On board TV terror
Nervous flyers might have been in for a shock when flicking through the movie selections on Qantas this year.
The Denzel Washington air-crash drama Flight was on the airline's on-demand entertainment system with other recent blockbusters from Hollywood.
Washington is the pilot during the film's white-knuckle opening scenes when his plane has a mechanical failure that sends it into a steep dive and, eventually, upside down.
Despite the scheduling of Flight, which would make anyone tighten their seatbelt, Qantas says it avoids movies likely to raise passenger anxiety about personal safety.
"Excessively violent or culturally insensitive movies are generally avoided too," a spokesman said.
Flight is no longer screening on Qantas services, after finishing its three-month rotation.
A Qantas spokesman said passengers who chose to watch Flight were advised of the nature of the content prior to the movie starting.
In February a United Airlines flight in the US was forced to divert after a young family objected to the film Alex Cross being shown on the communal screens.
The family complained that the film was "violent" and "sexually explicit" and they could not shield their children, aged four and eight, from the content.
Qantas's film selection criteria includes box office success, critic reviews, the relevance to Australians, the appeal the movie has to its key passenger demographic, and personal assessment by the airline's programmers.
Qantas inflight entertainment executive producer Michael Freedman said a lot of effort went into choosing movies.
"Inflight entertainment has come a long way since a single projector flashed one movie at a time up on the screen at the front of the cabin.
"On long-haul flights especially, people are sitting for upwards of 10 hours. The right movies can certainly help that time go a bit faster.
"We know on average customers spend about 80 per cent of a long-haul flight using inflight entertainment."
He said on average, customers watched two to three films on a long flight.
Qantas' rating system provides daily statistics on what is being watched on its domestic and overseas flights.
"The ability of our newer inflight entertainment systems to report back what people are watching and listening to most helps us keep improving the choices we offer," Freedman said.
A spokesman for Virgin Australia said the airline listened closely to feedback from passengers and crew to fine-tune its entertainment choices.
"We also run reports on a regular basis to find out which content has been viewed the most."
Patrick Brannelly from Emirates, which has won the Skytrax award for the world's best inflight entertainment for nine years in a row, said the carrier was a family airline and programmed accordingly.
"Programming... is edited to fit screens and if it's required to meet airline standards, some content may require editing where it doesn't impinge upon the storyline," he said.
"On occasion, like all airlines, a film is deemed by Emirates as unsuitable to show on board. Many movies tend to have a version professionally created for domestic television, some with the actors recording alternative dialogue or toned down scenes. These versions are often licensed by airlines for a more general audience."
Emirates screens films on average six to 10 weeks after their cinema release.
But Qantas has trumped that with the announcement that it will premiere the Disney family movie Planes during a flight in Australia on September 7.
What sort of films do you like to watch on planes? Would you watch Flight on a flight? Which airline do you think has the best inflight entertainment? Post your comments below.
Sydney Morning Herald