Tell United: No Media Violence on Overhead Screens

Scene from "Alex Cross"

A family encountered a common problem recently on a United Airlines flight from Denver to Baltimore—they felt the in-flight movie playing on overhead screens was inappropriate for their young children. United was showing Alex Cross, rated PG-13 for “violence including disturbing images, sexual content, language, drug references, and nudity.” The film features “a homicide detective (who) 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.”[1]

The parents, whose sons were 4 and 8, asked if the flight crew could turn off the fold-down monitor most directly in their line of view and were told it wasn’t possible. They asked that their request be relayed to the captain. When the flight crew did not respond the parents tired to divert their children’s attention from the violence on the screen.

Suddenly, their trip took a significant turn for the worse. The captain announced the flight was being diverted to Chicago for "security concerns." And these were? The family. Who were then questioned by law enforcement before they could board a new flight.[2]

United has offered no details on the incident, but the parents insist that their request was made politely, without so much as a raised voice. But regardless of what happened on the flight, this much is undeniably true: For parents who travel with young children, being unable to escape from violent and/or sexualized media is an all-too-familiar experience. As the parents themselves wrote of their treatment:

Of even greater concern is United's decision to inflict upon minors grossly inappropriate cinematic content, without parents or guardians having the ability to opt out. Had this been in a cinema or a restaurant, we would have simply left if the content were too violent, or too sexual, for a preschooler and a 2nd grader. Cruising at 30,000 feet, leaving was not an option. [2]

Here’s the good news: In response to growing public outcry, United is conducting a long overdue review of its in-flight entertainment policies. For years, the airline has refused multiple requests from parents and advocates to stop showing violent and sexualized movies on overhead screens. If we increase the pressure on United, we can ensure that it adopts family-friendly policies that could lead to changes on other airlines as well.

Will you take a moment and demand that United stop showing PG-13 movies on overhead screens?

Thanks for taking action,

Susan Linn
Director, CCFC

P.S. Even the film’s director has expressed shock and disappointment that United would show a PG-13 movie on its overhead monitors:

The film is rated PG-13 due to the level of violence and some very intense content.  By definition, it is not meant to be shown to people under thirteen unless accompanied by an adult. To me, this clearly defines a box office situation where you are voluntarily purchasing tickets to view something that has been clearly rated as not kid-friendly. It does not, however, really accurately cover the airplane experience.

An airline showing [it] on all the cabin monitors is clearly no longer a voluntary situation…It's impossible to avoid the images, even if you are not using the headphones in such a situation. [3]