United Airlines Training Flight Attendants To Stop Inflight Porn

When we’re all stuck in a metal tube together there’s not a lot of personal space, and we need to do our best not to impinge on each other – physically, sure, but let’s watch our odor and even the entertainment we’re playing on our devices.

At the same time it’s a tough line to draw. Airlines have been criticized for editing out lesbian kissing scenes for instance. We don’t want the rush not to offend to compromise art, and we don’t want life to regress towards some anodyne mean.

There are some things that we can probably all agree on cross a line. A flight attendant once shared on their Facebook feed a story about a passenger taking such a long time in the lavatory that another passenger expressed concern and eventually the crew started to suspect a medical emergency. After much knocking he came out, iPad in hand. He went in there to watch a movie. At least he hadn’t watched it at his seat.

Still, what movies are ok and which ones aren’t? What about inflight entertainment that shows Boogie Nights with Mark Wahlberg? The National Center on Sexual Exploitation says that United is training flight attendants to draw a line and act to stop inflight porn viewing, reporting that “this new topic of training began in January 2020, and a United Airlines spokesperson confirmed to NCOSE that the training is now taking place.”

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation shares a statement from United,

In 2018, we strengthened our training for flight attendants to recognize, address and respond to instances of sexual harassment of any kind on board our aircraft and will continue to adapt and enhance this training moving forward. We recognize the need to continue the discussion among all of our work groups to further ensure that our policies reflect our values and safeguard those traveling with us.

United is asking its employees to exercise a lot more discretion than ever. It’s not just about what inflight entertainment is appropriate, but what size carry ons are ok, too. We want people to use common sense (unfortunately not to common) but that also creates the opportunity for inconsistent standards. We want to know what’s ex ante allowed and what isn’t, and employees have their own varying beliefs just as customers do.

This isn’t going to be an easy road to hoe – for United, for airlines generally or for hotels for that matter.

My own approach: I’m never watching that kind of movie. But what about an HBO or Showtime drama? I’m usually sitting in a premium cabin, so I have a little more space at least. But when I’m in coach I lean on inflight entertainment a bit more since it’s harder to get work done. Up front I’m rarely sitting next to young children, usually it’s a middle-aged business man. Still, I’ll fast forward through any of the more explicit scenes. Sitting in back I avoid those shows altogether.

Do you bring your own shows? If so, what shows do you rely on to keep your interest on a long flight? I’m always looking for recommendations. And how do you handle a more explicit scene?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. I don’t believe in editing films for airplane use. They should come up with privacy screens etc, so the video is only visible to the passenger in the seat. In terms of watching porn on a plane its kinda pathetic that its a big enough issue that they actually have to spend time training on it. Simple answer is it doesn’t matter where you sit on the plane. Porn is never appropriate in a public place. People who watch porn on a plane have some mental issues, because that is just not normal.

  2. Flying BA in economy long-haul to LHR, two incredibly entitled parents and their elementary school-aged children were traveling with all four seated together in a row. The parents were incredibly obnoxious the entire flight but what I remember the most is the mother (in particular) demanding that the FAs turn off certain movies/shows from the OES because she didn’t want the children watching certain programs. The FA said she could turn the screens at the children’s seats but she couldn’t curate the content available. The mother was absolutely livid that the FA couldn’t turn off certain shows and was demanding to speak to the purser. The FA dutifully returned with the purser who replied quite loudly to the mother, “If you do not want your children to watch certain programs, then I suggest that you as their parent should monitor what they view.” The retort made passengers in the surrounding rows clap with approval, to which the mother sat down and remained quiet the rest of the flight.

    Long story short: Not up to airlines to monitor everyone. Take some personal responsibility. And also: gross.

  3. On longhaul flights I prefer to watch a documentary about the place I’m about to visit or try to catch up on my reality TV (which rarely has any explicit type scenes.)

  4. Now they get to define what is “porn” which can be tough to do. Common sense isn’t “common” and not everyone’s morals are the same so this is a tough road for them.

  5. I remember watching the final season of Girls on an AA seat back screen from HKG to DFW. They didn’t even bother editing out the nude scenes.

  6. The expression is actually “row to hoe.” A gardener uses a hoe on a row of crops. No one uses a hoe on a road.

  7. I personally think the airlines should still edit the nude scenes in the movies they show, especially in the tight confines of economy class. Any enjoyment I might get from seeing these scenes is far outweighed by being made uncomfortable with displaying this content at my seat, especially when there are children around (“what the heck is that creep watching?”).

  8. I don’t see why people don’t just watch their own screens and mind their own business… seems.like the easiest solution for everyone.

  9. @james – yup, it’s a row to hoe, I’ve been stuck on many rows 🙁

    The airlines should edit a lot considering the audience. A tap-here-to-ack-you’re-ok-with-content is not enough protection for a child. And for that matter, if we don’t want our kids watching something should we really be watching it? Forcing a FA to subjectively police pax is not the right answer, FAs should not have to be in this position.

  10. Ha! This reminds me of when I watched Call Me By Your Name on United. I thought maybe they had cut out some of the sex scenes but it turns out there weren’t any to begin with!

  11. I noticed American had a lot of movies with nudity and sex scenes. Some of these movies actually have good plots, so I made sure there aren’t any kids in the next few rows and also fast forwarded the nude/sex scenes to avoid discomfort to my next seat neighbor. This is one place where I wouldn’t mind if they give an option to choose between an edited and an unedited version. If I’m in a reverse herringbone business class seat, I wont mind watching the unedited version. But if I’m in any other type of seat, I’d pick the edited version.

  12. Uh, the North American fascination with naked humanity (I am one so I know!).
    Much fuss about watching two (or more!) consenting adults or even one without clothes on, but really no worries about people being blown up, shot, gouged, maimed or otherwise incapacitated (or decapitated). I will never understand it, even though I do it myself. I remember watching the second season of Fargo (the butcher shop meat grinder scene, hilarious) with my 14 year old, but man, if she walks into the room with a boob on the screen, I scramble to shut it down!

  13. If it isn’t safe for work, then it sure isn’t safe to view on an aircraft. But FAs should not have this new responsibility foisted on them. Maybe an announcement, “All you creeps who want to watch porn during the flight, you are being monitored, don’t do it!”. That way everyone knows what to expect.

  14. Considering what happens behind lavatory doors, I wonder how worried people should be about what happens behind business class suite doors. Especially considering those seats are cleaned to a much lower standard than lavatories and hotel rooms.

  15. @JohnB Surely that can’t be the rule. There are plenty of movies preloaded on the IFE that would be inappropriate for the workplace. In fact, I’m surprised you’re permitted to watch films at your job! 😉

  16. My God, I’m so sick of us uptight, puritanical Americans with editing out nudity. Guess what – if you don’t make a big deal of it, then neither will kids. I agree that explicit pornorgraphy should be curtailed, but the films edited for planes on US airlines is ridiculous.

  17. I never switch IFE on: poor format, likely censored, uncomfortable. I keep my self entertained via podcasts.
    The only time I saw anyone looking at porn: 2 teenagers on Egyptair from Europe to Cairo, trying to hide their phone screens whenever anyone walked near. But I could see that they were ( reluctantly) deleting porn ( presumably to avoid the prospect of Mum seeing it after they arrived home).

  18. Airlines and other entities (such as the National Center on Sexual Exploitation) have no right to edit movies nor the right to tell me what I can watch.

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