An Air New Zealand plane takes off from the airport in Sydney on August 23, 2017.
Air New Zealand posted a 17.5 percent fall in annual net profit on August 23 as increased competition hit the carrier's bottom line. / AFP PHOTO / Peter PARKS        (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
CNN  — 

Air New Zealand’s attempts to trademark a logo of a common Māori greeting has sparked anger and threats of a boycott from the Māori community.

The Māori phrase “kia ora,” which translates literally as “be well,” is widely used across the country to mean “hello.”

Air New Zealand said that it wanted to trademark a logo of the phrase, which is also the name of its inflight magazine.

Matthew Tukaki, a spokesman for the The Māori Council, called the “harebrained” idea “an absolute disgrace” in a video statement posted online.

Tukaki, executive chairman for the council, said that Air New Zealand routinely “culturally misappropriate not only our symbols but now also our language,” noting that the move also came during Māori Language Week.

Tukaki also said that if Air New Zealand did not stop their “nonsense,” he would call for a national Māori boycott of the airline, and that the “vast majority” of Māori people were tired of businesses using symbols, names and culture in their branding.

“This is an absolute disgrace during Māori Language Week that you somehow think you have the right and the ability to not only misappropriate our culture and our language, but to somehow trademark one of the most recognizable symbols in all of our te reo (language)”, he said.

“I’m prepared to walk into the court and make a point if I need to,” he added.

In a statement sent to CNN, Air New Zealand said it wanted to trademark the logo, and not the phrase itself.

“This trademark application refers to the logo for the Air New Zealand inflight magazine title,” Air New Zealand said in a statement. “It’s standard corporate practice to have all our logos trademarked and we have just started the process given Kia Ora magazine has recently been through a refresh,” they added.

The airline said it had “great respect” for the Māori language.