads of all time to inspire you, give you goosebumps and maybe even make you cry.

In This Post

Virgin Atlantic: 25 years, Still Red Hot (2009)

To the thumping beats of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, this ad celebrates 25 years of Virgin Atlantic, flashing back to grim and grey Britain in 1984, gripped by the miners’ strike. A flash of red was just what the U.K. needed. The faces on the dowdy cabin crew dressed in grey as the Virgin gang arrive is priceless.

British Caledonian: Caledonian Girls (1982)

You might think a cover of the Beach Boys hit “California Girls” seems inappropriate for a British airline’s advert. You’d be right, but you’ll be tapping your toes to this tune nonetheless, and you’ll never hear the original in the same way again.

Qantas: I Still Call Australia Home (1998)

There have been various iterations of this beautiful Australian anthem used in Qantas ads, but this one was said to be the most expensive Australian ad ever, made at a cool $3 million. Price tag aside, this one is ugly cry face-inducing for me every time and makes me feel weirdly proud to be Australian, which is odd as I have no Australian connections whatsoever. (You might need to pop over to YouTube to watch this one.)

Braniff Airways: The Air Strip (1965)

When Emilio Pucci was brought in to design the new Braniff uniforms, the result was a ’60s style revolution. A uniform designed to be stripped off as the flight progressed. While the advert is wildly inappropriate by today’s standards, it’s shown how far the aviation industry has come.

British Airways: Bringing People Together (1989)

This dramatic, beautiful ad tugs the heartstrings with sweeping aerial shots and a healthy dose of reuniting friends and family. Capped off with the signature “World’s favourite airline” swoosh noise at the end.

Emirates: It’s so nice up here with Jennifer Aniston (2016)

Who doesn’t love Jennifer Aniston? Watch her on an Emirates A380, with a devastatingly cute kid whilst subliminally touring the whole aircraft and every class (sounds suspiciously like a TPG UK YouTube video!), and you’ll love her even more.

United: Nancy (1982)

It’s Nancy’s first day on the job at United, and so she settles her nerves singing a little tune and practising her inflight service. It’s a great take on the people behind “The free world’s largest airline”.

Lufthansa: Everyone’s Fanhansa (2016)

Ahead of the Euro 2016 football tournament, the Germans, perhaps not known for their sense of humour, turn the tables with this hilarious jab at the England football fans and their misconceptions about the German flag carrier.

Turkish Airlines: Morgan Freeman “Widen Your World” (2017)

AvGeeks and movie fans were treated to a clash of the titans for the 2017 Superbowl as Turkish Airlines brought one of the greatest actors of all time onboard, Morgan Freeman.

Southern Airways: Nobody’s second class (1970s)

Some airlines succeeded in the comedy stakes big time, as this early ’70s advert from Southern Airways shows. It advertises Southern’s one class of service like no airline has ever done. Watch the terror on the passenger’s face as he is directed through the to the “second cabin”, and all its horrors within. Could we see a revamp of this from the likes of EasyJet or Ryanair?

British Airways: Concorde (1989)

The demise of Concorde was a devastating moment in aviation history. This ad is a glimpse into Concorde’s heyday, and a light-hearted take on its almost-galactic flights.

TWA: Leading the way (1985)

Take a journey back to ’80s America, riding high as the leader of the free world. Don’t miss the scene from the TWA terminal, now turned hotel corridors at the start.

Virgin Atlantic: Your airline’s either got it or it hasn’t (2010)

Finishing up with one guaranteed to give you goosebumps. This Virgin ad campaign ran to £6 million and for the viewer, it was worth every penny. It served up James Bond sexiness and a powerful soundtrack by Muse with their cover of Feeling Good. Wait until the end for the perfect dose of Virgin cheekiness.

Featured photo by Bettman/Getty Images

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