Air New Zealand's latest safety video stars Antarctica

Air New Zealand's inflight safety videos have historically been a way to mix humour into the critical info, but their latest one has taken a decidedly different tone.

It's also been fraught with controversy ahead of its release.

The new video, released today, takes place in Antarctica. Thirty-nine years ago this year, the continent was the site of what remains New Zealand's worst aviation disaster, when an Air New Zealand sight-seeing flight crashed into the side of Mt Erebus and killed all on board.

The crash site itself is avoided in the video, which instead showcases the beautiful scenery and the science work being done on the ice. It features penguins and seals as well as scientists - and Entourage's Adrian Grenier also stars in it.

Everyone on board the plane died when it crashed in 1979.
Everyone on board the plane died when it crashed in 1979. Photo credit: File

An Air New Zealand spokesperson told media they didn't show Mt Erebus, an iconic landmark in the Ross Sea region, out of respect for the families of those who died in the doomed 1979 flight.

"The Erebus tragedy weighs heavily on Air New Zealand and our country, and we would like to assure you we have approached filming in a very respectful way," the company said in a letter to some of the families.

However Jayne Holtham, whose father perished in the crash, said she and other family members weren't consulted before the video was made.

"The very nature of a safety video where there was such an incredible disaster that affected the entire country is just weird," she told Newshub when the video was first revealed.

"Other safety videos are very light-hearted and sort of taking the piss, and for this safety video to be down near Erebus, what's this one going to be like?"

Mt Erebus in Antarctica.
Mt Erebus in Antarctica. Photo credit: Breanna Barraclough / Newshub.

Shortly before the video's release, Air New Zealand sent another email to the victims' families letting them see the safety video before it went public.

In the letter, which has been supplied to Newshub, Air New Zealand's David Morgan and Antarctica New Zealand's Peter Beggs stressed that the companies were thinking of the victims during the video's creation.

"We of course remain extremely conscious that Antarctica is of great significance to your family, and would like to assure you that filming locations were carefully chosen to avoid featuring Mt Erebus and memorial sites," they said.

However one of the family members has told Newshub he was only sent a link to watch the video at 10pm last night. The video was then made public at 6am on Thursday. He said despite Air New Zealand's assurances, it wouldn't have been possible to watch the video before it was made public.

Family members aren't the only ones concerned over the sensitivity of the safety video. Newshub understands some of those involved in the video's creation were also uncomfortable with the concept.

As well as the video, Air New Zealand has launched a website profiling several Kiwi scientists working in Antarctica on climate change issues.

Previous inflight safety videos have included the All Blacks dressed as the stars of Men in Black, and one where New Zealand was transformed back into Middle-earth to promote The Hobbit trilogy.

It's not the first time one of their videos has had a frosty reception. In 2014, there was public fury after the safety video featured several scantily clad swimsuit models from US magazine Sports Illustrated.

Air New Zealand also helps fund science and research on the isolated continent, and is partnered with Antarctica New Zealand and the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute.