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Do Airlines Edit Movies They Show on Flights?

Many people enjoy seeing movies at the movie theater, and if they happen to see it again on an airplane, they notice scenes are missing. This is because the airlines cater to a diverse audience, and sometimes editing is required to turn a popular movie from an R rating to a G rating.

Do Airlines Censor Movies Seen On Flights?

The answer is yes, airlines do censor movies. There is an entire industry dedicated to altering movies to make them more appropriate to their diverse audiences.

Airline passengers can tell if the movie they are about to watch has been altered from its’ original state because they will show the disclaimer “edited for content.” Those three little words tell passengers that some scenes that were deemed inappropriate, have been removed from the version they are about to see.

Inflight entertainment companies work as a middleman, between the airlines and the studios. They censor movies before they appear inflight to ensure that they are appropriate for all age groups.

Top Movies and TV Shows Shown on Airlines

According to Fortune, some of the most-watched onboard movies include:

  1. Crazy Rich Asians
  2. A Star is Born
  3. Bohemian Rhapsody
  4. Aquaman
  5. The Lion King
  6. Rocketman
  7. Captain Marvel

Some of the top TV shows include:

  1. The Big Bang Theory
  2. Young
  3. Sheldon
  4. Friends
  5. The Office
  6. Game of Thrones
  7. Chopped

These results came from a survey that included Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, and Jet Blue.

Who Decides on What is Censored

According to Jovitah Toh, CEO of Hong-Kong-based Encore Inflight Limited, the airlines provide distributors with censorship guidelines of the types of scenes to be edited for their passengers’ viewing. Clips contained nudity, sex scenes, religious representations, plane crashes, inappropriate words, and images of competitors’ logos.  

Some airlines will also omit the mention or image of pork so as not to offend Muslim passengers.

Toh said his company offers two versions and lets the airline chose which one they run, the theatrical (non-edited) broadcast or the in-flight edited version. While most TV shows need a little editing, as they have to abide by FCC rules already. It is a different story for movies.

While The Lion King appears to be a safe bet. But many other movies like Rocketman (The Elton John biopic), Bohemian Rhapsody (the story of Freddie Mercury and Queen), and A Star is Born may have many scenes left on the cutting room floor before they are seen by airline passengers.


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Some Airlines Restored Scenes

Some airlines have gotten backlash over cutting same-sex love scenes but keep heterosexual scenes intact. This is the case for two movies in particular, “Booksmart” and “Rocketman.” Actress/director Olivia Wilde, who directed “Booksmart,” is asking for a governing board to determine what is appropriate, instead of each airline determining their own guidelines.

After this backlash, Delta airlines decided to restore same-sex love scenes in these two movies. They stated that after review, both movies fit within their original guidelines. They said they chose an edited version instead of the theatrical version and are working to make sure this does not happen again in the future.

The Editing Process

When a new film is released, the airlines can show a film in its original state or ask for an edited license. Here is how the process works:

  • If the firm requires editing, the airline will send it to a third-party company that knows the airlines’ editing and content guidelines.
  • The film is then edited and sent back to the airline for their review.
  • If the airline is pleased with the results, they will add them to their onboard viewing options.
  • If the airline is not happy with the results, they can opt to remove it from its movie list.

New Entertainment Options

Some airlines are going the extra mile to ensure that passengers are entertained during their time in the sky. United Airlines, for example, is buying around 300 new planes, which they will receive over the next five years.

Each new plane will be outfitted with seatback entertainment screens. They said that it also plans to upgrade existing planes with seatback screens (as well as larger overhead bins). This retrofit is to be completed by 2023).

Entertainment options vary by airline. Delta Air Lines has almost completed adding seatback screens to nearly all of their planes. American Airlines has about 20% of its planes fitted with seatback screens. Southwest Airlines has no seatback screens but offers free movies and TV shows that passengers can view on their own devices.

It is not determined whether or not movies that are shown on individual seatbacks will receive the same editing treatment that general movies do. Avid flyers will need to wait until the new seatback options are available or opt to view movies from their personal devices.

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