(Photo: Courtesy of Alaska Airlines)
Alaska Airlines is putting an end to its 30-year-old practice of distributing prayer cards with in-flight meals, saying that the changes are being made out of respect for its religiously diverse customer base.
Alaska Airlines frequent fliers recently received an email – which is signed by the company's chairman and CEO, Bill Ayer, as well as its president, Brad Tilden – explaining that some travelers have expressed to the airline that they are offended by the cards.
"This difficult decision was not made lightly. We believe it's the right thing to do in order to respect the diverse religious beliefs and cultural attitudes of all our customers and employees," the email said. The cards were first used by the company in the late 1970s to set it apart from other airlines.
Each card features a Bible verse from the Old Testament. One card, for example, has Psalm 107:1 printed over a nature scene, which shows a body of water in the foreground and mountains in the background. The card says, "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever," and has the Alaska Airlines logo printed at the bottom of it.
Six years ago, the company stopped serving meal trays in coach, but the prayer card tradition has continued in first class since that time. On Feb. 1, however, the practice of dishing out the cards with in-flight meals will come to an end altogether.
But some aren't ready to accept the changes. The airline has created a Facebook note, which contains the same information presented in the email, in order to give customers an opportunity to share their thoughts on the changes.
Steve Freeman, an Alaska Airlines customer, is on the side of many people who feel that the company is too concerned with appealing to the wants of just a few.
"I am still disappointed to see AS Execs risk upsetting many customers to keep a small portion happy. As an MVP Gold, I will now look to other airlines for my flights since AS is not as unique as they once were. Too bad," said Freeman in a Facebook post.
Others, however, think that the change is needed in order for the airline to respect the varying beliefs of other travelers.
"THANK YOU, Alaska Airlines, for respecting the diversity of cultural and spiritual beliefs of your customers. Anyone who has faith will have it regardless of whether there's a bit of paper on the meal tray," said Yvette Kirby Waters in another post.
The airline, whose corporate headquarters are based in Seattle, Wash., says that religious beliefs are "deeply personal," that the sharing of those beliefs is an "individual choice," and that they will continue to work to safely and effectively get travelers to their destinations.
"It's important that everyone know this decision does not change our core values nor our care for our customers," the company's email explains. "We will continue to distinguish ourselves through the pride and professionalism of our people on every flight and in our communities."