United Airlines Training Crews To Stop Inflight Porn Use

Filed Under: United

This was an interesting press release to land in my inbox…

United training flight attendants to spot inflight porn

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) is commending United Airlines for their improved in-person flight attendant training, including addressing the issue of passengers watching pornography on planes.

According to NCOSE, the training started in January 2020. However, United issued a statement suggesting that they’ve offered increased training on “sexual harassment of any kind” since 2018. They don’t specifically reference inflight porn use, though. Here’s their statement:

The safety of our customers and colleagues is our top priority. Sexual harassment, inappropriate behavior, intimidation or predation have absolutely no place anywhere in our society — including, and especially, in our industry and on our aircraft. 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.

According to NCOSE, in recent years incidents of passengers watching hardcore pornography on personal devices while on planes has increased greatly, “leaving fellow passengers and flight crew feeling unsafe, emotionally triggered, and victim to sexual harassment.”

What are the signs of watching inflight porn?

I’d be curious to know what exactly training looks like for spotting inflight porn use. I don’t see this mentioned anywhere — I’m not sure if that’s intentional so that people don’t try to get sneaky, though it also seems like this could help other people spot it happening.

I would assume in general some of the following would be signs:

  • Repeatedly looking around the cabin (especially behind) nervously
  • Angling your personal device away from everyone else
  • Perhaps using blankets to, ahem, cover some things up

I do find the focus specifically on pornography to be surprising, since I would assume an even bigger issue would be people either creeping on others from a distance, or even making unwanted advances. I’m sure there’s some overlap in terms of “clues.”

Anyway, if anyone actually knows what the training is like and can share, please post in the comments section.

United Airlines was on “Dirty Dozen” list in 2019

What makes this particularly interesting is that in 2019, NCOSE put United Airlines on their “Dirty Dozen” list, naming 12 mainstream contributors to sexual exploitation in America.

United Airlines was the only airline on the list, and was joined by companies like Amazon, Google, Massage Envy (ouch), Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, and Twitter.

Why was United Airlines on this list in 2019, over other airlines? According to NCOSE, United Airlines crews had received ineffective training due to consistent failures in addressing sexually harassing actions, speech, and pornography use. As they explained at the time:

United Airlines appears to be chronically ill-prepared to address the growing problem of pornography on airplanes and the ensuing culture of sexual harassment that this fosters. While most airlines have a policy on paper against in-flight pornography use, they are not adequately training their in-flight crews or support staff to ensure they A) are consciously aware the policy exists or B) know how to enforce it.

When this lack of clarity and training exists, United aircrews have resorted to giving alleged “hush” money or even openly joking about a case of sexual harassment. This leaves passengers vulnerable and isolated to endure a toxic sexual environment without recourse.

Bottom line

It’s good to hear that United Airlines is improving when it comes to training flight attendants on issues like this. This does seem like an area where airlines perhaps haven’t historically put in the effort they should have, so it’s nice to see some airlines catching up.

Have you ever witnessed someone watching pornography inflight?

Comments
  1. Yeah……I already wanted to douse myself in Purrell after every flight. Now I’m going to be in the shower at the hotel/at home for like half an hour muttering “still not clean” after reading this.

  2. If that’s the focus, I would think United may want to clean up some of their available content as well. I decided to stream Caddyshack on a flight last Fall and had a few uncomfortable moments when I realized it was completely unedited. I had to do a quick check to make sure no kids were around.

  3. One of my worst in-flight experiences was what I am assuming was a porn related incident. I was on a red-eye from SEA to NYC on Alaska and the guy in the seat next had one of those mobile Oculus virtual reality headsets on.

    Shortly after take-off he unbuttoned his pants and slid his hand down his pants…it was mortifying. I was kind of frozen and had no clue what to do. Should I ping a flight attendant, should I say something to him, should I ignore it, should I stand up and cause a scene. It was horrifying.

    I chose to ignore it and regret that decision. He did shortly thereafter get up and move to row further back on the plane, but I should have said something to an FA that behavior is unacceptable in any sort of society.

  4. Omg reminds me of my best flight story ever. Very attractive young lady next to me was reviewing all of her very special photos of herself on her phone, for no less than an hour. Zooming in, applying filters, deleting ones she didn’t like. I guess you could say I was triggered, at least in some sort of way.
    I think my eyes are permanently pointed a bit to the left to this day.

  5. Load my computer up with shows prior to flights. Was catching up on “Game of Thrones” on a SAN-MIA in 1st, turned my head and saw a 14 yr old glued to my screen. Switched to Supernatural instead, as it felt uncomfortable.
    Don’t know if FA’s would consider that porn or not.

  6. @lucky I know this is off topic but is there a good card for long haul trips in premium cabins, whilst having 3 others in your family. I’m 13 and I keep asking my dad to get the AMEX Platinum Card for himself and explained the (massive) benefits, but my mom is scared off the cost, which is weird because they hold the American Airlines Platinum Card. Is the AMEX Platinum worth the additional $100 cost? or is there a better card for less for flying Business Class (like SWISS, BA, SAS or Lufthansa) from San Francisco or Los Angeles?

    -Toby

  7. Well, here’s where you can call on your readers. I’d say the biggest problem isn’t the sneaky creepy dude (although, yecch), but the Travis Buckle who thinks it’s acceptable to view this in public. In other words, there are people who are socially impaired to the point that they can’t empathize, and thus think it’s perfectly fine to view whatever they like on their device. I had a colleague on a Weeze-Bari flight who sat next to a guy shamelessly watching hardcore on a tablet.

    And, yes, I did have a middle seat 3 months ago, and watched Up In the Air (hey, I never saw it before) on my phone. I was angling it away and looking awkward during the sex scene too.

  8. “The safety of our customers and colleagues is our top priority. … intimidation or predation have absolutely no place anywhere in our society — including, and especially, in our industry and on our aircraft.”

    Perhaps they should have thought of that pious corporate BS before they attacked Dr Dao? I think through their actions we can see what they really think.

  9. The way the headline is written led me to believe that the crew members were the ones watching porn…

  10. On the flip side, we were flying from Belize to Newark in United Business Class in 2005 and the flight attendant told my 18 year old son to put down the Playboy Magazine!

  11. @ Kevin Bookbinder

    Another reason to try and only fly business in herringbone configuration or in any configuration where one is not sitting parallel to another seat.

  12. Will never forget being in the BA Galleries lounge at T5, bleary-eyed, after a red eye in from somewhere…

    I am minding my own business, just trying to get my bacon roll, and there is a lady watching very loud pornography on her iPad. No headphones, tons of people, including children around… she acted so blasé about it too!

  13. Lmao, Americans really have an issue with their sexuality. I can’t imagine such a training would be made in Europe.
    Maybe it’s time to drop Puritanism and enter in the 21st century! 😉

  14. Seriously? This is a “problem”?

    It’s sad that people think sexual entertainment is bad. It’s sad that OMAAT is on board with this prudish anti-sex nonsense. And it’s deeply sad that when this topic (“porn is exploitative” ) comes up, nobody makes a distinction between the “exploitative” employment of women/girls in porn, vs gay porn, which is basically just guys getting off. Is this what the Liberation Years have ultimately given us? Gay people living straight rules, sex=danger, porn=exploitation.

    Will the USA, long the beacon of Liberty for all humanity, ever shake off the Puritans?

    At first, I wasn’t sure this post was even serious. Then, reading the comments I realized that not only is OMAAT on board with the anti-porn crusade, but so are commenters before me.

    I will watch what I like, take pleasure where I find it. This is not what we fought for. History repeats.
    Sad.

  15. While I have a problem with people being overtly crude rude and the like, I don’t believe it is a flight attendants role to play internet / morality cop. United needs to focus on customer service / care something which is lacking by most accounts. It’s really no one else’s business what I choose to read or look at on the plane. As long as someone is using ear phones and a little bit of common sense this should not be an issue. The guy who was playing with himself is not acceptable. This is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

  16. This is why I prefer JetBlue Mint rows 2 and 4 with their doors. If United had that with Polaris they wouldn’t have to train their crews.

  17. It might be worth pointing out that the “National Center on Sexual Exploitation” is actually a conservative Christian group previously known as Morality in Media. They have a history of stunts targeting various mainstream platforms and companies as a means of getting attention in service of their goal to actually ban pornography.

    Just a few years ago they targeted educational database company EBSCO because it allowed people to look up articles on sexual terms (not actual porn). It also targeted Steam since some of its hosted games have adult-leaning content. They even put the American Library Association on their list.

    It looks like someone at United didn’t bother to look behind the name and just rolled over to their demands. Their official-sounding name makes it a bit harder to figure out their actual agenda.

    With as many people as are traveling these days, I don’t doubt that there are lots of people who watch inappropriate content during their travels. But NCOSE isn’t the right group for United to be partnering with in this initiative; they got duped here. NCOSE doesn’t act in the public interest, they’re just a conservative lobbying group.

  18. Why doesn’t United instead train crews to mind their own business and not specifically target their eyes at people’s personal screens. If people are angling their devices so it is harder to be seen, isn’t that a positive thing and not a bad sign to be on the lookout for.

    As a Christian conservative I rather have United stay out of people’s business and have flight attendants focused on providing service. What you watch is your business (and maybe your parents, spouse, children). Unless there is a conspicuous problem with what a person is watching disturbing others then for flight attendants to be detectives and content police is ridiculous.

  19. @Jackson Waterson as a proud in-your-face gay urban left-leaning foreigner, I say that your post makes more sense than what preceded it (except mine, of course lol), that you are right, that I agree with you and that you have “lifted my spirits” (if I may thus characterize it) today.

  20. @FrenchBoy I am from Europe and now live in the US. I have not seen more public consumption of pornography in Europe than in the US, it is very rare on both continents. (However, I have seen some guys reading Playboy on planes — whether that’s pornography is another issue — in the US, I have never seen that in Europe.)

    I think there is broadly shared agreement about pornography in the US and in Europe. Of course it is legal (everywhere in the US, in most countries in the EU — not in Bulgaria or Lithuania). But on both continents there is a societal consensus that it should not be consumed in public, which could expose people to it which do not want to see it (or should not, like young children). And of course there are debates in Europe about the legality of pornography as well (including in countries where it is not illegal). For example https://www.lesinrocks.com/2018/06/29/actualite/societe/faut-il-interdire-la-pornographie/ .

    So no, I don’t think this is a big divider between the US and Europe. Maybe, however, there is more public discussion in the US.

  21. Funny this came up. Last week I was in first on AA and I was watching Hustlers because JLO and why not. There are some scenes that while not porn, would definitely be strongly edited before going on tv (unless it’s life at Half Time show ) the guys next to me was a senior pax (I’m guessing late 70s) that a couple of time peeked at my screen and I’m not sure if he was disappointed I was watching in “public” (last two, window seat in domestic F) or he wanted to watch it too! It wasn’t on my personal device but rather on the few TVs left on AA.

  22. As @Chris notes, NCOSE is a historically Christian organization, specifically founded by Catholic priests. It still follows those roots. If you look at their website, half of it is ironically patriarchal anti-feminist rhetoric. Pretty incredible given that they portray themselves as so pro-woman. I have a feeling NCOSE has just as many issues with marriage equality as porn!

  23. Im surprised by how many people seem to find it ok to watch pornographic stuff in public…let alone the “societies where this is ok” remark (yes, the Japanese have those very graphic mangas that people will read in public, but that’s something else and you still won’t see this on a plane). But actually touching yourself? I’d have said something. Not okay. There’s no fine line here, if it’s 18+ entertainment of any kind, it’s not okay on any plane. I don’t see that being enforced effectively though, but pax should probably report this if they feel uncomfortable.
    That being said, I remember publicly crying in Delta One due to some comedy show about suicide which triggered me…which prompted the fa leader to come over to see if I was okay after probably another pax being concerned. She then commented on the specific show I was watching to the lines of “oh THAT one….yeah that’s REALLY sad and makes people cry” 🙂

  24. Also thanking @Chris. Porn is legal, and a christian group making a list, which United is reacting on? I’m kinda shocked. Also that OMAAT is not being more critic here.

  25. What if Chick-Fil-A made a list over companies working on sundays, and United stopped flying on sundays? For me, the same thing….

  26. I want to be Head of Porn Elimination For UA. Let’s hear more BS from UA’s PR people. It should be quite laughable. Interesting in the States violence, murder, abuse are okay on TV but don’t dare show the slightest part of some sexual organ. Wouldn’t want people to know that guys have balls and women have boobs. Quiet!!! No one knows!!!! LOLLOL

  27. More reason to fly business class with carriers that have a single seat. What I watch is none of your business. If someone needs to stand up and spy over the privacy partition, it is their fault.

  28. What you do in private is your buisness. An airplane is not private- at all. Doesn’t matter what cabin you are in, or the height of the suite walls/door. Airplanes just are not the place to pleasure yourself in that way, it is gross. With maybe the sole exception of the Etihad Residence, everyone will be able to tell, and it makes us very uncomfortable. If you can’t hold off for 22 hours (or more realistically 10 hours max), than you need to get some serious help.

  29. Benyamin,

    Folks at United are a bunch of hypocrites, after-all who pioneered, these ads

    https://youtu.be/xFjJXFmuEqM

    We are a Democracy god damn it, though there is a chance that will change in 2020.
    Beyamin, be a man and take a stand for freedom, Freedom to watch porn on airplane should become your new battle cry!!!

  30. They should put IFE with only porn in the bathroom and then this wouldn’t be a problem. US Airlines are just not creative, it’s a de facto three-way monopoly.

  31. I distinctly remember a flight I took a few years ago where I was seated next to a man in first class. He had his iPad out and was watching porn video after porn video, not even bothering to hide it. I was a 22 year old female and quite uncomfortable though never said anything – I probably should have… but maybe the flight attendant should have as well??

  32. This is a problem that goes back decades, because for all of my life, every book shop at every airport seemingly sold porn magazines. Was anyone actually going to look at them in a public place? Apparently, yes… lack of impulse control is more widespread than I thought.

    This is simple. If you wouldn’t watch it in front of your minor children, then don’t watch it on a plane.

    The world isn’t all about you.

    Having respect for others’ sensitivities is actually a good thing.

    And if your screen is in someone’s field of vision, it’s a little ridiculous to blame that person for seeing what you’re watching .

  33. @Emma
    I think the best practical approach is to leave your seat as though going to the lavatory.
    Then speak to an FA discreetly in the galley.
    A smart FA would think about the effect of talking to the offender – in particular, how is it going to be for you for ?1/3/10 hours afterwards still sitting next to that man.
    a) if there is a free seat available, move you (or him) to it.
    b) if you are window, swap with offender so you are aisle and so not trapped.
    c) swap you with some other (male and large?) passenger who is happy to cope.
    d) have you stay in the lavatory while they (or their big burly colleague) walk the aisle, see the porn, and tell the offender to change his viewing.
    If they have no good plan on how to avoid an uncomfortable atmosphere for you, they should ASK you whether you want them to do what they can offer.

    One would hope that it would be this sort of thinking ahead that the United training would cover, but I have my doubts.

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