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Airline Has Nothing to Hide. Really.

Bettina Wassener|The New York Times
Tuesday, 30 Jun 2009 | 11:00 AM ET
Air New Zealand Ad
Source: Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand Ad

The instructions in Air New Zealand’s new in-flight safety video are given by employees who are nude except for body paint and strategically placed seat belts.

Passengers on the video’s maiden flight Monday — the 7 a.m. from Auckland to Wellington, on New Zealand’s North Island — may have never paid more rapt attention to the line “undo the seat belt by lifting the metal flap.”

The video (see below) — and a related ad campaign — are rare moments of levity in an industry that has been savaged by drastic drop-offs in passenger travel and air freight. Airlines around the world, including Air New Zealand, have had to cut flights, employees and investment plans.

The point of the three-and-a-half-minute safety video and the 45-second commercial that started running last month is that unlike other airlines, which increasingly add hidden charges to fares in an effort to increase falling revenue, Air New Zealand has nothing to hide.

“Which is why the price you pay includes everything — up front,” reads the ad’s tag line.

The video and commercial are not as revealing as some might think (or perhaps hope, given the toned bodies of the employees). The realistic body paint makes it look as if the employees — flight attendants, baggage handlers and a pilot — are wearing uniforms. The one person not shown doing his actual job is the company’s buff chief executive, Rob Fyfe, who plays a baggage handler.

Air New Zealand has suffered as much as some other airliners in the downturn: long-haul travel has fallen sharply and new domestic competitors have arisen, like Jetstar and Pacific Blue, even though the airline still has a market share of more than 80 percent, said Rob Mercer, an analyst at Forsyth Barr in Wellington.

But Mr. Mercer said that unlike other airlines, Air New Zealand has “never stopped being innovative and nimble.”

Last year, the airline paid people to shave their heads and wear temporary tattoos that said, “Need a change? Head down to New Zealand.”

This year’s cheeky ad campaign and the safety video, “Bare Essentials of Safety,” have brought Air New Zealand a lot of attention that it hopes will put lots of bottoms in seats.

The commercial, “Nothing to Hide,” has been viewed nearly two million times on YouTube — the most-viewed clip ever to come out of New Zealand, Steve Bayliss, the airline’s marketing manager, said by telephone Monday.

Each video took a day to shoot and cost about 10 to 15 percent of the cost of a major brand commercial, Mr. Bayliss estimated, since there were no actors to pay. The Air New Zealand staff members did not receive extra pay, just increased exposure.

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