SEATTLE — Alaska Airlines is ending decades of giving passengers prayer cards with their meals, saying Wednesday the decision was made out of respect for all passengers.
Airline spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said the airline heard from customers who preferred not to mix religion with transportation. The decision reflects respect for the diverse religious beliefs and cultural attitudes of Alaska Airlines' customers and employees, the company said in announcing the change.
"Some customers were comforted by the cards and some didn't feel religion was appropriate on the plane and preferred not to receive one," she said.
The cards began as a marketing ploy 30 years ago to differentiate the regional airline from its competitors. The company admits the idea was borrowed from another airline.
The cards offer a short excerpt of a psalm from the Old Testament printed on a beautiful photograph. One current example includes this excerpt printed over a beach scene: "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever."
A card with a mountain scene says, "I will be glad to rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name O most high."
Since 2006, when the airline stopped offering meals to customers in the main cabin, the cards have only appeared on meal trays in first class.
For a long time, Alaska Airlines got more positive comments than negatives ones. But lately, opinion has shifted.
Egan said the decision was made out of respect for all of their customers.
"After carefully considering all sides, it was agreed that eliminating the cards was the right thing to do," Egan said.
The airline sent an email to its frequent flyers on Wednesday explaining the change that will take effect Feb. 1.
"Religious beliefs are deeply personal and sharing them with others is an individual choice," said the email signed by both airline CEO Bill Ayer and President Brad Tilden.
The email said some of its customers enjoyed the cards but others were offended by them.
"It is important that everyone know that this decision does not change our core values nor our care for our customers," the email said.
Associated Press writer Donna Blankinship can be reached at —http://twitter.com/dgblankinship