Erebus families call for Air NZ to withdraw 'insensitive' safety video

Some families of the Mt Erebus disaster are calling for Air New Zealand to withdraw its "insensitive" safety video.

Nicholas Bennett's father was one of the 257 people killed when Air New Zealand's Flight 901 crashed into Antarctica's Mt Erebus in 1979.

Next week he'll be taking a flight of his own - and he's bracing himself for the safety video.

"I think you'd probably get kicked off the plane if you don't watch it. You have to watch it, it's important," he told Newshub.

Despite the concerns, including requests for the video to be withdrawn, Air New Zealand told victims' families they would be able to watch it before its public release.

At 9:55pm on Wednesday, February 28, Mr Bennett received an email from the company with a link to the video. It was officially released at 6am the next day.

Nicholas Bennett, whose father died in the Erebus tragedy.
Nicholas Bennett, whose father died in the Erebus tragedy. Photo credit: Newshub.

"It went against what Air New Zealand said they were going to do - let the families know first," he said.

Mr Bennett said the idea of watching it just before bed was incomprehensible.

"You'd be lying in bed, dwelling on it. You wouldn't sleep, you'd be upset and restless for the night. That's how I felt."

His mother and sister also struggle with the trauma. They would burst into tears if they had to talk about it, Mr Bennett said.

"As now the man of the house, I think it's very important for me to get out and make people aware of this."

Andrew Bond lost both of his parents in the crash.
Andrew Bond lost both of his parents in the crash. Photo credit: Newshub.

Andrew Bond lost both his parents in the crash. He told Newshub he wasn't personally upset by the video, but sympathised with those who were.

"There's going to be hundreds of people out there who this would really bring up a lot of stuff in their past that they carry with them," he said.

"I do wonder if Air New Zealand is being a bit provocative… I'm sure it would have come up in planning that this would have hit a raw point for a lot of people.

"The two together - Air New Zealand and Antarctica - are now synonymously linked with the Erebus tragedy. To court that in their safety videos I think is a very strange decision by Air New Zealand."

While the tragedy certainly casts a shadow over the Air New Zealand and Antarctica link, there is another connection.

Antarctica New Zealand CEO Peter Beggs.
Antarctica New Zealand CEO Peter Beggs. Photo credit: Newshub.

Antarctica New Zealand's chief executive Peter Beggs told Newshub that Air New Zealand supports climate and environmental research on the isolated continent.

That partnership saw several other videos released, which specifically showcased the science on the ice and the Kiwi staff working at Scott Base.

"One of our core mandates is to be able to tell our story, for Kiwis and people around the world to understand that Antarctica is changing and it does have an impact on the way people live their lives," Mr Beggs said.

"This is a way that we felt could really generate that outreach we were looking for."

Mr Beggs hoped the millions of people who see the safety video will understand how important Antarctica is.

"One of the really important things for us is to be able to communicate the science," he said.

Air New Zealand spokesperson Jodi Williams said in a statement that the airline had supported Antarctic research for almost 10 years.

"We are incredibly proud to contribute to this world-class research and are confident the safety video project will encourage millions of people to reflect on the role they can play to minimise their own impact on our environment."

For Mr Bennett, part of the difficulty with the video's release is how the airline has treated the families in the past.

"Because there's never been any closure - I think that's the biggest thing. My mother was totally ignored by them. There was no support," he said.

"I don't think Air New Zealand is intending to be insensitive - they're just ploughing forward."

It wasn't only the families who were concerned. Newshub understands some of those involved in the video's creation were also uncomfortable with the setting.

Despite his disappointment in the handling of the matter, Mr Bennett said he'll continue flying with Air New Zealand as he appreciates their service.

"Eventually there will be a new safety video. This will hopefully pass although if they have any brains, they will withdraw it," he said.

Air New Zealand has refused Newshub's request for an interview.