Archive for mile high club

Sex On The Plane: Felony and Filth.

Posted in air travel, airline pilot blog, airliner, airlines, flight crew, passenger with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2014 by Chris Manno


Sex on the plane is a disaster from a flightcrew standpoint, plain and simple. This isn’t a  question of morality, which is none of my business. Rather, it’s a question of the captain’s responsibility and accountability for everything that happens in flight. So forget the nudge-wink-“stays in Vegas” marketing and “mile high club” mythology promoted by aging pinky-ring lotharios like Virgin Airlines CEO Richard Branson. Contrary to the fantasy, reality includes both filth and felony.

Consider the situation objectively and the problem becomes clear. First, the aircraft is a sealed environment with little personal space and nearly zero privacy. The latter fact alone should discourage behaviors that would lead to arrest and indecency charges in any other public place, but it doesn’t. And there’s an even darker side.

An NBC News report cited a recent increase in sexual assaults in flight. FBI agents say these crimes are difficult to prosecute because upon landing, potential witnesses scatter and are difficult to locate for testimony.  Neither the FAA nor the NTSB keeps track of these crimes statistically, making organized prevention difficult. Adding to the challenge is the reality that a darkened aircraft, particularly on late night flights, is tough to monitor, especially with an average ratio of one flight attendant per 50 passengers on a full flight.


There’s little personal space between airline passengers, often strangers, and many times the victims are asleep at the time of assault. Frequently these cases involve unaccompanied minors with little ability to defend themselves and on a full flight, in the air, there’s literally nowhere to go to escape. According to FBI Supervisory Special Agent Drew Ptasienski, victims of inflight assaults have also pretended to sleep through the attacks and this coping strategy may make an assault appear consensual to nearby passengers when the situation is really anything but.

Flight attendants are prepared to handle assault reports from passengers in flight, and the cockpit crew is more than willing to have federal law enforcement officers meet the aircraft on landing to investigate every case. Nonetheless, many assaults go unreported due to the shocking effect they have on the victims. According to Ptasienski, “Victims are so shocked they’re being assaulted, it takes them awhile to process it.” By the time they do, witnesses are dispersed and evidence gone.

Clearly, there needs to be a viewpoint shift among passengers in particular, to see “intimate” behavior in flight as completely unacceptable, consensual or otherwise: in many cases, passengers assumed what they’d witnessed was consensual, but in reality was a predator assaulting a victim. Yet if all passengers immediately reported every instance to the crew, no matter how things “appeared,” (a simple chime of the call button will bring assistance) the risk would be reduced for all potential victims.

Although such a strict and uncompromising vigilance and action would likely deter sexual assault in flight, such customer awareness runs counter to some marketing strategies. For example, according to a recent Slate article, Virgin Atlantic promises “a more intimate flight” than other airlines, and Virgin CEO Richard Branson encourages passengers to flirt and hook up on board:

Seriously? Consider the fact that a Today Show scientific analysis  rated the aircraft lavatory as the “second germiest place” you’ll ever experience–virtually a flying outhouse, a mile high Petri dish–and rethink the “romantic” aspect.

Consider also the question of what behavior should be tolerated by nearby passengers, especially when faulty assumptions can mask criminal actions, as noted above. Definitely, at least on the part of the crew, zero tolerance is essential, because notwithstanding Virgin’s claim that their crews “are not the type to interrupt” an amorous romp on the plane, after-the-fact accusations, questions of legal age, STDs, and unfortunately, drugs or alcohol will have to be accounted for by those responsible (read: the crew) for the safety of all aboard.

Then the question would be, why didn’t the crew intervene? Why did the crew allow this?



Ironically, despite the cheesy Virgin ad campaign, the reality for frisky Virgin passengers can be anything but romantic. Worse, the “more intimate flight” and such leering Branson “mile high club” marketing may backfire on an airline if a liability suit regarding an in-flight assault lands in court. Ultimately, airline crews have zero tolerance for any behavior on board that violates the law and victimizes any passengers. Flight attendants work hard to spot threats in the cabin, including human trafficking and illegal, threatening behavior.

But that’s not enough: two crucial changes are vital. First, passengers need to be both aware and intolerant of any such activity on board, never assuming that it is consensual. All incidents must be brought to the crew’s attention immediately.


And second, airline marketing strategy needs to evolve (most have–but not all) from the sniggering throwback sexual innuendo to less risky, more proactive and twenty-first century intolerance for a potential felony masked as “intimacy.” If Richard Branson wants to encourage membership in “the mile high club,” he should advertise hotel rooms in Denver.

Sex on the plane? More than just indecency in a public seat or a filthy lav–although it is every bit of that–worse, it’s a real threat, with real victims: see it, report it, stop it. Anything less makes you part of the disaster.



Mile High Club: Death and Romance in the Outhouse.

Posted in air travel, airliner, mile high club, passenger with tags , , on November 4, 2011 by Chris Manno

Of all the useless 1960s air travel nostalgia hangovers, this is the worst. No, not the idea of food in coach–although that’s definitely nostalgic, unless you have a major credit card ready for the on-board data reader to deduct the cash before you even break the plastic wrap. Want to eat but don’t want to pay? You should have brought your own lunch, pal.

Okay, I buy the turkey sandwich pictured here even when there's a First Class meal catered for the flight crew--it's excellent.

No, not food–what I’m talking about is the bogus urban legend surrounding–inexplicably, at least to one who actually knows what we’re talking about–the aircraft lavatory. There it is: the on-board toilet and the closet where it’s secreted away.

Which leads me to ask: what the hell don’t I understand about this? What is the fascination with the filthiest, foulest, most disgusting six square feet on board an airliner? Namely, this:

Sure, there are some flimsy walls partitioning off this mess–and your mess–from the general public. And believe me, they ARE flimsy walls too–weight is fuel burn which is cost in flight. But shrewd aircraft designers rely on the ambient background noise of flight (you know: jet engines, 300 mile and an hour wind noise) to cover up your bodily noises on the can, much like the lame exhaust fan in a tiny apartment is intended as background noise so you can crank away without disgusting a cohabitant. Lesson for the wise: don’t do anything in an aircraft lav on the ground that you don’t want others to hear. Because they will, especially as they troop past on boarding, and they’ll give you that look when you step out.

Do you get it yet? We’re basically talking about this:

Being confused with this:

Which is apparently another legendary site involving the inexplicably pajama-clad Crypt Keeper (above) and teenagers or other foolish yet financially astute bimbos. So here’s my point: the lav, like Hef’s geriatric boudoir, is actually the last place anyone with an awareness of reality would have anything approaching conjugal relations.

Sure, people say they’ve “done it” in an airliner lav.

But again, it’s as outdated as the prop job in the drawing above, never mind the natty dress and Pepsodent grins. Because besides the issue of today’s cramped lav (space is $, remember), there’s the detail of sanitation: it’s as clean as your average outhouse, and often smells like one. Because either you have the swirling tank of port-o-john water below, or on more modern jets, no water at all–just a non-stick coating with fragrant skid marks anyway:

So anyone who says they have joined “The Mile High Club” is either A) Lying, B) Disgusting, or  C) Has lost the will to live. And here’s the dirt on option “C:” there is no supplemental oxygen in the lav.

Read the fine print: some restrictions apply.

That means that no matter what purpose there is in your lav visit, in case of a rapid depressurization, you’ll need to immediately get out of the lav and grab one of the hangy-down masks before you lose consciousness. As my keenly observant son (he took the above picture aboard a foreign carrier) mused, you have to decide if you want to take the time to pull your pants up and stumble nearly hypoxic into the aisle, or bolt out with your pants down, business unfinished and hope someone would help you anyway to don a mask as if you weren’t naked from the waist down.

In all probability, you’re meeting your maker like Elvis’s last public appearance: face down, pants down, toilet unflushed. Now that’s the stuff of legends, right?

So my point is this: never mind the folklore and urban legends–avoid the lav at all costs. Hold it, go before you board, whatever and if you do have to go into the lav make it quick and then get back to your seat.

To me, that’s just common sense. But if in any way this is news to you, I recommend this icon of travel nostalgia:

At least you’ll be able to breathe no matter what demonstration of disgustingly poor judgment you’re finding necessary to pursue in the can.

Bon voyage, and don’t forget to wash your hands.

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