In-flight canoodling: is it ever acceptable to spoon at 40,000ft?

Name: Plane PDA.

Age: There’s a record of a bet between two members of Brooks’s gentlemen’s club about sex in a hot-air balloon back in 1785, so probably since the dawn of staffed flight.

Appearance: Icky and extremely unwelcome.

Is this a rebranding of the mile-high club? No, we’re casting a judgmental eye on a less X-rated phenomenon today: in-flight canoodling.

Such an odd word. What is canoodling? I don’t know if there is a legal definition, but everyone’s getting worked up about a couple who were apparently reclined and entwined in what the Daily Mail called a “spooning position”. Images posted on X by a content creator called Flea attracted many horrified comments.

“Spooning”, that’s another weird one. Also “petting”. You’re not engaging with the real issue here: is it OK to PD your A for an entire four-hour flight?

If their clothes stayed on, what’s the harm? It makes other people uncomfortable – and that’s rude. That was the consensus on travel website The Points Guy where an etiquette expert advised that: “Once you get to the point where you’re tonguing your partner down, you’ve crossed the line of good manners.” Also: these reprobates put their bare feet on the tray table.

Argh! Jail! I agree, but in-flight PDA while clothed isn’t illegal, although a man was convicted of a criminal offence in 2007, after arguing with cabin crew who tried to stop him and his girlfriend “embracing, kissing and acting in a manner that made other passengers uncomfortable”, according to the indictment. And if clothes come off, one flight attendant explains, you will “undoubtedly wind up in jail, will probably be fined and are likely to find yourself on a few no-fly lists”.

Good. Does it happen a lot? Well, in 2000, a pair of well-oiled strangers hit the news and were arrested – after groping each other and undressing on a transatlantic flight – but it’s usually less extreme, as with the couple who were intensely snogging in 2020.

What is it with people on planes? Well, the golden age of aviation made flying look sexy and somehow, that’s persisted as we’ve entered the no-frills, scratchy polyester seats and orange-liveried age. Plus, the cocktail of mild peril and 5am alcohol binges seems to release our feral, disinhibited side. The @passengershaming Instagram account is a horrifying smörgåsbord of transgressions, including a naked man attempting to board a flight and another who reportedly airdropped a penis pic to the entire plane.

Gross. Possibly even grosser than walking around a plane barefoot, as presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy Jr apparently did.

Cabin crew should show frisky couples pictures of that; an instant passion killer. I fear it might make some people even friskier.

Do say: “Please fasten your belts and keep them fastened …”

Don’t say: “Those seats you’re snuggling on are a haven for bacteria – there’s probably E coli on your headrest and your armrest.”


Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.