The Truth About Mile-High Romance
Picture this: You’re on a flight, headed toward that long-anticipated vacation or bleisure trip on a sandy beach when an attractive stranger strikes up a conversation. You hit it off and, the next thing you know, he or she is leaning in for a kiss.
What do you do? Do you go for the kiss, or do you put up an apologetic hand?
It turns out, a lot of people would go for the kiss, or take things even further. How do we know? We surveyed over 2,000 people who fly at least once a year – including a few pilots and flight attendants – to ask about what really happens when they’re up in the air. It is important to note that this survey was for commercial flyers only, not private jet flyers.
Here’s what we learned.
Coach Is Where the Romance Is
Thanks to movies and television, when many (or even most) of us think of the Mile-High Club, we think of couples sneaking off to tiny airplane lavatories to get down and dirty. The reality is that of the people who reported getting romantic at 30,000 feet, only 25 percent did so in those pint-sized bathrooms. There’s also not that much monkey business going on in business class, the cockpit, the galley, or the aisles. The real hanky-panky (almost 80 percent) is going down in coach.
(Note: These percentages add up to more than 100 percent because we asked respondents to “check all” of the places they’ve engaged in romantic activity. For some, this means more than one location.)
Sexy Encounters in the Sky
Plenty of people fly without turning up the heat with their seatmates, pilots, or crew, but it turns out that a substantial minority have had at least a little mile-high romance. In fact, nearly 41 percent of those surveyed have kissed someone on a flight, while 16.5 percent have fondled someone and roughly 7 percent have gotten handsy below the belt.
Fewer than 4 percent admitted to truly joining the Mile-High Club by having intercourse in-flight. Passengers may be afraid of flight attendants opening the door and interrupting the tryst. Whatever the reason, most people aren’t taking it past first base while up in the air.
Who’s Getting Frisky In-Flight?
The next question on our mind: Who are these naughty passengers getting romantic with while soaring above the clouds? Is it the proverbial dark and mysterious stranger? The adventurous boyfriend or girlfriend? Or the pilot?
When it comes to being passionate on an airplane, most of us – roughly 79 percent – are focused on our significant other. Only 20 percent of survey respondents said their in-flight sexy time was spent with a dazzling and mysterious stranger.
Attraction vs. Practicality in the Skies
Of course, sex appeal only goes so far – our survey respondents were a lot more practical than we expected. When asked if they’d rather sit next to an empty seat or an attractive stranger, nearly 56 percent said they’d prefer the extra space afforded by the empty seat.
However, 44 percent still chose to sit next to an attractive stranger, which means there are still plenty of people willing to give up some elbow room in exchange for a little eye candy and good conversation.
Notably, separated participants were far more likely to choose the attractive stranger than any other group. Married or domestically partnered people were the least likely group to choose the sexy stranger – after all, they already have a sweetheart to fantasize about. They might even be waiting at the gate.
A Common Yearning
Our survey concluded that roughly 17 percent of respondents have engaged in sexual activity on a plane – beyond kissing. But what about the other 83 percent? Are they simply not interested in sex in the sky, or are they secretly hoping that romance is just around the corner?
Well, most of us are interested, even if we haven’t yet done anything. Fifty-two percent of survey takers said while they haven’t had sex on a plane, they’ve definitely fantasized about it.
Does Travel Make Us Less Inhibited?
We’ve all heard that travel opens us up to new possibilities, opportunities, and world views, but can it also make us throw our inhibitions to the wind? Are we more likely to move in for that kiss, flirt with a stranger, or even go on a date with someone we’ve met in-flight?
For many of those interviewed, the answer was yes. Nearly 39 percent said they’re less inhibited when they travel. More than 47 percent have gotten up the courage to flirt with a stranger en route, and another 11.5 percent have gone as far as changing seats to be closer to someone attractive. Finally, 51 percent said they tend to drink more alcohol while traveling, which could definitely be behind some of these behaviors.
When Are People Getting Romantic Above the Clouds?
When is all of this flirtation and fooling around going on? Are overnight flights your big shot at getting to second base, or does being stuck in a seat for long hours during the day make travelers frisky?
According to our survey, the answer is the latter. Longer daytime flights – between three and five hours – are when the highest percentage of in-flight romances take place. Maybe that’s just long enough to convince ourselves that we’ve met the person of our dreams (after all, even the New York Times now believes in love on a fast track). Or is it the slight air turbulence that makes us feel randy?
The least amount of action typically happens on daytime flights that last over five hours. Surprisingly, nighttime flights – when the cabin lights are dimmed and attendants hand out soft blankets – were not significantly friskier than daytime journeys.
Flying Will Never Be the Same Again
Next time you’re on that coast-to-coast plane sipping a $10 rum and coke and fantasizing about what it would be like if a fellow passenger or flight personnel beckoned you toward the back of the airplane, know that you’re not alone. Over 50 percent of passengers are thinking the same thing. Somewhere on your next flight, somebody will be taking their partner’s lips for a test drive.
We conducted an online survey on Sept. 5, 2016, of more than 2,000 recent airline passengers. Respondents came from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. They ranged in age from 21 to 72. They were 51.3 percent women and 48.7 percent men.
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