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The Press-News column Feb 11

Cooking up a storm.

It’s pretty staggering that one fire-brand feminist managed to cut a swath through every major newspaper on Saturday. Massey University taxation academic, Deborah Russell has lashed out at Air New Zealand’s “degrading, objectifying, sexualised” safety video, shot in the Cook Islands with Sports Illustrated swimwear models. Would this grizzling Grizelda be pacified if these beachwear models were clad in hessian sacks and Llama blankets, exuding the sex appeal of a duffle bag? Dr. Russell, who is Labour’s candidate for Rangitikei, doesn’t seem to appreciate what a stonking publicity coup this is for the Cook Islands and Air New Zealand, given it dovetails with the 50th anniversary of the blockbuster magazine’s swimsuit edition. (The publication’s readership is a whopping 70 million.) Not only is this aspiring politician apparently now fearful of being seated in a plane with “men leering at beautiful women on the screen”, but she’s also playing the race card, excoriating the airline for “spoiling Pacific culture by featuring white women in bikinis” in the Cooks. Oh dear, what a nest of far-left fervour. And this flame-throwing academic is the new face of Labour? Our flag-carrier has cultivated a world-leading reputation for its highly inventive, arresting and edgy safety videos, ever since “Bare Essentials.” But many carriers are following suit, with Virgin America and Cebu Airlines recently making a huge splash for their raunchy safety briefings. ( In Cebu’s case, the flight crew perform live, suggestively dancing their way down the aisle, dispensing safety tips like soft-porn.) What next? Pyrotechnics, dancing ponies and a guest appearance of Simon Cowell’s teeth? What all airlines are desperately trying to combat is collapsing concentration spans. Next time you board a flight, look around the cabin at the huge numbers of passengers who are pre-occupied with their tech toys or simply out to lunch, when the safety briefing takes place. The average passenger has the attention span of a baked bean. This insidious problem has only been compounded by the recent decision of the Federal Aviation Administration to allow passengers to play on their Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs), from gate-to-gate. In other words, on many US flights, aviation regulations now allow unrestricted use of PEDS, from the moment you board a flight, through to disembarkation. You can now Skype, watch videos and play games non-stop, even through take off and landing. Internationally, the trend is spreading fast. In New Zealand, the Civil Aviation Authority is still reviewing how far it’s prepared to go in liberalising in-flight PED use. But if those yellow masks did drop down from the ceiling, would the passengers playing Candy Crush even bother to notice?

Mike Yardley’s current affairs column in The Press. First published on Feb 11.

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