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Current as of 26/05/17 07:40PM NZST
Winston Aldworth is the Herald's Travel Editor.

Winston Aldworth: Videos playing it not so safe

Bear Grylls in the Air New Zealand safety video, filmed in the Southern Alps. Photo / Supplied
Bear Grylls in the Air New Zealand safety video, filmed in the Southern Alps. Photo / Supplied

Lately, I've been sensing a little backlash to the highly polished inflight safety briefing videos that have become Air New Zealand's point of difference in the "where-are-the-exits?" market. This is just anecdotal stuff, of course - muttered expressions of boredom from fellow passengers and mates expressing their dislike.

While I'm not wild about hobbits or Richard Simmons and I suspect Bear Grylls fell in a cauldron of LSD as a baby, I think the idea behind the videos is excellent. And parts of their execution are brilliant. If anything, they've been victims of their own success.

Rather than pondering whether our national carrier's idiosyncratic safety-video style is any good, let's consider the alternative.

I've had the dubious pleasure of catching many safety videos from other airlines. They're drearily, er, safe, so monotonous in tone and structure that a cheeky crew member could slip in a video from a rival carrier and passengers wouldn't notice.

And surely the whole point is to have people notice a safety video. So, good on Air New Zealand for doing something special to get passengers' eyes to swivel to the message.

The set-piece elements in the generic safety video are well known. A silver-fox senior pilot speaks first, and his dashing young co-pilot grins along while attractive young cabin crew members stand on either side of them. Best of all is the calm expression on the faces of passengers as they first fix their own lifejackets, then attend to children travelling with them.

Other than the production values, these things don't appear to have advanced much in decades. One or two Asian airlines are using computer-generated footage of polite passengers getting ready for impact and lining up for their turn to descend - smiling all the way - down the inflatable exit slide. I hope I never to learn how polite passengers are in the genuine situation.

When you're the only bright thing in a field of utter dross, sooner or later people will find you dull, simply because you're the only thing they've been noticing. So here's hoping Air New Zealand keeps up the innovative videos and that some of its competitors get clever, too. Maybe the next batch could try to be a bit more worthy - prominent figures from New Zealand history talking us through it? Muldoon and Lange wrestling for control of the plane... er, scratch that, it might be too much like a real plane crash.

- NZ Herald

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Winston Aldworth is the Herald's Travel Editor.

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