Air New Zealand pulls ‘Cougar’ promotion

Cougar; Air New Zealand

The airline drew the ire of rape campaigners with its controversial, Cougar Town-inspired ad campaign

BY Rachel Helyer-Donaldson LAST UPDATED AT 14:51 ON Tue 19 Jan 2010

As the Japanese carrier JAL goes to the wall - filing for bankruptcy after landing itself with billions of dollars of debt - another airline has hit turbulence, this time over a controversial promotional campaign.
 
Air New Zealand has abruptly ended a risque promotion on its discount airfares website Grabaseat offering rugby tickets to "cougars" - middle-aged women who seek out young men - after it sparked outrage among rape campaigners and feminist groups.
 
Perhaps encouraged by the success of the American TV comedy Cougar Town, starring the former Friends actress Courteney Cox in a series about older women preying on young males, the airline instigated a Grabaseat competition which asked women over 35 to send in photographs of themselves out on the town with their "cougar mates".
 
An accompanying spoof documentary (above), made in the style of a Discovery Channel nature film, showed how the "cougar" starves herself during the day before "hunting large slabs of meat at night" - in other words, stalking young men in bars.
 
The spoof voiceover then tells how, despite the young men's attempts to ward off the women's advances, the "victims" are dragged to an inner-city apartment and are often forced to listen to "Enya or the Eurythmics".
 
A group called Rape Prevention Education blasted the campaign as "appalling and degrading to women". RPE’s director Kim McGregor said she had also received complaints from men who had been raped by women. "They are very distressed that their situation is being laughed at and made out to be humorous."
 
Air New Zealand defended the promotion as "light-hearted" but then swiftly closed the Grabaseat competition, claiming it needed to finish because of an "overwhelming" number of entries. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.