Fly the Branded Skies

Jingle: TWA “Up up and away” (1967)

Listen: Trans World Airlines: “Up Up and Away”

There was a time when TWA was actually a pretty cool airline. It inhabited a pretty cool airport terminal. Thanks to its association with Howard Hughes, and his association with Hollywood, it flew pretty cool passengers.

And for a brief moment, in 1967, it had a pretty cool — and ultimately notorious — jingle.

This is the first installment of what I hope will be a weekly series of posts about airline jingles. Jingles are a dying art in advertising; perhaps a dead one. Yet for decades, the airwaves were full of them. And airlines had some of the best.

This one is a case in point. “Up up and away” was a part of TWA’s branding for perhaps a year. But ask people what they remember about TWA — if they remember it at all — and chances are they’ll mention this song. It stuck. It even outlasted the airline itself.

TWA’s jingles had one advantage over those of other airlines: the carrier’s initials. Five rhythmic syllables. The last one is easy to rhyme. In 1967, it just so happened that the rhythm of those initials exactly matched the title of a new, popular song: “Up, Up and Away.”

“Up, Up and Away” was a light piece of sunshine pop most famously sung by the Fifth Dimension. It became popular just as war raged on Madison Avenue: the war for TWA’s advertising account. Eight agencies were pitching. Three of the eight, according to Foote, Cone’s then-music director, were bidding for the rights to “Up, Up and Away.”

Foote, Cone won the rights to the song, and the account. In all, they’d spent a million dollars on the pitch. The song’s author got a deal worth $18,500 a year for three years. (Once upon a time that was a lot of money.)

They wasted no time putting together a flexi-disc record introducing “The New Sound” of TWA to employees. The mustard, purple, and red cover features a psychedelic image of a 707 taking off. “The nation is becoming aware of a new TWA image… an image formed from a new sound and a new look,” reads the cover. “From now on, as never before, TWA will be the airline that is with the tempo of the times.”

For two reasons, TWA’s march with the tempo of the times was short lived.

First, they were sued. Foote, Cone negotiated the rights to the song with Jimmy Webb, the man who wrote it. But they didn’t hire the Fifth Dimension to sing it. They hired studio singers who… well, sounded a lot like the Fifth Dimension. Maybe too much like the Fifth Dimension — judge for yourself. Eventually, the Fifth Dimension’s suit (Davis v. TWA) was dismissed. But by then, it seems the song had already been off the air for more than a year.

Second, Foote, Cone’s hold on the account was short-lived. Less than a year after one of the biggest shoot-outs in Madison Avenue history, TWA handed the account to Wells, Rich, Greene. Without any pitch at all. Mary Wells told TWA their campaign was “a little too feminine in style, too effete, to appeal to business travellers, who were mostly serious, hardworking and long-suffering men.” Wells, famous for turning Braniff into a trend-setter, set about doing the opposite for TWA. From that point on, to my mind, TWA’s advertising tended to be rather stodgy.

But there were many more jingles to come.

Airline: Trans World Airlines
Title: “Up up and away”
Agency: Foote, Cone and Belding
Written By: Jimmy Webb (original); Unknown (arrangement)
Year: 1967


Wouldn’t you like to fly
up, up and away?
Wouldn’t you like to fly
up and away?

If you’ll take our hand
we’ll chase your dream
across the sky

For we can fly! (We can fly!)

Up, up and away!
How beautiful, how beautiful, to fly!

We’ll pick a star
in the twilight canopy
and search the world
for the sights you long to see.
Your heart is young,
you’re alive, so come with me.

T-dou-ble-u-A, up, up, and away!

T-dou-ble-u-A, up, up and away!
T-dou-ble-u-A, up, up and away!
T-dou-ble-u-A, up, up and away!

(Photo credit: Nate Hofer)

Update (Jan. 22, 2012): I forgot to mention that TWA was not the only airline to use “Up up and away” in its advertising. Trans Australia Advertising did too — although a little clumsily:


  • Rredfox

    I’ll never forget when my dad brought home the “proof recording” about a month before the advertisements hit the air.  I played it over and over again.  It was a BRILLIANT ad campaign!

  • Charles

    Do any of the “Up, up and away” commercials for TWA still exist? I have yet to see a single one of them anywhere on the internet…..

  • fitz fitzgerald


  • Fly the Branded Skies

    I’ve never been able to find them online either. If you are in New York or Los Angeles, you can find the launch commercial in the archives of the Paley Center. That’s where I saw it.

  • Hugo Grimaldi Perona




  • FortMcHenry

    Interesting information on why the “Up, Up and Away — TWA” jingle was so (relatively) short-lived. Contemporary advertising campaigns included United Air Lines’ “Come Fly with Me (Come Fly the Friendly Skies)” based on the song “Come Fly with Me” popularized by Frank Sinatra, and Pam American World Airways’ “Pan Am Makes the Going Great” — both of which lasted much longer than TWA’s. (As a kid, I loved commercial jingles — especially airlines!). The lyrics are quite different from Jimmy Webb’s song which the Fifth Dimension recorded; and the arrangement and vocals are of course somewhat similar, but in no way a direct copy of the Fifth Dimension’s. If that was the basis of their lawsuit, then I don’t think they had much of a case. I suspect the Fifth Dimension’s record company was behind these legal shenanigans, with an eye towards making some extra money. Because unless the music publishing company granted the Fifth Dimension contractually EXCLUSIVE rights (which would be very rare, and therefore doubtful) the music publisher could (and would) sell rights to anyone else they could to record the song (therefore making money for them AND the songwriter). That’s the job of a music publishing company! As alluded to in this article, the song “Up, Up and Away” was simply too big a hit, and too much a “natural” — for it NOT to be used by an airline for their jingle. Besides that, I know “Up, Up and Away” had many “cover versions” recorded in the 1967-68 time period (because I have them on LP records!). Even Arthur Fieldler & The Boston Pops recorded the song, releasing on a famous album of the day, which shows Fielder and a “bevvy of beauties” in front of a TWA 707. The lawsuit may have been dismissed by the court for lack of merit (or dismissed because the parties had arrived at an out of court settlement) — not sure which was the case. Either way, but by then the “boat had sailed” on TWA’s campaign.

    BTW, finally one 1967 TWA commercial with the terrific “Up, Up and Away — TWA” jingle is available on YouTube. I’d been periodically checked for years, because this truly IS one of the best and most memorable commercial jingles of all time. The TAA version I’d never heard before, and while not lyrically “flowing” like TWA’s it’s still very enjoyable. Mid Sixties Forever!!!!

  • FortMcHenry

    YouTube FINALLY has one “Up, Up and Away — TWA” commercial posted! It’s as terrific as I remembered them to be!!!