The human-like sounds began before takeoff and persisted in the air, especially early in the flight and during the service, Collins told The Washington Post. In the video, the sounds range from moans and growls to purrs.
“I swear it’s a joke,” a flight attendant can be heard telling Collins in the video.
At one point, a flight attendant comes over the intercom to apologize for the “extremely annoying sound” and says the pilots are working to mitigate the problem. As soon as she finishes speaking, the sounds reappear, resembling a “ho!” and a guttural moan.
The rules of flying like a decent human being
Collins said he walked down the aisle looking for the source of the noises, expecting it to be obvious in the confined space of an airplane cabin.
“I’m Nancy Drewing and looking for the person who looks very amused by themselves,” he said. “And of course I saw nothing.”
Airbus A321 landed safely in Dallas. Collins said he thought the incident was funny and that the flight crew assured passengers there was no safety concern.
“This was just a very modern form of immersive in-flight entertainment,” he said.
An illustrated guide to sleeping on a plane
After Collins posted the video last week, the mystery deepened as passengers on other US flights in recent months reported the same series of noises.
“It wasn’t the whole flight, but intermittent strange phrases and sounds. Then a big “oh yeah” when we landed. We thought the pilot left his microphone open,” journalist Doug Boehner tweeted about his recent flight from Orlando to Dallas.
Tech CEO Brad Allen wrote that he and his wife experienced the sounds on a US flight in July.
“To be clear, it just sounded like the moans and groans of someone in extreme pain,” Allen wrote. “The crew said it had happened before and had no explanation.”
No, you cannot open an airplane door
The incidents sparked an amateur online search, with theories ranging from a prank such as a passenger dragging the crew microphone into the toilet to the more sinister suggestion of a hack into onboard systems.
So… We’ve had a good dig at this.
The A321 passenger message system appears to be physically discrete from the interphone and other systems.
We struggle to see a way. https://t.co/qVdJR6cUm0
— Cybergibbons 🚲🚲🚲 (@cybergibbons) 23 September 2022
American Airlines spokeswoman Sarah Jantz said in a statement that intercom systems on the airline’s planes are wired with no remote access or WiFi component.
“Following the initial report, our maintenance team thoroughly inspected the aircraft and PA system and determined that the sounds were caused by a mechanical problem with the PA amplifier, which increases the volume of the PA system when the engines are running,” she said. The first report the airline received was the Santa Ana-Dallas flight on Sept. 18, according to Jantz.
“Our team is reviewing the additional reports,” she added.
Collins said that if the sounds were the result of a technical problem, then “the ghost in the machine has a funny sense of humor.”
“The comical timing of the sounds seemed far too contrived to be a technical error,” he said. “But honestly, I have no idea.”