“We are safety professionals, not billboards,” was the clear message sent by Spirit Airlines flight attendants to their management yesterday, January 27, 2009, following the launching of a series of what flight attendants have called “degrading and demeaning advertisements.”

Spirit flight attendants, through the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), have said they have had enough. “I feel as though I have entered a time warp and am reliving the battles for respect and justice for women that we fought for 40 years ago,” said AFA-CWA International president Patricia Friend. “Several promotional fare ads, with their not very subtle innuendoes, are demeaning not to just the hardworking flight attendants at Spirit Airlines, but to all of America’s professional flight attendants. They offend not just the female population of this country but the male members of humanity who admire and respect women.”

According to the AFA-CWA, Spirit Airlines management recently introduced a proposal that would force Spirit flight attendants to wear in-flight aprons adorned with an alcoholic beverage logo. “Turning flight attendants into walking billboards is unacceptable,” said AFA-CWA Spirit president Deborah Crowley. “The proposed aprons diminish the primary and federally-mandated role of flight attendants as safety professionals and our role as first responders onboard.”

Flight attendants have a statutory obligation to enforce Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations regarding intoxicated passengers. The AFA-CWA contends in-flight aprons that prominently display a logo from an alcoholic beverage company sends “the wrong signal to passengers and diminish[es] the ability of flight attendants to enforce vital safety and security regulations and procedures onboard.” The flight attendants association said it has formally requested that Spirit management withdraw the demeaning advertising campaigns and replace them with professional and respectful messaging.

The AFA-CWA claims to be the world’s largest flight attendant union and has more than 55,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines.