In an effort to be make your flight as nightmarish as possible, Virgin CEO Richard Branson has decided to add an "In-Flight Entertainment" component to the company's flights.
Branson want to helps you "get lucky" with a "seat-to-seat delivery," allowing a passenger to buy alcoholic drinks or snacks for another passenger. As Mary Forgione at the Los Angeles Times, put it, "it's a flirty seat-to-seat way to hit on someone in midair."
How pleasant. All I want when I'm in a cramped space with no escape is a service that deliberately encourages complete strangers to hit on me.
As a woman who has been subjected to sexual harassment during a painfully long 8-hour transatlantic flight, I find it shocking that Branson would even have the audacity to introduce a service that facilitates men's ability to "get lucky" on his flights. "I'm not a betting man, but I'd say your chance of deplaning with a plus-one are at least 50 percent," he says.
I'd have to agree with Neetzan Zimmerman at Gawker who says that Branson's facilitation of in-flight harassment isn't "so much convenient as straight up creepy." It's despicable that he prefers to attract d-bags in search of a weekend sex partner while having a total disregard for the safety of female passengers on board.
For the record, the flight on which I was sexually harassed offered free alcoholic beverages. I was 19 and it was my first time flying alone. My harasser took advantage of the free booze policy (although he eventually ended up being cut-off by staff). He didn't need a "seat-to-seat delivery" to harass me. He didn't need the CEO of a flight company to make that process more convenient (and entirely acceptable). He was drunk and he felt entitled to me and my body.
He touched my thighs. He touched my hair. He verbally harassed me. He sent me lewd notes while I tried to pretend to sleep in the hopes that he would just stop. Maybe if I closed my eyes, he would just disappear? He didn't. My disregard for him only made him more persistent. When I shouted at him to get him away from me, he told me I was overreacting. He said I was the crazy one.
I had nowhere to go. I coudn't escape. I was 35,000 feet in the air and there was no exit. I was trapped. I was being stalked and my attacker was stuck to me like glue. There wasn't any other seats on the plane. He was so close to me that I could smell his intoxicated breath.
Although this experience scarred me, it hasn't prevented me from making memorable connections with passengers on airplanes since then. On my flight from Tunisia last year, I met an old man from the small English town of Lewes who had wonderful stories about bicycling across Italy and the Netherlands. At the age of 65, he had done more in his one trip than I will probably do in my entire life. On a flight to Lyon, I met a man on the way to see his wife, a talented ballet dancer, dance for the first time.
There are ways that Richard Branson can encourage a pleasant flight atmosphere without turning his airplane into an exit-less frat house. In-flight harassment is a thing. It's happened to many passengers and it's happened to countless flight attendants. If Virgin doesn't abolish this sophomoric policy, the in-flight stalking problem that airlines already face will become even more widespread.
Women buy plane tickets. They don't only make up half the population, they also make up a huge part of Virgin's customers. Women want to fly in class, not while being forced to mingle with an ass. Change your policy Virgin, or the only ones who's going to get lucky is your competing airline.
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