Flying on a prayer …

Posted on
Apr 14, 2010

This blog entry doesn’t cover a new topic. In fact, judging by the number of results I got from a Google search, it seems like a lot of people have addressed it. But even though it isn’t new, I still think it’s something worth talking about.

I want to know why the hell Alaska Airlines insists on including prayers with all their food.

No, I’m not kidding. Every time you purchase food on Alaska Airlines, you’ll get something that looks like this:



Now that we get upgraded to first class, we see them more than ever, but they’re also included in the Picnic Packs that they sell passengers in the economy section. For $6, you get 2 crackers, a piece of cheese, some raisins, and a bit of prosthetylizing. Is it just me, or does fleecing people at 30,000 feet not seem very … Christian? Also, if cleanliness is next to godliness, why not include an antiseptic wet-wipe along with the snacks instead of the prayer card? Takes up the same amount of space, and, like good old J.C., helps reduce chance of spreading leprosy to your fellow passengers.

I suppose the cards themselves don’t bother me that much (though this guy’s reply to the issue is hysterical). It’s more what they represent that bugs me: a company totally out of touch with its client base, and completely unwilling to listen to criticism on this issue. It’s funny, but the bastard child of religion and business always seems to be fascism and oligarchy, and not theocracy.

If you try using the virtual reply system via Alaska Air’s website (headed up by a cyborg named Jenn) to address this issue, the results are pretty frustrating:

I think Jenns a bit dim, if you ask me.

God damn replicants.

So I tried writing to Alaska Airlines about their prayer cards, and have yet to receive a reply. But Patrick Smith, writer of Salon’s “Ask the Pilot” column, was fortunate enough to get a response when he inquired about the same issue:

“The meal prayer card has been a simple tradition on our flights for over 20 years. The quotes have application across many Judeo-Christian beliefs and are shared as a gesture of thanks which reflect the beliefs of this country’s founding as in the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, Pledge of Allegiance and every U.S. coin and dollar you handle. Alaska Airlines is an international carrier with very diverse customers, and we have no intentions of offending anyone or their beliefs. An overwhelming majority of our customers have indicated they appreciate the gesture, and those who don’t are not forced to read it. We do appreciate hearing from you, and look forward to welcoming you on board another flight in the future.” (via

The worst part is the justification of their behavior, which is defended by saying that “hey, what we’re doing is okay – because the U.S. government does it all the time! You aren’t godless and un-American, too, are you?” (okay, fine – maybe I’m paraphrasing a bit. Also, the bit about how we aren’t “forced to read it” seems downright insulting. Generally, when one or two lines of text passes by my eye, I read it automatically. It’s a bit of a habit.) Smith notes that Alaska has every right to include prayer cards (which is, of course, true) but he takes offense at their justification that we see plenty of religious messaging throughout our government, so it must be okay.

He’s right in that it’s totally bogus: it seems ridiculous to justify present day corporate behavior with shit that people wrote, did, and said hundreds of years ago. Besides that, Alaska’s reply presupposes that the government’s behavior is infallible, which it isn’t: personally, I’ve often wondered why the hell god is mentioned on my money. And if there was an alternative, I’d probably use it. (Come to think of it, I do: I always use my cards, and rarely carry cash).

Of course, there are alternatives to Alaska, and yet I continue to choose them. Alaska’s hub is in Seattle (so there’s tons of flights in and out of this town), we’ve got status (which means a lot of upgrades), and frankly, there aren’t that many cheap options out there. Despite this one glaring issue, Alaska really is a pretty decent airline, in my experience.

I just wish they didn’t have those stupid prayer cards. Or at the very least, it would be nice if they were a little more inclusive. Frank Boosman notes in his blog that Alaska could reach a larger audience if they gathered quotes from other religious texts (like the Old Testament) or other religions altogether. He notes that all of Alaska’s quotes are about the awesomness of god, and for a lot of people, that has little to no application. To quote Boosman, “I’ve never understood the obsession in some religious texts with singing the praises of one’s chosen divine being.”

Boosman further suggests some quotes that would find to be more universal and harmonial, found in texts as varying as the Koran and Buddha. After reading his post, I got to thinking about what quote, if it necessarily had to be religious, I would include on a prayer card. And inevitably, it would be this one from Gandhi:

I came to the conclusion long ago … that all religions were true and also that all had some error in them, and whilst I hold by my own, I should hold others as dear as Hinduism. So we can only pray, if we are Hindus, not that a Christian should become a Hindu … But our innermost prayer should be a Hindu should be a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, a Christian a better Christian.

Of course, if Alaska opened up their quotes to movies, film, and pop culture, with a focus on travel, I think it would be a hit. Imagine seeing card that read, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas, anymore.”

Or maybe even this quote from Spinal Tap: “Dozens of people spontaneously combust each year. It’s just not widely reported.”

Well, except for this one case

Leave a Comment

  • Those cards are the reason I will not fly Alaska.

    • Flying111

      They are nothing more than a piece of paper, if you don’t like it then don’t read it!! Simple as that!!! There are much bigger things in this world to be worrying about!!!

    • I just saw your post…just wanted to say…there are no “prayer cards” in any food for purchase. They are only on the 1st class trays. Don’t like it, don’t read it…why would something so simple bother you so much? Wish I only had THAT problem to worry about

      • John

        That’s a sophomoric response.
        If it’s so meaningless and “such a simple thing”, then why bother putting it there or why the fuss about removing it?
        Your attempt to demean others as if they’re being petty only demonstrates that the cards are not, in fact, petty and meaningless items.
        By the way, the company lied about the majority of people liking them. As of this year they have been removed because of the majority of feedback was negative.
        I’m sure it was just another way of saving a buck, but that almighty dollar was the reason they put them there in the first place! Christian suckers is what they see. LOL Gotta love it.

  • How about a simple, non-denominational “Rub a dub dub, Thanks for the grub”? Really, I don’t think anyone could be offended by that.

    We bought a new car last year. While walking around the lot, looking at the different cars, I noticed there were bibles in each one of the glove compartments. My husband and I got TOTALLY creeped out, wondering what kind of place this “car dealership” really was. Their prices were unbeatable though (hallelujah). Anyway, turns out the owner is some kind of born again Christian who is spreading the word of Jesus through incredibly well-priced pre-owned vehicle sales. We bought our car there, but told them to keep the Bible.

  • Did you know In-N-Out has prayers on their cups and burger wrappers?

  • I didn’t notice this when we flew Alaska, but then again, I didn’t order a meal.

    I love your conversation with the automated customer service rep!

  • I dunno, I kind of like the sentiment while rocketing through the air in a metal tube over frozen tundra.

  • Jeremy

    I like that Alaska stands by their prayer cards – though my feeling is they have no need to justify why they do it. It may annoy you (and me), but as a private company they can do this if they like. You can vote with your money and deplane if it bothers you that much, but there are far more offensive reasons for choosing one airline over another, like having to pay extra for a tiny bit more legroom. Yeah, I’m looking at you, United.

    – an non-religous observer

    • Everywhereist

      Jeremy – I think you’re totally right that Alaska can do what they want (not that it doesn’t bug me, but you are right). Which is why one of the worst things about Alaska’s behavior is their justification. It’s just insulting. “The government does it. All Judeo-Christians believe it. So shut up.” Ick.

  • My impulse would be to hand it back to the flight attendant. Well, my real impulse would be to wad it up and throw it at the flight attendant, but I will just assume it wasn’t his/her idea and hand it back, politely.

    This kind of thing fills me with a rage I can’t explain. But maybe I’m old-fashioned to believe that you should just shut the f*ck up about religion or politics in mixed company (like I’m not doing now). I would not accept this thing on the street or at my door, and the fact that someone taking a fee for a service assumes that I’m in agreement with — and want to hear about — their particular beliefs is galling to the Nth degree.

    Going to lie down now.

  • Maybe it is just taking ownership of how bad airline food really is, and this is there way of hoping you come out off the meal alive. So it’s not really for you, it’s for them as in “God, don’t let them die from this chicken/fish concoction that we’ve deemed a meal.”

  • Forever 21 has a psalm on their bags, which always cracks me up. Step 1: Encourage tweens to dress like whores of Babylon. Step 2: Preach to them.

  • Philip – Rand gets pretty angry, too. I usually tell him not to say anything, because it’s not the flight attendant’s fault. I think from now on, when ordering food, I will politely request that they refrain from including the prayer card. Hmm … I wonder what will happen.

  • I find it extremely offensive and I’m an atheist – imagine how all those folks out there who worship Satan must feel at seeing that crap? I’m really surprised there isn’t more on-board violence.

    If you do tell the flight attendant to “hold the prayer card” next time you fly on Alaska, have Rand film it – maybe unobtrusively – I’d love to see their reaction πŸ™‚

  • Christine

    I think they should add my favorite Bible quote to their rotation. It would be very ironic:

    [T]ake care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.

    –Matthew 6:1

    • Everywhereist

      Christine – that is quite lovely, and it would hysterical if Alaska adopted it. They probably wouldn’t get it. But it does remind me of Chuck Feeney. πŸ™‚

  • About the Alaska Air justification… am I wrong or in the $ bills isn’t there also the Pyramid with the eye, which is undoubtely a symbol of Masonry? And the final purpose of Masonry was to substitute Christianism with a Positivistic philosophy. So, I see a poor knowledge of the USA History behind their answer.

    And you chat with the Jenn droid is amazing… quite similar to many I had with Droid agents on the phone.

  • I think this is just branding to the Christians who make up a big part of the US and Alaskan population. Just as people buy Nike shoes because they like Tiger (don’t they look foolish now!), there must be people who like to fly Alaskan airlines because they deliver a “Christian” experience. I think they should push the concept and offer confessions in the cockpit with pilots specially trained at the Vatican… no kids alowed in there! πŸ™‚

  • do not wtf the lord. blasphemy.

    • How can it blasphemous if one does not believe in it? To you, sure. To me, not so much.

  • I don’t understand Alaskan Airline’s stand on this. I’m not offended, but if they’re going to include one religion they should include them all or none. They could just say β€œThanks for flying with us. Enjoy your food.” Alternately maybe they could have random trivia like β€œDid you know Coca Cola was originally green.” At least that won’t offend anyone. But perhaps this might be one of those any publicity is good publicity stunts.

    As we you’d think with the whole Green movement companies would be less inclined to hand out such cards that are a waste of paper products and will only get thrown out.

  • Christine

    Hey, even the Bible says not to be a dick about being a Christian. And if you are, you’ll go to hell. Best to hoist the religious right from their own petard, I say.

  • It wouldn’t bother me, but DAMN that is a bizarre business tactic. Also Jenn seems like a big of a party animal.

  • Missy

    Psalms are in the Old Testament, btw.

    Why is it so awful to use a Bible verse in advertising, but it is ok to use any other religions’ sayings or (even worse) foul language?

    AS a Christian, I put up with a lot of junk in the rest of the universe world. For example, I don’t particularly care for the stuff Starbucks prints on their packages, like the strange goddess looking logo, but I respect the fact that it is their company and last time I looked, it is still a mostly free United States of America.

    If it p***es you off that much, boycott them.

    Seems like it would be wise to thank God that you had a successful and safe take-off and landing and quit complaining.

    “They spend their lives telling God to leave them alone. And at the moment of their final breath, He honors their request. …in history’s highest expression of fairness, God honors their preference.” –Max Lucado

    Do you really want to take chances like this?

    • Everywhereist

      At least I don’t have a stripper name, Missy.

      Also, WTF? What chances am I taking? I should believe in god out of fear that my plane will crash or that I’ll go to hell? That’s so awesomely stupid that, upon reading your comment, my body reacted by farting.

      • Amanda

        I was farting as I read this comment and I nearly guffawed at the coincidence, which would have woken my husband who would have been annoyed, probably by the laughter AND the fart.

        I’m still silently laughing, in part at the absurdity of joining a conversation four years too late, but mostly at the farts. I’m mature AND classy.

        • Everywhereist

          I love you.

  • Christine

    Psalms’ presence in the Old Testament does not change the fact that the Gospels say Christians should not make a show of their religion just to impress God. Furthermore, the Old Testament gave us these 10 important rules, one of which is “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” Taking Bible verses out of context to advance your personal agenda (be it marketing the fact that you’re a Christian-friendly airline or your own political belief) could be construed as bearing false witness, as you’re using God’s word for your own ends, not his (then again, I’m not God; can’t say for sure what He’d think).

    You’ll find throughout the Bible strong indications that God wants His people to believe because they have faith, not because they need to hedge their bets. If this is the case, God will know if they’re hedging and damn them to Hell for not believing. It’s tautological logic to think otherwise.

    I think we can all agree that there are universal, beautiful truths to be found in Christian philosophy, be it the Bible or writings of St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Catherine of Siena, Martin Luther, John Wesley, or even modern philosphers/theologians like Max Lucado. HOWEVER, these truths are expressed in other religious and philosophical writings, including the writings of Buddha, Talmudic scholars, the Koran, Wittgenstein. I personally find these writings inform my own religious beliefs, even if I don’t share the beliefs of the authors.

    Perhaps if AlakanAir included writings from more religious philosophies, some Christians would notice the universality of their beliefs, and some non-Christians would see the Christian religion as a valid, non-threatening religion. You attract more flies with honey, after all…

  • Christine

    And on a more specific note, Missy, the quote Everywhereist shows above affirmatively tells all people to “Give thanks to the Lord.” Unlike the Starbucks quotes, which are clearly marked as opinions or are neutral observations (depending on the quote). If I saw advertising telling me that I HAVE to believe anything while I’m confined on a plane, I’m going to be upset. and I (in case you couldn’t already tell) am a Christian.

    In the spirit of Christian brotherhood, I apologize for my foul language above. However, I used it because: (1) it’s in the spirit of this site, which embraces language of all sorts, and (2) it’s a free country, after all.

  • Everywhereist

    That insightful, well-thought out, and well-articulated comment was brought to you by Christine, who is all kinds of awesome. And unlike me, she doesn’t resort to name-calling and petty insults. I suppose I should strive to be more like her, but I’m so good at being my angry, bitchy self, I will simply applaud her from afar.

    From a recovering Catholic, may I say bless you, Christine. We need more people like you. I mean that with all my heart. πŸ™‚ You really are amazing.

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  • Jon

    The tone on this post is pretty offensive to me, as is some of the language used. To quote an earlier comments, “do not WTF the Lord”, please. That all said, this is your blog so you are free to say and write what you want. I can just leave the site if I want.

    Same thing with Alaska Airlines. Assuming they are a private company (or not heavily government-funded) than they should be able to put whatever they want on their napkins.

    I think you guys are taking it a bit too far implying that they are telling you that YOU MUST give thanks to the Lord. That is a quotation, and it DOES clearly state that with the Psalm reference showing its from the bible. As such, you are free to take it however you like, but its clearly not a mandate. Its a napkin. As stated by another commenter, you are free to vote with your dollars here and simply not patronize this airline any more. If they forced you to pray with them or something than that’s infringing on your rights, but that napkin is their right to free speech, religion and to manage their business however they see fit – whether its “smart business” or not.

    If it was a government agency or organization than I’d agree with you, as then they should either be all-inclusive of all faiths or non-faiths, or not address religion at all, since the government is funded by the common society and therefore should serve the common society – all of its constituents. But as a private business (private meaning non-government, to include publicly-traded companies), they are well within their right to post a prayer on a napkin if they want, and you are well within your right to tell them you don’t like it and either hand it back to them or choose to take your business elsewhere – just as I am free to leave this blog.

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  • Bear

    Seems like it would be wise to thank God that you had a successful and safe take-off and landing and quit complaining.

    Nope thank the good folks at Boeing/airbus/McDonnell Douglas the flight crew the air traffic controllers the meteorologists…EVERYONE except your mythical friend.

  • Huggy

    “maybe I’m paraphrasing a bit”

    Nope, you’re completely making shit up. πŸ™‚

    Relax, stop searching for offence where none exists.

    Stop being a victim, or don’t, i don’t mind (see how that works?).



    • Everywhereist

      Actually, I’m not making shit up, Huggy. The defense is that “god” is shoved down our throats by the government, therefore it’s okay when Alaska Airlines does it. And that, frankly, is a weak argument. As I mentioned above, I was less bothered by the card than by their justification of it.

      • Huggy

        Not sure why anybody’s justification of anything should bother you. Much like the offending article the justification can simply be ignored.

        Imagine if those who didn’t appreciate the card simply placed it in the trash with the leftover stale crackers. Barring any vicious paper cuts, life would go on. Believers would go on believing, the rest of us would go on living in the real world and hopefully we could all stop blaming each other for our troubles.

        I can appreciate the irony of my contributing to an argument over nothing, but I’m also having a nice quiet day at home with nothing important on my mind. πŸ™‚


        • Everywhereist

          Funny that you mention that, because I originally wrote that your are, in fact, contributing to the argument when you claim we should all ignore what upsets us and simply turn the other cheek. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this thread happened more than a year ago – I can’t for the life of me understand why people want to revisit it now. But nevertheless, my point is this: people should have the right to speak out against the things they believe are wrong, unjust, douchey, or just plain weird.

          I choose to do so on my personal blog. And frankly, I can’t understand why people think they have the right to criticize me for my opinions or how I deal with this situation on my site. Certainly, my blog is far less invasive than, say, a friggin notecard in my Alaska meal. My blog wasn’t thrust at you along with your mid-day meal at 30,000 feet. You didn’t pay a lot of money to be bombarded with my blog.

          Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m over this discussion. I was over it a year ago. Please continue your nice quiet day at home and leave me to mine.

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  • Courtney

    So I just flew Alaska for the first time and I got the picnic pack and there was no prayer card. But there was a antiseptic wet-wipe . I like to think that your little blog saved me from being outraged by a prayer card and perhaps even a paper cut! And the wet-wipe was a very nice touch. Maybe Alaska Airlines really was listening…

    • Everywhereist

      Wet wipe? SWEET! That’s almost as cool as a prayer card featuring the wisdom of Bill and Ted (because really, would anyone complain if they received a prayer card that read “Be Excellent to Eachother”?)

  • Everywhereist, thanks for posting this, even if it was a year ago. It’s a reminder to the “Facebook generation” that everything you say online will be there for a long, long time after you wrote it.

    I came across your web site after searching Google for an explanation of why did I get a religious quote with my meal. I asked the flight attendant in First Class and she said she didn’t know, that it’s a “corporate thing”. I never fly Alaska so I didn’t know about this practice.

    In any case, the funniest thing was that I was heading to TAM (The Amazing Meeting) in Las Vegas, a 1,600-people event where skeptics, atheists and secularists congregate every year to celebrate Reason. I could not contain my laugh on the irony of this whole situation. Priceless!

  • About Time

    Great news! Alaska is cancelling their prayer card hand-outs…about damn time!

  • Travelgrove/Lorand

    God, really kick-ass blog! πŸ˜› I’m still laughing my *** off of your kick-move category..
    I’m not sure about your rates but I wish we could afford such a travel writer. πŸ™‚

    Regarding the prayers I find more funny/strange/whatever than frustrating.. I do get the point just I’m not sure this is such a big issue… but hey, I’m from Eastern Europe. πŸ™‚

    Keep up! I’m gonna go now and test Cyborg Jenn..

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