Profits: No link between beauty, bottom line?
The jury is still out on whether sex sells more seats.
"I've never seen any evidence that directly links the beauty of flight attendants to the bottom line," says Ballantyne. "Certainly it is true that many airlines in Asia-Pacific, especially low-cost operators, base part of their brand image on young, attractive flight attendants. How that translates to additional passenger numbers I'm not sure."
"I'd say it's impossible to put a monetary value to the contribution of the Singapore Girl to Singapore Airlines' success over the years," agrees Nicholas Ionides, spokesman for legacy carrier Singapore Airlines, referring to the well known imagery of the company's female flight attendants -- conceived in 1972 -- wearing distinctive "sarong kabaya" uniforms.
Nok Air's Sarasin himself hedges on whether his company's Facebook stunt helped pull in more profits.
"It's hard to measure if it boosts sales or not," he says. "Load factor (the number of seats sold for flights) has always been in the 80 to 90 percent range. But it did bring Nok Air into the limelight in terms of brand awareness."
If anything, the charismatic CEO believes the added publicity brought a change to the passenger mix.
Before the photo shoot, international travelers made up 10 percent of the passenger manifest. After the shoot, the percentage jumped to 18 percent based on passport checks.
With Nok Air set to make its first international flight -- to Yangon, Myanmar, in the third quarter of 2013 -- Sarasin says: "It's good timing."
Offensive: Is "sexy" a bad word?
Thailand's Ministry of Culture received complaints from local organizations and critics who were shocked by Nok Air's sexy photo shoot, according to local Thai media.
One fear was that the photo shoot might propagate Thailand's image as a destination for sex travel -- but the Ministry of Culture says no laws were broken.
"The Ministry of Culture didn't call me. In fact, I received no call from any government agency," points out Sarasin. "We were all careful not to expose the women to be too naked."
Contacted by CNN, the Ministry of Culture says it's no longer commenting on the matter.
While sex appeal is the blatant strategy for Thailand's Nok Air, further north "sexy" is a bad word in the Korean airline industry -- which is not the same as saying that Korean carriers don't value what might politely be called "attractiveness."
"Projecting any sort of sexy image in a flight attendant interview would be hugely risky here," says Mi-kyung Chung, a former flight attendant who now teaches at the Airline News Center (ANC) flight attendant academy in Gangnam, Seoul.
This might come as news to flight attendants on South Korea's Asiana Airlines, whose union has been in a long-running conversation with the airline about ending its skirts-only dress code and relaxing strict guidelines for hairstyles and makeup. In February, the airline said it would adopt a trousers option on its next uniform renewal.
With a "few thousand students" -- mostly women -- ANC is considered the largest flight attendant academy in the country. The school charges $1,440 for an all-inclusive package in which students can take classes for as many months -- or years -- as they need.
Despite Korean Air's obvious use of old fashioned sex appeal in its widely distributed "For life on a whole new scale" series of advertisements, professionals insist that sex isn't the primary appeal.
Instead of sexy, "bright, clean and sophisticated" is the look that's most sought after in the recruitment process for Korean airlines, according to Jinah Lee, a flight attendant turned ANC lecturer.