YouTube/Air New Zealand
Cape Town - Air New Zealand released its new non-Lord of the Rings safety video set in Antarctica, and New Zealanders are not impressed.
The video shows Entourage star Adrien Grenier visiting Antarctica with researchers, while kids learn about the icy tundra at a museum. It's supposed to highlight the airline's contributions to the conservation and exploration of Antarctica, but instead it connects New Zealanders to the most traumatic incident in the country's aviation history.
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In 1979 a sightseeing Air New Zealand flight flew over Antarctica, but it never made it back home. Flight 901 crashed into Mount Erebus, killing all 237 passengers and 20 crew onboard, and is cited as the worst disaster in New Zealand's history.
Initially, the airline concluded that it was caused by pilot error, but a Royal Commission of Inquiry concluded that it was the result of a change made to the flight path the night before, without informing the crew. It was found that the airline was purposefully trying to cover it up, and a complete overhaul of senior management was done in response to the findings.
39 years later, the families of the crash victims feel like their wounds have been reopened by the airline's new safety video. Many took to social media to air their disgust, with Air New Zealand claiming that they contacted victims' families beforehand to check the concept.
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The daughter of one of the crash victims told New Zealand Herald that they were never contacted and doubt many were.
"For many of us flying with Air New Zealand can be a very difficult reminder of the past and how this changed our lives. To be onboard and confronted by a safety video you're obliged to watch set in Antarctica is beyond ironic. It is the ultimate insensitive insult to the families, both immediate and wider," said David Ling said.
Philipa Lewis, however, whose brother and niece also died on the flight, told RNZ she was told about the video before it went live and didn't have a problem with it. She did, however, believe that a memorial to the victims was long overdue, and was told by the airline's chief pilot that plans are being made for the crash's 40th anniversary.
Environmentalists also took task with the portrayal of Antarctica as "the next great adventure playground", including arctic activist Lewis Pugh. He told RNZ that humans are only guests and that this safety video "sends the worst message about protecting Antarctica".
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Watch the controversial safety video below:
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