30 October, 2014

What can the Elves tell you about aeroplane safety?

Melbourne Herald Sun, Thursday October 30, 2014

At the start of every international airline flight you are greeted by the safety instructions. Once they were performed as a little mime act by the cabin crew but nowadays they have been replaced by a video of smartly-pressed hostesses going through a routine you have heard so many times you just don't bother to watch.

But this time the arriving passengers, in the video, are in for a surprise - is that Elijah Wood across the aisle? On screen, is that an Elf princess giving seat belt fitting instructions from the glades of Rivendell? Or Gandalf demonstrating the safety crouch? You must be flying Air New Zealand on your way to Middle-Earth. Sure enough a lot of the broadcast comes from Hobbiton in The Shire.

The princess shows you the seat belt sign, and how to store your sacks of gold under your seat. A falling oxygen mask is fitted over the snout of a bulky Orc. Our tourist finds a gold ring but drops it off the Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown - and of course bungy jumps into the river after it.

The "passengers" demonstrate the emergency exits by fleeing from a charging army of Orcs. And finally Sir Peter Jackson makes a personal appearance in a recliner seat, to warn you about stowing your electronic devices at take-off.

So not only have you paid attention to the safety instructions, you have also been highly amused, had your appetite whetted to catch up with the film - and watched an enticing tourist ad for the beauty of New Zealand. Pretty clever for a boring grudge task.

This latest video flew into the air last week, but Air New Zealand have a history of creative safety films. Over past years they have featured All Blacks, Richard Simmons exercises, Sports Illustrated swimsuit models in the South Pacific, and previous Lord of the Rings-based promotions.

But is it frivolous, is it undignified to make fun of such a serious topic as air safety? Well if it makes passengers take notice of something that has become invisible to them, go for it.

Does it harm the bottom line? Take a look at Air NZ versus their closest neighbour Qantas, who take their air safety very seriously indeed. This 2013-14 financial year Air NZ chalked up a current profit of $300 million. Big brother Qantas has rung up a $646 million loss. Eh?

Well you can't pin that on in-transit videos, but perhaps it gives an indication of attitudes. For a start Qantas are flying a fleet with aging planes like the four-engine, thirsty Boeing 747s. Air NZ has been first to jump for the two-engined, more efficient 787-9s. Qantas had ordered those too, but has pushed the order to 2017.

As in any business game, chance comes into it too. Qantas has fierce rivals like Virgin at home and a host of Asian airlines slashing prices on the flight paths to Europe. Whereas Air NZ has much of its home turf to itself, with lots of highly profitable flights to towns like Hokitika and Paraparaumu. We can't even say them, let alone fly there.

It's only a one-stop hop to Hollywood. A long one admittedly. So no wonder their movie industry is also flourishing, carrying lots of wealthy film moguls. When they see what creative folk fly their planes, it will assure them they have come to the right place to make movies.

1 comment:

Chris Politz said...

We also have to contend with CASA. Asshole in aviation