Air New Zealand scraps 'embarrassing' safety video after only three months

Air New Zealand goes back to the '80s with new safety video

Air New Zealand reworks Run DMC's hit 'It's Tricky' for its latest safety video, with a hip-hop dance spectacular featuring a cast of hundreds.

Air New Zealand was convinced it had made an authentically local safety video Kiwis could be proud of.

Three months later, it was pulled: The $2.5 million music/safety video the airline had predicted would become a "blockbuster" was instead widely derided by the public. 

The company hasn't acknowledged the epic - and hugely expensive - fail. The official line is that it's replacing the It's Kiwi Safety video with an older one featuring Rachel Hunter and Shortland Street actor Jayden Daniels because of a partnership it's forming with Northland tourism groups.

To read the press release, you'd think the flood of criticism the video has received since its November 2018 launch, which included breakfast presenter Hayley Holt branding it "embarrassing" and agreeing with NZ First MP Shane Jones that it "trivialised safety" - a comment that made headlines nationwide - had nothing to do with it.

To me, it seems like the national carrier, which produces its safety videos in-house, failed to fulfil its own brief.

Air New Zealand brand and content marketing head Jodi Williams said ahead of the video's launch it was designed to showcase New Zealand and the diverse bunch of people who call the country home. 

"It really is by Kiwis for Kiwis … In New Zealand, we do really well with promoting our landscapes, but this video's about actually bringing to life urban centres and communities; getting to the heartbeat and showing the breadth and depth of talent. As well as what people do in their daily lives and to celebrate."

Trouble is, most of us don't dress like American gangsters and get down to cringeworthy covers of 80s hip-hop tunes on a daily basis. Or to celebrate.

But in some ways, the It's Kiwi Safety is more Kiwi than its predecessors.


Part of me though wonders whether the embarrassment so many New Zealanders claim to feel when they see the video is another case of cultural cringe. Does it make us uncomfortable - one commenter on a story announcing the video had been axed said it made them want to break the nearest window and hope to be sucked outside the plane -  because we're worried about the way it will make us look to outsiders? Partly, I'm sure. Kiwi humour does not always translate, so actor Julian Dennison's mock staunch attitude may come across as a serious attempt at acting, the dancers' overzealous to the point of spasmodic moves as a serious attempt at hip hop. The concern for many seems to be that we are trying so hard to be good at something that does not come naturally that we end up looking ridiculous.

And people from other countries are laughing at us - American rapper Denzel Curry recently criticised the video in a tweet, saying "that s… was funny" and was reportedly overheard on a flight into New Zealand saying "it's still going" as Kiwi rapper Kings kept the safety messages coming.

Another key criticism is that the video fails in what should be its primary objective: to get the safety messages across.

"When I'm about to fly, I just want to know the drill without the frills," another commenter said. "Spare me Dennison, Hunter et al and just give me the plain, undistracted facts…"

A petition aiming to convince the airline to feature NZ comedian and radio host Leigh Hart in their next video is also gaining traction online. But perhaps Air New Zealand should stop trying to multi-task; to admit that it can't convey the mandatory safety messages and entertain passengers in a way that won't make them want to renounce their New Zealand citizenship at the same time. 

Williams has said the airline has "been able to validate" that people pay attention to its videos, but too much negative attention can cancel out the positives.   

That Air New Zealand has replaced It's Kiwi Safety with 2016's Summer of Safety video, featuring well-known Kiwis in Northland, suggests it may be getting the message: New Zealanders want an authentically New Zealand video they can be proud of. It's high time the national carrier gets real about what this means.

Lorna Thornber is the travel reporter for Stuff in New Zealand


See also: World's safest, and least safe, airlines named in new rankings

See also: The top 10 airline safety videos, as named by a film critic