Put that in your Fyfe and smoke it

The editorial in last week’s Listener, ‘Turbulence Ahead’, was based around Air New Zealand’s proposed trans-Tasman allegiance with Virgin Blue and how it seemed as though the national carrier was on its way to becoming a budget airline, which, according to the writer, contradicted the ‘premium carrier’ tag it was using in its marketing. Turns out chief executive Rob Fyfe was so incensed by the article that he felt the need to respond on camera in an effort to draw attention to the facts.

And, perhaps not surprisingly, given the relatively recent adoption of a riskier, more irreverent approach to its marketing, Fyfe has chosen to do it in tongue and cheeky Air New Zealand style, playing up the contradiction between the publication’s name and the fact it obviously hadn’t been listening with a speech performed in sign language. You can see it at www.dearlistener.co.nz.

Fyfe was filmed yesterday and a teaser went out last night on the Air New Zealand facebook page: “From chief executive’s Rob Fyfe’s page: ‘Who said men aren’t good listeners?’ Find out more here tomorrow.” And this morning the airline ran ads in a couple of newspapers with a response to the Listener’s claims and a link to Fyfe’s speech.

These days, whenever a chief executive goes on camera it’s usually to apologise for the boogers in the pizza or bits of orangutan in the chocolate etc etc, but this fairly confrontational, almost prideful response to what he felt were erroneous claims in the media is a slightly different use of the online medium. And, with the airline’s large online and social media presence and extensive network of fans and followers, it shows how quick-moving businesses like Air New Zealand are able to snatch back the mouthpiece and have their own say.

Apparently, according to an Air New Zealand source, this is the first time Fyfe has reacted this strongly to a publication that has “missed some common truths” about the airline. Of course, there hasn’t been too much in the way of bad news to report on the Air New Zealand front lately, so it was probably a bit of a shock to get any negative press at all. Even so, if we know journalists, while it’s a shot aimed directly at the publication (and the writer), there’ll also no doubt be a small sense of accomplishment that the story managed to wind him up so much.

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