Thought You'd Never Ask

Just mouthing off -- because I can.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Flying somewhere? Parents: be forewarned

Smokers have to white-knuckle it and give up cigarettes on an airplane flight for the common good. So what's so difficult about temporarily giving up sex and violence while on an airplane flight too? But here's the latest assault on common decency: airlines showing PG-13 and R-rated films throughout the cabins:

Thomas Fine and Sara Susskind of Cambridge, Mass., recently spent two hours on a United Airlines flight distracting their 6-year-old son, Zachary, from the R-rated [movie] “Shooter,” which depicts multiple gory killings. The sound of gunshots from nearby earphones alerted Zachary to look up, Mr. Fine said. “It’s not like he can look away when he hears the sound, and he’s sitting on a plane bored, and he’s 6,” Mr. Fine said.

The airlines counter that they are trying to appeal to the widest possible audience while respecting parents’ needs, and that parents can avoid shows if they wish.

“Parents have to be responsible for the actions of their kids — whether they shouldn’t look at the screen or look away,” said Eric Kleiman, director of product marketing for Continental Airlines.

Continental, you just lost all my future business. And that of every other relative and mother I tell this to.

Mr. Kleiman, of Continental, said that at times there were not enough popular romantic comedies and other lighter movies to fill the available slots in his airplanes.

Try Netflix, Mr. Kleiman. Try the sweet sound of silence. Try anything but this route. Because Mr. Kleiman, it is not a good marketing strategy for a struggling industry to offend, insult, exclude and repel families traveling with children or sending their unaccompanied minors on flights in your care. I think if I saw a PG-13 or R-rated film showing on a plane while I was traveling with small children, my mothering hormones (already upset by the stress of shepherding my child through what is these days the brutal ordeal of air travel) would probably make me go bezerk, stand up, and scream. I would probably be arrested. But that's usually my visceral reaction to a complete breakdown of common civil decency anywhere near my children. And don't ask me to pay for the privilege!

Mr. Kleiman should lose his job, in my opinion. He is neither creative nor diplomatic enough to be worth his paycheck. But Delta, United, and US Airways are just as bad:

The Association of Flight Attendants-C.W.A., a union whose members hear complaints from parents, said that the percentage of R-rated movies had jumped in the last two years and that the observed trend was toward more graphic and violent content. Delta started showing R-rated films in December, while United and US Airways have increased the frequency with which they show such films. The three airlines also featured “Fracture” last month.

Also on overhead screens are television programs like “Monk” and “Desperate Housewives,” deemed appropriate by parental review organizations for teenagers but not for children.


Nina Plotner, an account manager with Inflight Productions Inc., which works on behalf of many airlines to review and acquire films, said of the editing procedure, “If we take all the good things out, there’s not going to be a lot left to play.”

Ms. Plotner added: “If you get a complaint, you get a complaint. You can’t please everybody.”

Mr. Kleiman, of Continental, agreed, saying: “People love Pepsi, and we don’t serve that, so there you go, we just ruined their flight. That’s an accurate analogy.” Airlines said they received relatively few complaints.

I'll bet. There are relatively a lot fewer families flying these days, aren't there? I know that personally, we've spent our family vacation dollars on some great roadtrips across America since 9/11. (And by the way, that is not an accurate analogy, Mr. Kleiman, as requesting Pepsi and not getting it is not the same as being bombarded with unrequested and unwanted violent or sexual images you can't avoid unless you hide under your airline seat. Sheesh, where did you go to school?)

But maybe having an all-adult airline is a great idea. Maybe the industry should develop fragmented niches like that. Maybe that's the way Continental's going, with the laissez-les-bons-temps-rouler Mr. Kleiman at the helm. The airline companies should have the decency to warn parents ahead of time of the policy change though. Since they obviously don't, I'll do my part here.

I hate government intrusion into the free marketplace, but if you care to sign the petition complaining to the government, there's one gathering thousands of signatures at

As the petition states:

If a child-care facility aired these movies they would face criminal and civil charges. Children simply should not see these images.

Thanks, Continental, Delta, United and US Airways, for reminding us how the skies are not friendly anymore.

I urge all parents flying with younger children to avoid these carriers like the plague. And when booking flights for your family (if you must), be sure to check in advance what films, commercials, and fillers will be shown. If the airlines don't assure you they are totally family-friendly, caring about your concerns, and understanding of what common decency is, don't fly with them.

UPDATE: "Corporations are starting to realize that it's good business to be socially responsible."


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