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Just when you might be tempted to start tuning out those boring in-flight safety videos, Air New Zealand has come out with what it’s calling “The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made” — and it’s hard to argue with the title. The new video was shot to celebrate the final movie in the “Hobbit” trilogy, filmed in New Zealand and slated to debut in theaters on December 17.

The video features elves, dwarves, wizards, orcs and even Elijah Wood, who played the most famous hobbit of all in the blockbuster “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. But the true star of the show may just be New Zealand’s sweeping landscapes, which leave no doubt as to why the country was chosen to play Middle-earth.

Check out the video below:



Not ready to leave Middle-earth? Check out Air New Zealand’s previous Tolkien-themed safety video.

More fun in-flight videos:
Betty White Stars in Latest Air New Zealand Safety Video
Bear “Man vs. Wild” Grylls Takes On In-Flight Safety
Richard Simmons Sweats to a New Flight Safety Video

– written by Sarah Schlichter

2013 2014 beach new yearBefore we jump head first into 2014, we’re taking one last look back at the year that was. Of all the travel tips and trends we covered in 2013, there were a few that got our readers ranting, raving or simply laughing. Read on as we count down our 10 most popular blog posts of the past year.

10. Air New Zealand did it again. The airline known for its creative and hilarious in-flight safety videos came out with another winner in November, this time featuring the inimitable Betty White.

9. We reviewed and gave away dozens of travel products in 2013, but the biggest hit was the ultra-innovative Suitcase That Beats Bed Bugs.

8. When an Asiana Airlines plane crashed at San Francisco Airport in July, it spurred us to wonder: Where Are the Safest Seats on a Plane?

7. It isn’t often that we can bring readers good news from the travel industry, so when T-Mobile Eliminated Roaming Fees for Cell Phone Users Abroad, we and our fellow travelers rejoiced.

6. Few things get travelers more riled up than the topic of kids on planes. This year saw several Asian airlines introduce child-free zones on some of their flights — and while many of our readers were supportive of keeping kids as far away as possible, one parent took a different tack in her controversial Open Letter to People Who Hate Flying with Kids.

5. Turns out that even a so-called “travel expert” makes the occasional packing blunder. See what happens When a Travel Writer Ignores Her Own Advice.

4. A guest contributor from a currency exchange service shared his best practical tips in Buying Foreign Currency: Get More Bang for Your Buck.

3. Our post on 5 Signs You’re Not a True Traveler stirred up some strong emotions in the comments section. Reader Christy said our list was “spot on,” while Clare accused us of “imposing [a] very restrictive idea of what an experience must be.” What’s your take?

2. On a long, boring flight, leafing through the SkyMall catalog is always entertaining. Readers got a good laugh from our list of 9 Useless Items You Can Buy at 35,000 Feet, ranging from a mounted squirrel head to a porch potty for dogs.

1. Catching Zs while crammed into a tiny airplane seat is always a struggle. Could the perfect travel pillow help the cause? We reviewed four of them in Travel Pillow Challenge: The Quest for Good Airplane Sleep.

The Weirdest Travel News of 2013

– written by Sarah Schlichter

“Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson, exercise guru Richard Simmons and Bear Grylls of “Man vs. Wild” are just a few of the celebs who’ve made appearances in Air New Zealand’s always entertaining in-flight safety videos — and now it’s Betty White’s turn. Along with Gavin MacLeod of “Love Boat” fame, the nonagenarian actress has taken to the seatback screen with a humorous take on “Safety Old School Style.”

Set in a retirement community, the video plays up the senior citizen jokes — so if you’re sensitive to cracks about hearing aids and oxygen tanks, you might want to give it a miss. But the mostly elderly cast is clearly having such fun that it’s hard to take offense. Give it a watch:



Note: The part about turning off electronic devices for take-off and landing may soon be outdated, following the Federal Aviation Administration’s recent announcement permitting the use of such devices at altitudes under 10,000 feet for all approved aircraft.

For more laughs, check out Air New Zealand’s past safety videos below.

Bear “Man vs. Wild” Grylls Takes On In-Flight Safety
Airline Safety Briefing: Middle Earth-Style
President Obama Makes Cameo in Air New Zealand Safety Video
Richard Simmons Sweats to a New Flight Safety Video

– written by Sarah Schlichter

When you fly as often as we do here at IndependentTraveler.com, those in-flight safety demonstrations can get a little boring — so we always perk up when an airline decides to have fun with them. And nobody does that as well as Air New Zealand. Richard Simmons had us wishing we were in pink spandex, while a planeful of elves, wizards and hobbits had us longing for a Middle Earth getaway.

Now Bear Grylls, lately of “Man vs. Wild,” has us readying our fire starter kits and emergency rations. In the latest iteration of the “celebrity” safety briefings, Bear takes viewers on an adrenaline-filled romp through the New Zealand mountains while still buckling up for safety and heeding the flight attendants’ instructions. Take a look:



Do new twists on standard briefings make you any more likely to pay attention? Sound off in the comments below.

Watch more fun airline videos:
President Obama Appears in Air New Zealand Video
Delta Flash Mob
Finnair Goes Bollywood: Jai Ho!

– written by Dori Saltzman

We here at IndependentTraveler.com have seen some crazy airline safety briefings in our time (Richard Simmons, anyone?), but this one definitely caught our attention. Featuring 11 Air New Zealand crewmembers and surprise appearances by “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” producer and “The Hobbit” director Peter Jackson, plus J.R.R. Tolkien’s grandsons Mike and Royd, this Middle-earth-inspired video tells passengers the standard need-to-know information from seatbelt-fastening to oxygen mask application. Take a look:


Air New Zealand has partnered with Jackson to promote the new “Hobbit” trilogy; the first movie in the series, shot in New Zealand, is due in American theaters in December.

Do new twists on standard briefings make you any more likely to pay attention? Sound off in the comments below.

Watch more fun airline videos:
President Obama Appears in Air New Zealand Video
Delta Flash Mob
Finnair Goes Bollywood: Jai Ho!

– written by Ashley Kosciolek

Today, Air New Zealand released another of its cheeky, star-studded in-flight safety videos — and this time U.S. President Barack Obama makes an appearance, along with Snoop Dogg and members of New Zealand’s rugby team, the All Blacks. (Previous videos have included cameos from Lindsay Lohan, David Hasselhoff and our personal favorite, Richard Simmons.)

The hand-drawn video is a departure from previous live-action efforts, and it’s filled with wry little details. As you watch below, keep your eye out for Queen Elizabeth and her corgis — and check out President Obama’s cocktail.



How many celebs did you spot? If you can name at least five, you can enter to win an around-the-world trip for two from Air New Zealand on its social media site, TheFlyingSocialNetwork.com.

Watch more fun airline videos:
Delta Flash Mob
Finnair Goes Bollywood: Jai Ho!

– written by Sarah Schlichter

spirit galacticHere at IndependentTraveler.com, we got through yesterday without slipping on any well-placed banana peels. (Whew.) But we did get a chuckle at some of the April Fool’s Day gags offered up by the airline industry this year.

Ultra-discounter Spirit Airlines extended its famous $9 fares to space travel with Spirit Galactic. Members of the carrier’s $9 Fare Club can enjoy ultra-cheap prices to the moon, but as always with Spirit, the devil’s in the details; additional “optional” fees include a million-dollar space suit and $1,200,000,000.99 for rocket fuel (“Hey, this stuff ain’t cheap”).

Spirit vs. Ryanair: Who’s the Ugliest Airline of Them All?

Skyscanner.net, an airfare search site, announced the launch of AirFair, a fare-free, “pay what you wish” airline that would allow passengers to give a donation based on what they think their flight was worth. “In order to ensure donations are sufficient to keep the airline profitable, AirFair has carried out extensive studies and plan[s] to offer flights only on routes most likely to generate high revenues,” reads the press release. “London City to St. Tropez, Monaco and Zurich are the first to be launched, whereas no flights to or from Scotland have been announced.” Zing!

Air New Zealand’s grabaseat.co.nz also trumpeted a splashy new product: Straight Up Fares, or standing-room-only tickets for full flights. Standing passengers, who can cling to hand straps dangling from the ceiling, will enjoy deep discounts “as consideration for the reduced inflight comfort, and the involuntary stranger-touching during turbulence,” according to the press release. For seniors who can’t easily reach the hand straps, says grabaseat manager Duane Perott, “We’ve modified a couple of Jolly Jumpers and hung them in the gap between the aft toilets. … We wanted to offer our elderly customers a solution with dignity, and I’m proud to say we’ve achieved that.”

The Most Awkward Moments in Travel

Finally, Canadian airline WestJet offers an innovative option for parents who don’t want to fly with their children any more than the rest of us do:



Did WestJet top last year’s effort, which called for airplanes filled with helium? Take a look:



– written by Sarah Schlichter

Would rainbow lights, disco dancing and short shorts get you to pay attention to a pre-flight safety demonstration?

Air New Zealand hopes so. Yesterday, the airline rolled out a new safety video called “Fit to Fly with Richard Simmons,” featuring the famed fitness guru as well as a handful of local Kiwi celebs. Backed by dancers in sweatbands and wearing his signature itty-bitty shorts, Simmons is in full “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” form as he exhorts fliers to lose their baggage, buckle their seatbelts and follow crew instructions at all times. “FANTASTIC!”

You can check out the video below. (“Amazing Race” fans, keep your eye out for host and New Zealand native Phil Keoghan, who demonstrates the brace position in his seat — and even has a brief dance solo.)



Air New Zealand isn’t the only airline to get creative in an attempt to make jaded fliers pay attention to a safety demonstration; see our recent post about the dancing flight attendants on the Philippines’ Cebu Pacific airline.

– written by Sarah Schlichter