Delta says it's bringing sexuality back to some scenes in 'Booksmart,' 'Rocketman'

The airline says it originally chose edited versions even though the omitted scenes would have met its standards.
Taron Egerton as Elton John in "Rocketman."
Taron Egerton as Elton John in "Rocketman."David Appleby / Paramount Pictures
By Dennis Romero

Delta Air Lines said Friday night it would immediately begin showing versions of the films "Booksmart" and "Rocketman" that include scenes covering girls' sexuality and gay identity. The scenes had previously been omitted from in-flight showings.

The airline was singled out on social media for running edited versions of "Booksmart," a comedy about high school friends directed by Olivia Wilde, that apparently excluded a lesbian sex scene, cut the words "vagina" and "genitals," and nixed an animated sequence where the main characters, both girls, turned into naked dolls.

On Wednesday, without mentioning Delta, Wilde said she finally got to see an in-flight version of her film.

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"Turns out some airlines work with a third party company that edits the movie based on what they deem inappropriate," she tweeted. "Which, in our case, is ... female sexuality?"

The omitted material also included female masturbation and a scene where the girls watched porn, the director said.

"What message is this sending to viewers and especially to women?" Wilde said. "That their bodies are obscene? That their sexuality is shameful?"

Delta was previously criticized for running a version of the Elton John biopic "Rocketman" that excluded any reference to the singer's sexual orientation. It said that film studios "often" directly provide it with a choice of theatrical or edited versions of films.

It did not address Wilde's contention that the edited versions are provided by a third-party firm.

In its statement the airline said it had selected edited version of the films in question even though the omitted scenes would have met its standards. It did not say why this happened.

"The studio has agreed to provide a special Delta edit that retains the LGBTQ+ love scenes in both Booksmart and Rocketman that will be on our flights as soon as possible," Delta said.

The carrier said it would institute a new process "immediately" to better manage in-flight entertainment.

Ryan Ruggiero, CNBC contributed.