In Depth

Air New Zealand bikini model safety video flies into turbulence

Sports Illustrated girls star in controversial Cook Islands safety clip. Is it sexist?

AIR NEW ZEALAND has built a reputation for off-the-wall safety videos, with previous efforts featuring hobbits, the All Blacks rugby team, Bear Grylls and members of cabin crew wearing nothing but body paint. But the company's latest, and most risque, effort has caused some turbulence for the carrier. It is set on the tropical South Pacific island of Aitutaki, in the Cook Islands, and stars four Sports Illustrated swimsuit models frolicking on the beach in bikinis. The "Safety in Paradise" video features Ariel Meredith, Chrissy Teigen, Hannah Davis and Jessica Gomes, plus a cameo from Christie Brinkley. And despite appearances from Polynesian cultural groups in the four-minute clip, the models' efforts have generated accusations of sexism. Dr Deborah Russell, a lecturer at New Zealand’s Massey University, told the Sydney Morning Herald: "My concern is that as a woman I get on a plane to go to a business meeting, say  - something serious - and I am confronted by women in bikinis in what are highly sexualised images. That jars." Others took to Twitter to express their disapproval, claiming it demeaned air stewardesses and "sullied" the island it was filmed on. 

Just watched the new @FlyAirNZ Cook Is safety video and it's actually worse than I'd expected. Back to the days of "coffee, tea or me" eh?

 

— Marguerite Hill (@margueritelou) February 12, 2014

1 Dear @FlyAirNZ Most years I fly between London to Auckland but I will not be using your services for the foreseeable future

 

— Bridget Condor (@agent_condo) February 12, 2014

 Others have dismissed it as a cynical marketing ploy. "Call me old-fashioned but I reckon safety videos ought to be shot inside a plane," wrote Shelley Bridgeman in the New Zealand Herald. "Like its predecessors, this safety video is designed to gain maximum media coverage. Simply by discussing it, we are furthering the aims of whoever is behind this savvy public relations initiative." But while Air NZ will welcome the publicity, she says, "the welfare of society at large is unlikely to be the primary concern of any commercial airline". Predictably the airline has defended the video and described the models' attire as "entirely appropriate" for the setting. The Cook Islands tourist board has also backed the video, saying it gives valuable exposure to Aitutaki, a largely conservative Christian island where the issue of Sunday flights remains controversial, topless sunbathing is frowned upon and tourists are encouraged to cover up when not on the beach.

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