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In case you have missed it, there is a pretty interesting thread on Flyertalk about a family that apparently caused a flight to be diverted due to the perceived security risk they caused when they got upset about a violent movie being shown on the overhead monitors. There are several interesting issues that this story has raised, so I thought it was worth sharing.
You can read the full story here, but the short version is that in February a family with a 4- and an 8-year-old flew on United from Denver to Baltimore. The movie Alex Cross was showing on the overhead screens. I have not seen this movie, but by all accounts I have read it is a very violent movie with graphic scenes and sexually explicit content (you know, my husband’s favorite). The family was alarmed by the opening scenes, and asked two flight attendants if they could turn off the monitor because they didn’t want their two children to watch that content.
The flight attendants said it was not possible to do so, the purser got involved, and eventually the family asked if the captain had the authority to intervene. The family reports that during all of that the “atmosphere was collegial, no voices were raised and no threats, implicit or explicit, of any kind were made.” The flight reportedly continued on for roughly another hour and then diverted to Chicago due to “security threats”. The family was shocked to learn they were the threat and they were escorted off the plane and interviewed by police, FBI, border protection, etc. They were then able to continue on to their final destination on another United flight.
I have no idea if this is the full story, but it still raises some interesting questions. First, if you are a parent, do you care at all what an airline displays over their in-flight video monitors? Are you okay with portrayed sex, violence, murders, etc? Do you ever look at what an airline will be showing before booking or taking the flight? I’m betting most of us with young kids don’t show that kind of stuff at home when our kids are around, but are you okay with others showing it to them? Alex Cross is rated PG-13, but it seems to be a pretty nasty PG-13 that I would likely cover my eyes for at some points…I’m a wuss. Do I want my three-year-old watching a movie where someone gets be-headed? No.
So on some level I totally understand where these parents are coming from, and they were quite possibly shocked at what they saw come on a basically public movie screen. On the other hand, there is no chance I would personally ask for it to be changed. I would just occupy my child as best I could and limit her exposure. The odds of her being interested in an adult movie at her age are very low anyway….even if I wanted her to be. Still, it is an interesting movie choice for a public arena and there is always the decent chance that she would look up at the screen just when someone was getting whacked (Murphy’s Law). You would think there would be plenty of other PG or less violent PG-13 movies to pick from that could appeal to a wider audience and be less offensive.
The other interesting issue is the flight diversion. This is the part where the truth is less verifiable. It is easy to verify that Alex Cross was shown on United flights in February. It is easy to verify there are graphic scenes in the movie. It is easy to assume there were children on the flight who could see the movie. It is easy to verify that this flight did divert. It is much harder to know exactly why. For the heck of it, let’s assume the story is 100% true as described. Even if a parent is a bit huffy and puffy that a violent movie can’t be turned off, is that a security threat worthy of a diversion that will impact many people?
I know when I had an issue with being allowed to use my car seat on a flight earlier this year that it didn’t take me long to drop the issue. Whether real or perceived, I felt the possibility that if I pushed the issue that I might be asked to take my family and leave the plane, even without any yelling or threats. Based on other stories I had heard, I was afraid that the mere fact that I disagreed with a flight attendant/gate agent on-board the aircraft could be enough for me to get the boot (even if I was right). I didn’t want that to happen, so after a few protests I just shut-up. So, I do feel it could be possible for folks to get kicked off planes without being a real security threat. Whether or not that happened here, I don’t know. Safety absolutely always has to come first, but I do sometimes wonder if that comes at the expense of common sense or a more reasonable solution.
I’d love to hear your thoughts both on whether you think it matters that airlines show violent/graphic movies on screens that young kids can see AND your thoughts on how disruptive you think a person has to be to get a flight diverted. Is a disagreement enough? Is “having an attitude” enough? Is raising your voice enough?