It sounded like the plot of a Hollywood rom-com. A handsome soccer player and a personal trainer thrust together on a flight. They meet, they talk, they flirt, then disembark together, leaving the audience wondering,”What next?”
But in reality, that audience was thousands of twitter users, hungrily following updates from the woman seated behind them on the July 2 Dallas-bound flight.
“Last night on a flight home, my boyfriend and I asked a woman to switch seats with me so we could sit together,” the documenting passenger, Rosey Blair, began. “We made a joke that maybe her new seat partner would be the love of her life and well, now I present you with this thread.
— Rosey Blair (@roseybeeme) July 3, 2018
“They have been talking non stop since we took off,” she later added. “There is no TV on this flight, but there is WiFi and romance!”
But for the female personal trainer involved, it wasn’t romantic at all.
In a statement issued via her lawyer to Business Insider this week, the unnamed woman slammed Blair for invading her privacy and described the viral saga as “a digital-age cautionary tale about privacy, identity, ethics and consent.”
How #planebae went from a love story to a ‘cautionary tale’.
Within hours of posting, Blair’s thread went viral. There were tends of thousands of likes and retweets, countless articles and television segments, even praise from celebs including Monica Lewinsky (“Legit just boarded a plane,” she tweeted the following day. “Praying for a hot soccer player to sit next to me.”).
With the fervour at its height, the media and twitter users embarked on a quest to track down the newly acquainted couple.
Within a matter of days, the man – dubbed #planebae – was found and identified as Euan Holden. But the identity of the woman remained unknown.
As the former professional soccer player gave interviews about his mid-air meet-cute, she kept herself out of the narrative, even deleting social media accounts in an effort to maintain her anonymity, according to Business Insider.
Somewhere in the midst of her silence, public opinion began to shift. Clearly this woman did not want to be found…
Not to rain on everyone’s parade, but if a stranger spied on me for an entire flight, took photos, and posted them on social media, I’d be pretty devastated. The whole planebae thing kinda horrified me??
— Carina Adly MacKenzie (@cadlymack) July 6, 2018
guys i don’t think ya’ll understand just how much i hate this plane bae bullshit story like
HOW are SO many people completely okay with this? everyone freaks out about lack of privacy until it’s framed by some jackass as “OOOH SO ROMANTIC” and then it’s hashtag goals??
— Dawnya (Gay Bitch) (@pinkishdawnya) July 5, 2018
As the backlash built, Blair apologised.
“The last thing I want to do is remove agency and autonomy from another woman,” Blair wrote on Twitter last week. “I wish I could communicate the shame I feel in having done this, but I truly feel that at this point my feelings are irrelevant.”
To the woman involved, she added, “Every woman has a right to her own story. And to have taken yours and turned it into my own was wrong on so many levels.”
Holdon joined the chorus, too, posting a video in which he expressed his hope that “this story, if nothing else, can really shine a light on the topic of privacy.”
Even Monica Lewinsky apologised for amplifying the story.
“I thought because their faces were blocked out it wasn’t too harmful,” she tweeted last week. “I know better than anyone that sometimes we can’t foresee the long-term consequences of our choices. ”
again, my apologies for any way my actions contributed to bringing stress, upset and a violation of privacy to whoever the woman on the plane is.
this was definitely a good reminder to check myself! ✌️ 6/6
— Monica Lewinsky (@MonicaLewinsky) July 9, 2018
In a statement issued via her lawyer to Business Insider, the woman noted that she had been recorded and photographed entirely without her consent.
“They posted images and recordings to social media, and speculated unfairly about my private conduct,” the statement read.
“Since then, my personal information has been widely distributed online. Strangers publicly discussed my private life based on patently false information. I have been doxxed, shamed, insulted and harassed. Voyeurs have come looking for me online and in the real world.
“I did not ask for and do not seek attention. #PlaneBae is not a romance — it is a digital-age cautionary tale about privacy, identity, ethics and consent.
“Please continue to respect my privacy, and my desire to remain anonymous.”