Air New Zealand Pioneers Sign Language In-Flight Safety Briefings

By Ivan PetrenkoMay 9, 2024 02:30 AMNews
Two hands holding each other with bracelets on them
Two hands holding each other with bracelets on them. Source: unsplash

In a ground-breaking initiative, Air New Zealand enhanced its commitment to inclusivity by incorporating New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) into its in-flight services. On May 6th, during a domestic flight from Auckland to Wellington, the cabin crew performed the safety demonstration entirely in NZSL, coinciding with the commencement of NZSL Week.

This innovative approach by Air New Zealand aims to set a precedent in aviation for accommodating the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community. The event took place aboard the airline's Airbus A320, which operates frequently between major New Zealand cities, ensuring a wide audience for their inaugural NZSL-supported flight.

Launching the week-long celebration of NZSL, this initiative not only highlighted the airline's inclusive practices but also marked a significant first in the global aviation industry. Passengers on flight NZ421 experienced a unique safety briefing, an effort that was well-received by those on board, including advocacy groups and individuals from the Deaf community.

NZSL Week, running from May 6 to May 12, emphasizes the theme, "An Aotearoa where anyone can sign anywhere." Air New Zealand's flight is a live example of this ideal. By integrating sign language into routine airline communications, the airline fosters a more inclusive environment. The initiative was organized by Air New Zealand’s Enable Network, which supports inclusivity and aids employees with disabilities.

On board, passengers were encouraged to engage with NZSL through distributed cards that illustrated common signs related to air travel, such as those for "water," "cookie," and "toilet." This educational component was designed to promote awareness and understanding among all passengers, furthering the inclusivity of the flight experience.

Senior Programmes Manager and Enable Network Lead at Air New Zealand, Ed Collett, highlighted the success of their recent training programs, which enabled over 400 airline staff to learn essential NZSL for travel. The airline plans to continue this training, expanding the capability of their crew to communicate effectively with NZSL users.

In closing, this initiative by Air New Zealand not only celebrated NZSL Week but also propelled the conversation about inclusivity in travel to new heights, setting an example for other airlines to follow.

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