Pornography on Airplanes, Where You Can’t Look Away
WHEN Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, announced this month that his airline may soon offer in-flight pornography, he told the British tabloid The Sun, “Hotels around the world have it, so why wouldn’t we?”
The flaw in Mr. O’Leary’s logic notwithstanding (hotel rooms have doors; airplane seats are surrounded by eyeballs, some very young), his proposal isn’t so radical. As most any flight attendant will confirm, passengers are already indulging in racy content downloaded onto their phones, tablets or laptops from outside sources.
Beth Blair, a flight attendant and travel writer based in Minneapolis, said she once worked on a flight out of Burbank, Calif., during which an adult-film editor and his assistants began editing footage on their laptops. A child was sitting behind them. “I asked them to turn it off ASAP,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Instead of obliging, they built a private area/tent out of newspapers. Luckily, the volume was turned down.”
Extreme cases aside, the line circumscribing acceptable content is blurry. Pornography is one thing. But even a tasteful R-rated movie may have some scenes that parents don’t want to have to explain to kids in neighboring seats.
It’s not just a problem for children. Michael Carroll, an editor in New York, said he found himself in an awkward situation. He was sitting next to an elderly woman when he encountered a graphic scene in the film he was watching, “Eastern Promises,” featuring a naked Viggo Mortensen.
“She watched the scene for a few seconds, then just looked away and leaned back her chair to sleep,” he said.
The Department of Transportation imposes no rules on airlines in this regard, said Bill Mosley, a spokesman for the agency’s Aviation Consumer Protection and Enforcement division. Airlines like Southwest and American have chosen in recent years to block pornography sites from what passengers can access online. Many airlines give flight attendants no explicit rules about when they should intervene, leaving it to the crew’s discretion.