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Politics, culture, and American life — from the family perspective.

Do Airlines Hate Kids?



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A blog post on The Atlantic last week (also picked up by the Daily Mail) details the circumstances surrounding a family being kicked off a Denver-to-Baltimore United Airlines flight because they asked that a violent PG-13 movie being shown on the drop-down television screens be turned off to prevent their four- and eight-year-old children seeing the movie.

The movie being shown was a moderately successful Hollywood action film called Alex Cross, which, according to the parents involved in the incident, was rated by United’s own in-flight magazine as “T” for “Adult Themes.”

Here’s the movie’s description on IMDB:

 A homicide detective is pushed to the brink of his moral and physical limits as he tangles with a ferociously skilled serial killer who specializes in torture and pain. 

Now, doesn’t that just sound like a fun movie for the whole family? Here’s a review from a website that advises parents on family-friendly films:

The violence isn’t as extreme as, say, a Quentin Tarantino movie, but it’s probably equivalent to one of the newer Bond films. In other words, it’s not just shootouts, but also scenes of torture, a decapitated head, and a pregnant woman killed for pleasure by a villain who takes joy in inflicting pain. Even iffier? In the end, the movie’s message seems to be that even officers of the law sometimes need to take a morally questionable path toward justice. Also expect some language (“s–t,” etc.), a scene with a lingerie-clad woman, and lots of GM vehicles.

Hmmm . . . decapitation, torture, and murdered pregnant women. It’s hardly Finding Nemo and it certainly makes these parents seem reasonable in their request to have their children spared seeing this violence.

#more#After these parents requested that the monitor be turned off, the flight attendant expressed concern for the folks sitting behind the family who would not be able to watch the movie (because clearly we should worry about the adults who will be robbed of this cinematic experience). Luckily, those passengers proved reasonable, telling the flight attendant that they did not need to see the film. Yet the attendant still refused citing lack of authority — because who doesn’t need the okay from the airline’s legal department to turn off a television?

When the parents asked if the captain had the authority to turn off the screen, the attendant told them that they would have to ask the captain after the plane landed . . . you know, after the blood and guts had been spilled on screen in full view of the children.

Shocked yet? Shocked at the utter stupidity of the cabin crew and the lack of common sense, decency, and kindness they extended to these parents who have every right to control the things their children see (particularly when they are paying customers just like the rest of the passengers)? Well, get ready for more shocking details.

More than an hour later the captain, [name withheld for now], announced that due to “security concerns”, our flight was being diverted to Chicago’s ORD. Although this sounded ominous, all passengers, us included, were calm. After landing a Chicago police officer boarded the plane and, to our disbelief, approached us and asked that we collect our belongings, and follow her to disembark. The captain, apparently, felt that our complaint constituted grave danger to the aircraft, crew and the other passengers, and that this danger justified inconveniencing his crew, a few of whom “timed out” during the diversion, and a full plane of your customers, causing dozens of them to miss their connections, wasting time, precious jet fuel, and adding to United’s carbon footprint.

Obviously, the Captain’s behavior was outrageous. One certainly hopes the airline reviews his competence to fly. Yet, there’s an issue that goes beyond the captain’s action.

United Airlines should take responsibility for choosing this wildly inappropriate in-flight film — particularly on a plane with drop-down screens. Unlike some PG-13 movies which receive that rating mainly for the adult storyline or for adult language, (which parents can deal with by not providing the child with earphones) the Alex Cross has visible violence which parents cannot control.

And if you think you can tell a four- and eight-year-old to simply avert their eyes (like one insensitive travel blogger suggested), you don’t know kids. I strictly limit my children’s television viewing, but when it’s on, they go into a coma-like state. Even if it’s on mute, my children’s eyes will stare, lifeless, at the screen.

Perhaps these airlines need a reminder that they charge parents for children’s tickets and therefore should afford a parent’s wishes a little respect. United Airlines should be ashamed of their behavior and rethink not only their in-flight selection, but how they treat people traveling with children.



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