Porn on a plane? Not if you're flying Delta Air Lines.
The airline, which plans to launch its in-flight Wi-Fi service later this year, has changed course on the controversial issue and now says it will block inappropriate Web sites from its Internet service, according to an article published Friday by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Previously, Delta said its flight attendants would handle situations on a case-by-case basis if passengers were viewing pornography in-flight. But now the airline says it's taking a different approach after receiving feedback from customers and flight attendants. The company is currently working with wireless provider Aircell to come up with a filter to block the inappropriate content, the newspaper said.
The question of what to do about porn-viewing passengers has been brewing for months. In September, American Airlines flight attendants and their union asked the airline to consider blocking or filtering traffic on its in-flight service. But American's management has resisted requests for putting any restrictions in place.
American Airlines and Delta are two of several airlines testing in-flight Wi-Fi. American has been offering the service on a limited basis since August 20 on some flights between New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, and between New York and Miami. Delta plans to have its entire domestic fleet of 330 aircraft outfitted with Wi-Fi by the middle of next year.
While Delta may be trying to appease the masses with its plan to filter traffic, that too is not without controversy. Earlier this year, the Denver International Airport took a lot flak for blocking access on its free Wi-Fi network to Web sites that officials deemed offensive. The filtering technology used there has been criticized for blocking nonporn sites such as Vanity Fair magazine and gossip site Perzhilton.com.
A Delta representative tried to reassure the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the technology it plans to use would "limited in scope."
I understand that people don't want to be subjected to unpleasant images on their neighbor's laptop while en route. Believe me, I'd be annoyed too if someone next to me was surfing for porn on a long trip. But the fact is that it's difficult to limit or filter access to the Internet when you're asking people to pay for the service, especially when that filtering traffic may block some very legitimate sites. The Aircell service costs $9.95 on flights of three hours or less, and $12.95 on flights of more than three hours.
What's more, I'm not sure that porn on planes is really a major problem. People have certainly had access to racy magazines and DVDs for years, and in all my years of flying I've never once sat next to someone who even pulled out a Playboy magazine.
My gut feeling is that most people would be too embarrassed to call up their favorite porn sites while sitting elbow to elbow with other people. Of course, there could be that one in a million guy who can't make it from New York City to San Francisco without checking his favorite site. But filtering everyone else's traffic just to prevent this rare instance seems like overkill.
Certainly, there are lots of people who get drunk on flights. And I'm not a big fan of sitting next to someone who smells like a brewery and pukes in the little baggy they put in the seatback. But you don't see airlines banning booze. Right?