Galley Gossip: Can Passengers View Pornography on the Airplane?

Photo courtesy: Bekathwia

From time to time I get questions from readers who want to know what the rules are regarding viewing pornography in flight now that Wi-Fi is available on board most airplanes. Thankfully, it hasn’t been much of an issue (knock on wood). But planes are crowded, personal space barely exits, and when passengers do things they shouldn’t, well, they usually get caught.

Last week on a flight from New York to Fort Lauderdale, a coworker had to ask a 10-year-old boy to turn off the erotica and to fasten his seatbelt. On either side of him sat his younger brother and sister. Across the aisle were his parents who had no idea what was going on until we informed them why he may have been holding the computer screen so close to his face. On a different flight another passenger was caught reading a Playboy Magazine. Next to him sat his young son. What gave this man away was the opened centerfold he was eyeing up and down. When a flight attendant politely asked him to put it away, he yelled at her for embarrassing him.

How common is it to see someone watching something rather risqué on a laptop, iPad, tablet or even the in-flight entertainment system in the air? I can only think of a few instances I’ve seen something that might raise a few eyebrows. When this happens, I’ll gently inform the passenger that there are children on board and remind them that other passengers seated nearby might find what they’re viewing distasteful. Nine times out of ten they’ll either fast forward through the scene or turn it off – end of story.

Do passengers ever complain about the content of something that a different passenger is watching? I’ve never had anyone rat someone out for watching pornography in flight. But I do get a lot of complaints about kids watching movies or playing video games that are too loud. Most parents forget to bring headphones for their little ones. I always hate having to tell a nice family to turn it down, but rules are rules and they apply to everyone, even those under 2 feet tall.

Is there a firm policy on how to handle passengers who are watching adult content openly? Pornography is not allowed on the airplane. If a flight attendant does come across it, we’ll discreetly ask the passenger to put it away. If that doesn’t work, we might issue a written warning. The warning informs the passenger what will happen if they choose not to comply. Refusing to obey crew instruction is a federal offense.

Distracted driving rules drive you to distraction

Road trips are a staple of summer travel. You load up the car, cram in the kids and put the pedal to the metal. Well, it’s not that simple any more. The rules with which you have to contend vary from state to state, especially when it comes to distracted driving (also “known as get off your cell phone while driving”). Can you go hands free? Should you just shut up and drive? It depends on the state.

We’ve become more reliant on our cell phones, and not just for talking. Travel apps abound, and iPhones, BlackBerry devices and Androids laden with them help us communicate with each other to get local color, find hotels and cheap gas and even get from Point A to Point B without getting lost. All these tools that make travel easier could make driving safely harder, as you desperately need to monitor the Twitter public timeline while blowing down the highway at an absurd rate of speed.

Well, it turns out that keeping track of distracted driving rules from state to state, particularly if you’re on a long road trip, can lead you into distracted driving. Simply put: trying to obey the law can cause you to break it.Distracted driving laws, according to MSNBC, are far from uniform:

So far, 30 states – and some local jurisdictions, including Chicago and Phoenix – now have laws that address using cell phones or sending text messages while driving. Fines range from $20 to $150 for the first offense.

Unfortunately, the laws aren’t uniform. One state may ban handheld phone use in cars while another may allow it. Texting while driving is banned in dozens of states, but will result in a ticket in others only if you get into an accident.

Just keeping track of distracted driving laws can distract the heck out of you. So, you may want to print them out, MSNBC suggests, particularly since these laws aren’t always posted at state borders. A better idea, I think, is to e-mail or text them to yourself … which only works in states where you can use your cell phone while driving. D’oh!

Even better? Bring a copilot.

[photo by Lord Jim via Flickr]