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AirWest Swizzle Stick: The Top Banana

Updated: Apr 7, 2019

an article Inspired by Stephen Visakay.

The Air West swizzle stick is the perfect example of an advertising opportunity lost. The uninspiring stick is a pale yellow with three connected diamond shapes and almost illegible letters spelling “HughesAirWest”.

Hughes Airline Swizzle Stick
Hughes Airline Yellow Swizzle Stick

Here’s the story

Howard Hughes purchased Air West airlines in 1970. The airline was then renamed Hughes Air West and its call sign became "Hughes Air." It expanded to several cities in the western United States, Canada and Mexico.

In 1971 the airline unveiled a new yellow paint scheme and shortened its name to Hughes Airwest (two words instead of the initial three word name).

The planes were recognizable by their banana-yellow fuselage and tail colors. Soon the airplanes were dubbed "flying bananas".

Own it!

The airline, quick to put its spin on the negative press, launched an advertising campaign with the catchphrase "Top Banana in the West". Were they trying too hard with the battle cry “we’re not a flying banana, we’re the top banana”? Yes, but...

The Ad Men must have been drinking banana daiquiris when they penned the forgettable slogan:

Remember, when you fly in the West, Hughes AirWest has a lot more going for it than the rest of the bunch”.

Not surprisingly, the campaign did not improve the airlines reputation. In the 70’s movie The Gauntlet starring Clint Eastwood and Sandra Locke, Eastwood's character arrives in Las Vegas on AirWest and when he later phones the airport for flight departure times, Locke's character sarcastically calls the airline "Air Worst.”

The ad campaign is one of my favorites, but alas it was not enough to save Airwest.

AirWest was sold to Republic Airlines in 1980.

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