(BANGKOK) — The low-cost Thai airline Nok Air is bringing new meaning to the phrase, “Fly the Friendly Skies” by hiring scantily clad Maxim models to show off its fleet of planes in a series of photos in a promotional calendar. But the Thai Ministry of Culture is speaking out against the calendar, saying it tarnishes Thailand’s image.
The models are dressed as flight attendants posing in front of the planes as part of a promotion on the company’s Facebook page. In one of the pictures, the models are in yellow bikinis, yellow being the official color of the airline.
Those who participate in the promotion will receive the 2013 calendar, which the airline hopes will boost ticket sales.
The airline is known for its unconventional marketing tactics to promote its flights throughout Thailand. In 2011, Nok Air admitted to hiring only flight attendants who were young in order to rejuvenate the brand.
Nok Air CEO Patee Sarasin defended the calendar in an interview to news media, saying the women used in the photos were not actual Nok Air staff.
“It was supposed to be a gift to our customers, and so far the campaign has received positive feedback, increasing the number of passengers. There were so many viewers that the webpage crashed,” he told a Bangkok newspaper.
“The airline business has always been seen as sexy globally,” Sarasin told a travel web site. “That is why our planes…appropriately become the background of these models.”
Sarasin also said, “given what the public is exposed to on a daily basis, we believe that we have not crossed the line.”
But, the Ministry of Culture is trying to diminish that exposure, and change the nation’s image in a society where prostitution is accepted and the ministry has lodged a complaint.
“The campaign focuses on the country’s bad reputation regarding sex services, and an image that other organizations have been trying to change,” said the ministry.
A 2004 estimate by Dr. Nitet Tinnakul from Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University found that Thailand had 2.8 million sex workers.
Although they’re not happy with the message it sends, the ministry admits they can’t take any action against Nok Air because the company hasn’t broken laws by producing the calendar.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Sugam Pokharel and AJ Willingham, CNN
Alanna Petroff, CNN