Should There Be Restrictions on What Content You Can or Cannot Watch on the In-Flight Entertainment System?

L et us say that you are a passenger on a flight who decides to watch a movie provided by the airline on its in-flight entertainment system aboard the airplane. A flight attendant stops by to request that you watch a different movie because your seat mate is uncomfortable with what you are watching.

What would you do?

FlyerTalk member Dafuq recalled this incident after watching the movie Nonstop starring Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore. I never watched the movie; but this is the synopsis as provided by the Internet Movie Database:

An air marshal springs into action during a transatlantic flight after receiving a series of text messages that put his fellow passengers at risk unless the airline transfers $150 million into an off-shore account.

The passenger seated next to Dafuq asked what Dafuq was watching but did not directly express her discomfort. She apparently informed the flight attendant, who then requested that the movie be changed.

“In the end I just stopped the movie as I felt no point arguing or escalating this matter or making it a big deal since people were already staring at me weirdly”, posted Dafuq.

Unlike the female passenger, I would have not been uncomfortable. I even posted in this article about safety videos on July 11, 2014 that “I would have no problem watching an airline disaster movie while in flight.”

I suppose I am weird that way — but that is just me; and I digress as usual.

My thought is that if the airline supplies it for passenger use on its equipment, then the passenger should be able to use it — whether what is supplied is a movie on the in-flight entertainment system or reclining a seat…

…but I want to know what in the world that woman was doing looking at a different in-flight entertainment system other than the one assigned to her seat. Dafuq would have had to have been using headphones; so unless the sound was unusually loud — which in and of itself would be annoying — the female passenger would not have heard the dialogue and the sound effects from the film.

Before you say “since when is it the business of another passenger to determine what I can and cannot watch?”, consider this: what if the passenger next to you was watching pornographic movies on a personal electronic device such as a tablet or laptop computer? What if you had a child nearby while that was happening? Does that change anything?

What about this story back in December of 2013 where a mother of two young children posted a petition wanting American Airlines, Austrian Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and NBC Universal to stop showing violent and sexually inappropriate movies and television programs on drop-down and bulkhead screens aboard airplanes? This was after she allegedly witnessed several movies with French dialogue showing scenes with domestic abuse and sexual situations accompanied by English subtitles laced with profanity. Does the mother have a concern legitimate enough to warrant what other passengers should and should not watch on the larger shared movie screens or monitors? What readers of The Gate posted in the Comments section was quite an interesting discussion, which I would like to continue here.

As I indicated before, I do not believe there is a clear bright line which should dictate what is suitable and not suitable for the viewing by all passengers. Could it not be argued that Elmer Fudd shooting Daffy Duck squarely in the face with a shotgun in cartoons created by Warner Brothers 75 years ago is too violent for children?

I know when I watched those cartoons years ago, I did not have a sudden urge to go shoot someone with a real gun. I prefer shooting people with a camera — but that is just me…

…and as I once confessed, I still enjoy those old Warner Brothers cartoons. Rabbit Seasoning is still one of my favorite cartoons — especially starting at 1:59 with the “pronoun trouble” part — but once again, I digress.

In my opinion — whether pertaining to the debates over seat recline, who is entitled to the armrests, obese passengers on an airplane, or this kerfuffle over what you can and cannot watch aboard an airplane during a flight — civility, politeness and consideration for fellow passengers should be practiced and exercised by everyone, as they can go a very long way towards a more peaceful, relaxing and comfortable flight. If the passenger seated next to Dafuq was truly uncomfortable, she could have at least said so directly instead of involving a flight attendant and not place Dafuq in an awkward situation, in my opinion.

What are your thoughts?

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

11 thoughts on “Should There Be Restrictions on What Content You Can or Cannot Watch on the In-Flight Entertainment System?”

  1. Santastico says:

    This passenger should be moved to another seat or given a sleep mask so she could put in her eyes and stop looking at her seat mate screen. I would tell her to keep her eyes to her screen and leave me alone.

  2. Rick b says:

    I would start watching my extensive collection of porn on the laptop instead and ask her if that makes her feel better.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      …and if it did make her feel better?

      That was the first thing which came to my mind when I read what you wrote, Rick b — and who knows where it could go from there…

      1. Rick b says:

        Sounds like a plot of a porn movie 🙂 !

  3. iv says:

    Obviously, the airline found the content appropriate enough to add it to their IFE. The FA should have offered to move the passenger and suggested she write to customer care to voice her concern. Because I would have not turned it off.

  4. JEM says:

    I would absolutely have changed the IFE. Life’s already too hectic and confrontational to not be courteous/kind with fellow passengers (who wasn’t given the choice to sit by me or not, after all). Is it my right to watch (recline, take my shoes off, use the armrest, use the overhead light on a redeye, etc., etc.)? Sure. Is it right? Not to me. I don’t blame the pax for asking the FA, either. Some people just don’t do confrontation well and don’t want to risk starting one.

  5. Charlotte says:

    I can understand why parents might ask someone to not watch a movie/TV show that would be upsetting or inappropriate for the kids to see. However, this seems like this is an adult women who complained. She has her own screen to look at – why is she looking at the screen next to her? She is fully capable of deciding not to look at the screen of the passenger next to her, just like she is fully capable of concentrating on her screen or on her Kindle or a book or close her eyes and take a nap. If the flight attendant told me to change what I was watching, I would since I do what flight attendants say, but there had to be another work around this after some discussion with the flight attendant..

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I suppose the curiosity factor is what kept her staring at the other screen instead of her own, Charlotte?

      I do not even like looking at the screens of other passengers — especially when they are readily available. I am usually bored after a second or two…

      1. Charlotte says:

        Curious and offended is an odd combination I would say.

  6. Grant says:

    Nonstop is a strange movie to have on the IFE in the first place…

  7. Chris says:

    I think she should have minded her own business and not been watching what was on someone else’s screen. As you rightly pointed out if someone has headphones she doesn’t have to hear it and all she needs to do is not look at a screen that is not her’s anyway. If it was me it would depend on whether or not there was some other movie I wanted to watch. If it was a choice between watching the film or shutting it off and sitting there with nothing to do for two hours, the other passenger will just have to deal with it. How hard is it to not look at the screen of the person next to you?

    In terms of someone watching porn I view that situation differently. That is not material being provided by the airline and just makes you wonder how badly someone needs to watch porn if they can’t even make it to their hotel room before turning it on. Whether or not the airline should have offered this film to begin with is a whole different issue.

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