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Ominous Subtitle on In-Flight Entertainment Screens Delays Flight

Jan. 05, 2017
3 min read
Ominous Subtitle on In-Flight Entertainment Screens Delays Flight
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What would you do? One minute you’re settling in for a long flight from New York to Santiago, Chile, and the next thing you know — before the plane has even left the tarmac — the in-flight entertainment screens freeze on a scene from a movie with the words “You are all dead” in Spanish.

This actually happened on January 1, 2017, and LATAM Airlines took it pretty seriously. The plane was delayed for two hours, during which time fellow passengers and airline staffers debated whether this was a purposeful message being sent from some hostile group or simply a coincidence.

Here’s how Janice S. Lintz — who was on the plane — describes the turn of events and the ensuing communication with airline personnel:

"The flight from JFK to Santiago, Chile (SCL) on LATAM wasn't too full and I was lucky to have two empty seats next to me, so got comfy and went to sleep. After some time, somebody bumped into me and woke me up. The first thing I heard was someone saying, “Muerte” and I noticed that we were still on the ground. I initially thought someone had died, but then I saw people photographing the in-flight entertainment (IFE) screen behind my seat.

The flight attendants were speaking in Spanish and didn’t translate what was happening. Eventually a male flight attendant came over and explained what had happened while I was sleeping. Apparently, the IFE screens had frozen during a scene in the movie “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children" — onscreen were the words “Todos ustedes están muertos,” which translates to, “You are all dead.”

Image courtesy of Janice S. Lintz.
Image courtesy of Janice S. Lintz.

No one knew if the IFE screen had randomly frozen on this bizarre section of the movie or if the equipment had been hacked and someone was trying to send us a message. Needless to say, in this day and age, airlines take precautions. While I was sleeping, a safety crew made the determination that the plane was safe to fly.

Throughout this experience, I was unhappy that general announcements (and advice from multiple flight attendants) were being communicated solely in Spanish. As a retired attorney and former member of the US Access Board’s Rail and Passenger Vessel (PVAG) Committees, I know that announcements must be made in English whenever vessels and planes originate from the US — this little reminder to a passing flight attendant worked and eventually English followed the Spanish announcements. But should a passenger be required to be an attorney and speak up in order to receive safety information on a flight that's delayed by two hours?

Ultimately, this was really creepy, and I'm grateful it was just a bizarre coincidence and nothing more sinister."

What do you think — should LATAM have delayed the flight?

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Featured image by Image courtesy of Sergei Kozak via Getty Images.