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Do passengers have the right to in-flight entertainment if the news could induce panic?

Passengers watch their television during flight
Passengers watch their television during flight
F0t0Synth /flickr

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When Asiana Flight 214 crashed upon landing at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday, some 27 other flights were put in holding patterns in the sky above while emergency responders dealt with the situation on the ground. Aboard those flights, and countless other planes mid-flight across the country and around the world, passengers could well have been watching the drama on the ground unfold as it happened. In-flight entertainment systems and wi-fi connections on flights give passengers a real-time connection to what’s transpiring on the ground below, which is great if they’re watching the finals at Wimbledon, but it raises questions, if the activity they’re monitoring is a plane crash or another even that could send panic.

What is the best protocol for pilots and crew when the news is full of something that could fill their passengers full of dread? Do they pull the plug on in-flight media? Or do passengers have the right to know what’s transpiring on the ground below?


Peter Goelz, Former managing director, National Transportation Safety Board where he coordinated disaster response and directed investigative activities at several aviation accidents; Currently, Senior Vice President, O'Neill and Associates, a lobbying firm

Captain Ross "Rusty" Aimer, CEO of Aero Consulting and a former United Airlines pilot