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Coffee, tea or pornography?

September 10, 2008 |  2:47 pm

American Airlines

American Airlines flight attendants are worried about something special in the air: passengers surfing porn websites.

As the airline adds on-board Internet service, some travelers might be tempted to visit seedy alleyways off the information superhighway. So the Assn.  of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents 19,000 American Airlines flight attendants, has talked with management about installing filtering software to keep inappropriate Web content grounded, union spokesman David Roscow said today.

"Some passengers and some of the flight attendants have had some concerns about them going to inappropriate sites like porn sites," he said, although he was unaware of any actual incidents.

American is one of several airlines experimenting with Internet service. While some, such as JetBlue, are using filtering software, others, including American, are leaving it up to flight attendants to monitor. American spokesman Tim Smith explained the company's decision this way in an e-mail today:

Our policy is to provide Wi-Fi capabilities the way customers are most familiar using [them] at home, office, coffee shops and on the road -- with unfiltered connections that allow customers to get what they need, when they need it. While it does provide a new access point for information and content, 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.

Smith noted that American's service, which began Aug. 20, is in a trial period of up to six months. So just like items in the overhead bins, details of the program may shift after takeoff. At the end of the period, American plans to evaluate feedback, including the number of actual incidents. In the meantime, it's up to flight attendants to make sure that Web surfing, like those seat backs during takeoff and landing, remains in an upright position.

-- Jim Puzzanghera

Photo: American Airlines passenger Emmaline Allwood gets information on Aircell's in-flight broadband Internet service, Gogo, from Jared Karns in the AA terminal at JFK Airport in New York City last month.  Credit: Jonathan Fickies / American Airlines

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