Leaders of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents some 19,000 workers including American Airlines flight attendants, asked American Airline’s management this week to consider adding filters to its in-flight Wi-Fi access to prevent passengers from viewing porn and other inappropriate Web sites while in-flight.
A union representative was quoted by Bloomberg News that attendants and passengers have raised “a lot of complaints” over the issue.
American Airlines is one of several airlines testing in-flight Internet access as a way to lure more passengers. AA has been offering the service on a limited basis since August 20th on some flights between New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, and between New York and Miami. The cost of the service on cross-country flights is $12.95, and it’s $9.95 on the New York to Miami route.
The current program is in a 3- to 6-month trial period, and the airline plans to review usage and feedback on the service at the end of that period.
The controversy has stirred up an ongoing debate about whether Internet access in public places should be restricted. Earlier this year, the Denver International Airport took a lot flack for blocking access on its free Wi-Fi network to Web sites that officials deemed offensive.
The argument was made by Denver airport officials that users must abide by their rules because they are providing the service for free. But that case is harder to make for in-flight passengers, who are paying for Internet access.
Given that passengers usually sit literally elbow to elbow, it’s often hard not to at least glance at the laptop screen of the person sitting next to you. Most of the complaint are coming from flight attendants who thinks that risk of coming under some sort of sexual assault on them rises when passenger is engaged in such kind of exercise. But airlines have not banned people from reading pornographic magazines or watching their own DVDs on flights. And it’s just as easy for someone to view a DVD of an adult video on a laptop or flip through Hustler as it is to surf porn Web sites.
The truth is that it hasn’t been a major problem on flights thus far. In fact, American Airline’s spokesman Tim Smith told Bloomberg News that the “vast majority” of customers already use good judgment in what’s appropriate to look at while flying versus what’s not.
And he added, “Customers viewing inappropriate material on board a flight is not a new scenario for our crews, who have always managed this issue with great success.”