American Airlines flight attendants are urging the world's largest carrier to filter its in-flight Internet service to block access to pornography and other web sites the workers said were inappropriate.
Union leaders discussed the issue with management without making a formal request to bar specific sites, said David Roscow, a spokesman for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants.
We've heard a lot of complaints from flight attendants and passengers about travelers pulling up objectionable Web pages, said Roscow, who didn't cite any examples.
The vast majority of travelers use good judgment in what they look at, American spokesman Tim Smith said: Customers viewing inappropriate material on board a flight is not a new scenario for our crews, who have always managed this issue
with great success .
American offers Internet access for $12.95 on 15 Boeing Co. 767-200 jets that make 25 daily flights between New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and Los Angeles or San Francisco, and between New York and Miami.
The program is in a 3-6-month trial period, Smith said. When American reviews usage and feedback, we will obviously assess this concern as well, including the number of actual incidents reported and any other related issues.
A good job you brought your own porn
The Qantas selection is bollox
Qantas has shelved plans to offer live internet access on its A380 planes from next month as American Airlines comes under fire from nutters and flight attendants for allowing passengers to surf porn websites.
Qantas will instead offer only a limited selection of what it calls cached internet content and access to web-based email and chat services.
A Qantas spokeswoman said the internet plans had been paired back due to logistical and regulatory issues encountered by its connectivity provider, OnAir. The airline said the full internet service was now scheduled to be available later in 2009.
The lack of a full internet service will most likely disappoint many passengers who will have to make do with a limited selection of cached internet content. Qantas has refused to give further details of what content will be included -
other than qantas.com - or how much the service would cost.
Laptop power sockets will be provided for every passenger. USB ports, also built into every seat, will potentially allow passengers to access multimedia content from music players and portable hard drives through the seat-back screens.
Update: Profanity Filtering
Unlike American Airlines and Delta, the scope of Qantas' filtering seems to go far beyond just pornography.
Restrictions may include sites that contain violence, profanity, nudity and other content we consider may be offensive to our customers, said a Qantas spokesman who did not respond when asked if the filtering would include sites that
Don't be alarmed by the vibrations...
It's just the lady in 5C
enjoying her flight
A reported decision by Delta Air Lines to block inappropriate websites from its planned in-flight WiFi service could be just the tip of the iceberg for airlines' control of Internet use.
Delta, which plans to offer WiFi on some planes later this year and on its whole domestic fleet in 2009, has decided to prevent passengers from accessing 'inappropriate content', according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article. Delta said it
had considered turning to its flight attendants to handle the problem but decided to adopt technical means instead.
Delta plans to offer the GoGo service from Aircell, the same system used by American. GoGo uses a network of cellular towers on the ground to transmit data back and forth to WiFi routers on planes. It will charge passengers US$9.95 for service on
flights of three hours or less, and $12.95 for longer flights.
Aircell will implement content filtering for airlines if asked, the company said in an e-mail response to questions.
At least one privacy rights advocate criticized the idea, but there's a good chance travelers will have to leave their traditional expectations about Internet use on the ground before they log on in the air.
I don't think it makes much sense, said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. For one thing, it won't prevent passengers from looking at inappropriate material stored on their own laptops, he
said. But it also opens the door to blocking of other content, such as news or political opinions.
It's so easy, once that precedent is set, to broaden ... the kind of information blocks that might be imposed, Rotenberg said. Considering how many of the world's airlines are owned by national governments, it wouldn't be surprising to see
them filter out, for example, any site that criticizes the country's leader, he said.
To avoid the slippery slope of Internet filtering, airlines would be better off dealing with offensive Web use as they do other things that upset nearby passengers, he said. The current procedure for dealing with unruly passengers should be
adequate, Rotenberg said.
Bowing to pressure from flight attendants and, supposedly, customers, American Airlines has said it will soon be blocking access to pornographic websites on its new Aircell in-flight Internet access service. Delta announced a similar plan earlier
Naturally, privacy and civil rights advocates are already criticizing the move. Filters always tend to cast a very wide net, taking with them plenty of non-pornographic content while missing sites that many will find offensive. And of course,
there's invariably the question of whether filtering will extend to violence, hate speech, and other frequently-censored content.
Well, if nothing else, American has probably inadvertently launched a new diversion for bored fliers travelling across the country: Beat the Filter, where buddies try to see who can slip some adult content past the censor first.
We would have used filters but they
blocked our own website
Virgin America will offer unrestricted wireless Internet access on flights from Boston to California starting tomorrow.
Although Delta, United, and American Airlines also offer wireless service on select flights, all of them have taken measures to block adult content. According to a report in the Boston Herald, Virgin has no plans to filter out porn sites.
We don't believe that Wi-Fi accessibility will significantly change the current formula, as there is nothing stopping guests now from downloading the content onto a laptop for a flight, airline spokeswoman Abby Lunardini told the Herald.
Virgin assumes adult passengers will not view pornographic content on a laptop while seated next to children. The airline doesn't censor content offered on seatback screens, although parental control is available.
Most guests view being on a flight akin to being in any other public place and moderate their behavior accordingly, Lunardini said.
Passengers may use the service with any Wi-Fi-enabled device once the plane has reached 10,000 feet, at a cost of $12.95 per flight.