Editorial: You're flying Air Stereotype

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Photo /	Sarah Ivey
Photo / Sarah Ivey

Air New Zealand moved quickly this week to apologise for - and disown - a crew manual that profiled passengers by nationality and suggested flight attendants beware Tongans who wanted to "drink the bar dry".

The airline said the document was an old one, but it transpired that the word "old" meant "written in 2008".

That hardly makes it an archaeological relic, but in any case, the wording would have been problematic for a document written any time later than 1958.

The comments that most infuriated the community described was the suggestion that Tongans could take excessive advantage of free in-flight alcohol.

If you are going to generalise, it would probably be more statistically accurate to predict that a Tongan passenger will be deeply religious and teetotal.

But that is hardly the point. It is the business of an airline to treat its passengers as individuals, not as races.

It's hard to find a single sentence among those quoted that is not at least slightly offensive. Koreans expect good manners and patience, the manual said. Who doesn't?

Samoans appreciate rugs because they come from a tropical climate. What about Singaporeans? Or Indians? Or passengers who, whatever their ethnic profile, are finding the onboard air temperature a bit chilly?

The airline said the manual was not intended to cause offence, which is doubtless true. But it is hard to understand how the section concerned came to be written in the first place.

A manager's claim that it was designed to "ensure international cabin crew ... provide service levels matching each customer's expectations" is hogwash. Air New Zealand presents our face to the world. It needs to look at each customer, not each customer's race.

- Herald on Sunday

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