Barbie’s Friend Ship from Mattel (1972)

Company: Mattel | Release date: 1972 | Ages: 8+ | Where to buy: eBay

In 1972, Mattel expanded Barbie’s world with the release of the Friend Ship playset.

The vinyl and plastic airplane stood over four-feet long and could be folded into a more compact case with a carrying handle. The design of the toy plane’s exterior was patterned after United Airlines’ Friend Ship livery, including the thick red stripe, four blue stars on the vertical stabilizer and fuselage, and distinctive black typeface.

The interior of the plane included room for passengers and a galley kitchen. A printed tail section and pilot’s cabin completed the design. The playset came with a plastic serving cart, accessories, and a doll-sized smock. Dolls were not included.

The Friend Ship was discontinued in 1974, roughly around the same time United switched to a different design for its planes.


Perhaps due to all the Barbie-mania from the 2023 movie, it is relatively easy to find a Friend Ship on secondary retail sites like eBay and Etsy. A well-cared-for Friend Ship will not show signs of fading, cracking, and warping that often appear in well-used or improperly stored vinyl playsets.

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