Nothing helps you lose your inhibitions faster than a holiday. The chance to visit new countries, drink champagne for breakfast and escape the daily grind is worth celebrating. Some people like to start those celebrations at around 30,000 feet in the air. Welcome to the mile-high club! 

Origins of the Mile-High Club

The origins of the mile-high club date back to 1916 when an American pilot named Lawrence Burst Sperry invented and demonstrated the ‘autopilot’. He would be back in the news two years later when a light plane he was flying crashed in mysterious circumstances. While neither he nor his female companion were injured, they were both completely naked, which led some people to suggest Sperry had been ‘romancing’ the woman at the time.

Regardless of what actually happened on that flight, a legend was born. Fast-forward 100 years and airline travel has little in common with those early daredevils, but the desire to make ‘sweet, sweet love’ at altitude shows no signs of abating.

30,000 feet high and rising

Browse the bookshop in any airport and you’ll see a half dozen titles dedicated to ‘airline stewardess confessions’. Without fail, each of these books will have a chapter dedicated to all the couples (and strangers) that had romantic mid-flight encounters.

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quinn norton

The central tenet of all these stories is that no matter how discreet people think they’re being, the crew will almost certainly know what they’re up to. Turns out the biggest giveaway is the rattling of the flimsy (not soundproof) toilet doors, and the moans that suddenly start spilling out from underneath. And since there’s not much else for the cabin crew to do in the dead of night, you can be sure they’ll position themselves to watch for the awkward exit.

Inflight encounters aren’t just reserved for couples. Strangers (sometimes travelling with their partners) have been known to sneak off with their new friends. And while it’s rare, flight attendants have also been known to get in on the action. There was an infamous incident in 2007, which involved a Qantas attendant spicing up actor Ralph Fiennes’ flight with some special attention in the toilet cubicle. Once the story broke in the media it was the end of her career.

Generally speaking, the crew are the least of your worries. After all, they’re the ones who have to clean up the toilets during the flight. The ones to watch out for are the newly married couples, adrenaline junkies and those taking advantage of the complimentary booze.

It’s getting hot in here

Couple on a plane

So why are all these people having sex in cramped toilets in the middle of the sky? According to Air Confidential, a book by Elliott Hester, it’s a combination of booze, the boredom of long-haul flights, a lack of inhibition (you’re never going to see the other passengers again) and the appeal of doing something taboo. 

That hedonistic image is something various airlines have tried to incorporate into their marketing message. And while double beds on first-class flights aren’t exactly new, Virgin Group boss Richard Branson is the only one to have publicly announced that his employees are not the type to “bang on lavatory doors when a couple slips in there,” and that their lavatories are “larger than on other airlines”.

But then Branson is himself a member of the club, claiming that he joined in 1969, when he was a fresh-faced 19-year-old entrepreneur. According to him, the woman in question was a stranger and he only later realised she was married and travelling with her partner. With that kind of firsthand experience, it’s little surprise that Virgin Atlantic used to offer champagne and cigarettes to post-coital couples on flights in the 1980s.

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And while you’d be hard-pressed to find that kind of generosity in today’s airline industry, the mile-high club shows no signs no losing its appeal. If you do insist on joining, here are some tips from a former flight attendant. They’re summarised below for easy reference.

1. Be discreet. Don’t go up to an attendant with some ridiculous excuse about why you both need to be in the bathroom. Just wait until no one is looking and duck in.

2. Be polite. Flight attendants might not see you ducking off together, but they’ll certainly know after the fact. Make their life easier and leave the bathroom like you found it.

3. Buy first-class tickets. The more you pay for your ticket the more you can get away with. And obviously those in business class or first class have much more space and larger bathrooms to choose from.

4. Work with what you have. Space is at a premium on flights. That tends to limit your possibilities when it comes to sexy times. We’re not going to tell you what works, but be aware you may have to improvise a little.

5. Timing is everything. The best time to sneak off is during one of those boring gaps on an overnight flight when everyone is sleeping and the lights are dimmed. Your absence is less likely to be noticed and no one is going to be banging on the bathroom door.

Image Credits: Thinkstock

 

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