Latest Air New Zealand safety video raises Erebus crash concerns

January 30, 2018
On location in Antarctica. Source: Air New Zealand video.

Air New Zealand has awakened some dark memories with the location choice for a new inflight video about Antarctica.

The frozen continent has special poignancy for New Zealanders because it was the site of the nation’s worst ever air disaster in 1979 when an AirNZ  DC-10 crashed into Mt Erebus killing all 257 passengers and crew.

The new safety video aims to highlight New Zealand research in Antarctica and continent’s importance in understanding climate change. It will be rolled out across the carrier’s fleet in March.

But some families of people killed in the crashed are not happy.

“The very nature of a safety video where there was such an incredible disaster that affected the entire country is just weird,’’ Jayne Holtham, who lost her father in the crash, told Newshub.

“This sort of feels like it’s regressing a little bit, taking away some of the respect of the area.”

Air New Zealand wrote to the families about the video.

“While we’re proud of the work we’re doing together to contribute to this research, we are very aware of the sensitivities of choosing Antarctica as a location,’’ it said in a letter.

“The Erebus tragedy weighs heavily on Air New Zealand and our country, and we would like to assure you we have approached filming in a very respectful way.”

The safety video was made in partnership with Antarctica New Zealand and the airline’s global brand and marketing general manager, Jodi Williams, said it offered a glimpse into a part of the world “few experience, but which has the greatest potential impact on the planet’s future”.

“Air New Zealand’s safety videos have a phenomenal worldwide following,  and have collectively attracted more than 110 million views online, as well as coverage across the world’s top news outlets,’’ Williams said.

“We hope this video, together with the educational content we’ve filmed, will draw attention to the important research underway to better understand and prepare for a warming world.”

The video is directed by Kevin Denholm, who was responsible for AirNZ’s 2009 debut feature safety video involving body-painted staff, including then CEO Rob Fyfe, and a 2013 effort starring British adventurer Bear Grylls.

Denholm said the film crew took all possible steps to minimise the environmental impact of filming was careful to take the minimum of equipment.

“Where usually a crew of around 40 would be involved, we restricted our team to just six people, including celebrity talent,’’ he said.

“The amazing staff from Scott Base provided the logistical support we needed to pull this off, and many of them stepped outside their comfort zone into roles as supporting talent.”