Swimsuit video lands Air NZ in hot water

By Mathew Dearnaley

Passengers on Air New Zealand flights to the Cook Islands and elsewhere will be urged - for their safety's sake - to watch a video featuring cavorting swimsuit models.

The airline, which has been both praised and attacked for previous risque adverts, told the Weekend Herald the video it had produced with American magazine Sports Illustrated will convey all the important safety messages it is required to provide under aviation regulations.

Asked what choice that would leave travellers who may object to having to watch it, a spokeswoman said last night that it had been careful to ensure the Safety in Paradise video was produced in a way "that is tasteful and suitable for viewing by passengers of all ages".

But the video has been described by Sports Illustrated as a "raucous" production and is timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of its swimsuit edition.

Feminist commentator Deborah Russell says she is disappointed the national flag carrier should have bought into the magazine's business of objectifying women.

"I'm going to be sitting there worrying about the male passengers sitting next to me leering at the beautiful women on the screen," said Dr Russell, a philosopher and lecturer in taxation at Massey University in Palmerston North.

"I'm a captive audience for the safety video, but suddenly there are going to be put in front of me a whole lot of references to sex and sexuality."

Dr Russell, who is Labour's candidate for Rangitikei, said she was also annoyed Air New Zealand was spoiling a celebration of Pacific culture.

"They seem also [in the video] to have some lovely scenes of fabulous Pacific men and women - why do they need to mess that up with white women in bikinis?"

The airline spokeswoman said Cook Islands Tourism had been involved in the video from the beginning and was extremely supportive of its role in promoting the Pacific nation as a destination to a global audience.

"Safety in Paradise has been tested extensively with a cross-section of customers and staff to ensure we strike the right balance between entertainment and conveying important safety messages," she said.

"Given this edition of our safety video celebrates 50 years of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, it's natural that we feature some of the magazine's best-known models.

"As the video is shot in a beach setting, it's entirely appropriate they're wearing beachwear, and we were careful to ensure all talent were in appropriate wardrobe choices."

Air New Zealand brand development chief Jodi Williams said working with a magazine that reached 70 million people was an opportunity to lift its global profile and to promote a key Pacific destination.

Sports Illustrated franchise director Hillary Drezner is filmed in a preview of the production saying that when the magazine became involved with Air New Zealand "they showed us the 'Hobbit' video, and we were like, we need to be there".

Air New Zealand has been accused in the past by the Stop Demand organisation of indulging in "a pattern of puerile, sexist depictions of women", such as in adverts featuring a "potty-mouthed" puppet called Rico, a "fares lower than your grandma's boobs" promotion, and "misogynist" rapper Snoop Dogg.

Stop Demand spokeswoman Denise Ritchie said yesterday she hadn't seen the latest video.

- NZ Herald

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