In 1785, just two years after the invention of the hot air balloon, two English lords at a popular London gentleman’s club made a bet. Lord Cholmondeley, from Cheshire, wagered two guineas against Lord Derby, from Derbyshire, that he would accomplish the as-yet-unprecedented feat of having sex “in a balloon one thousand yards from the Earth." The odds were negotiated at 250-to-one: if Cholmondeley pulled it off, he stood to gain a lucrative reward of 500 guineas. More importantly, he’d also go down in history as the first official member of what has since been dubbed the “Mile High Club.”
Today there’s zero evidence either of them managed to take home the prize —which seems fitting. Because for all the people who claim to have joined the Mile High Club, it always just feels like they’re lying. Of course there’s a handful of celebrity cases, and that time those two British tourists banged on a Ryanair flight, but that’s about it. And sure, these things always happen behind closed doors. But in a post-9-11 age, in planes filled with seemingly insurmountable surveillance and judgmental aircrew and pervy spectators with camera phones, how does anyone actually pull it off?
With this question in mind, we asked a few self-reported Mile High Club inductees to tell us their tales, in detail. And this is what they had to say.
A member of the Mile High Club since July 2015
I was on holiday with my boyfriend in Italy. We’d had this huge fight like two days before because he thought I was cheating on him (I wasn’t). We’re flying from Rome to Florence—it’s a pretty short flight—and he just wasn’t talking to me. So I waited until the flight attendants had walked down the aisle with drinks, and then I unbuckled his seat belt and pulled him into the bathroom with me.
Honestly, I don’t know what came over me. I’m not usually a spontaneous wild person, but I think I was feeling helpless and as though I had nothing to lose. Surprisingly, the sex was great. Quick, but great. We came out of the bathroom and the people in the rows closest to us were giggling like school kids. I felt so triumphant: I thought we’d gotten away with it. Then, as we went past the flight attendants on the way out, one said “be more subtle next time.” I was so embarrassed! Safe to say, my boyfriend and I didn’t fight for the rest of the trip.
A member of the Mile High Club since August 2018
This guy I’d been seeing for two weeks surprised me by booking this spontaneous trip to New Zealand. We spent an amazing, romantic week there, and then flew home in Emirates First Class, which was also a surprise. Apparently he just wanted to “see what first class was like”. We found that the bathrooms are LUSH. They have showers! And they’re massive.
So, naturally, we fucked in the shower. Usually you book them for 30 minutes and you get 15 minutes of hot water, but we were the only ones in first class, so they kept the hot water running and didn’t give us a time limit. It was pretty great—kind of exhilarating. I smashed a glass while we were having sex, so I was pretty sheepish when we exited the bathroom. The flight attendant was waiting outside the door with a dustpan and broom, but she just nodded and smiled at us. First class is amazing.
A member of the Mile High Club since December 2018
I was with two of my girlfriends, and we were flying back to Manchester. I hate flying, so I just got wasted—drinking double gin and waters by the half hour. I’d been flirting with this flight attendant, which I assumed was innocent banter. Well, turns out he was into me, and started flirting with me over the in-flight message system (it pops up on your TV screen). He invited me up to the staff quarters, which was this area in the roof of the plane, with beds. I agreed, so he came and got me and took me up.
I didn’t know planes even had a staff quarters! Anyway, we went up there and he got me some bubbles and we had sex. For like, two hours. It was fucking great: he was so into it, it was as though he hadn’t had sex for months… I mean, he probably hadn’t. It was worth giving up his sleep break for!
A member of the Mile High Club since 2012
Okay, so here’s what you do: you wait until the air hostess is busy with the drinks trolley, and then you pretend to feel sick in the stomach. You rush to the bathroom, and a few minutes later your ‘friend’ comes in to give you some water. Then you have roughly 10 minutes to reach your desired destination.
You have to pick a position and stick with it. As a guy, I suggest sitting on the toilet, with her sitting on top of you, facing away. Then you’ve just got to focus and get it done. I’ve done it twice now. Both were successful. You come out of the bathroom looking dishevelled and a bit sweaty, which is completely understandable… as you are not feeling well.
Currently in the induction stages of becoming a Mile High Club member
I was on a flight to Ireland, and there were these girls on board that were getting hammered. They started using the seat-to-seat chat and told me to go and sit with them, so I did. When I moved to their row, I could see this hot guy, kind of diagonally across from me, that I’d seen getting on the plane. He saw me with these girls, and obviously noticed how exceptionally hammered they were and how sober I was, so he started using the seat-to-seat chat too. He was like “You’re hot. You should come sit next to me, there’s a spare seat.” I stayed and drank with the girls until they took some Xanax and passed the fuck out, and then I went and sat with him.
Basically, I introduced myself and then we started making out. When we came up for air, we asked each other if we were a part of the Mile High Club—and neither of us were. I wanted to fuck him, but there was also no way it wasn’t going to be suspicious: I’d been drinking and sitting with the loudest people on the plane and the flight attendants definitely had their eye on me. So, instead, I asked for extra blankets and y’know… a lot of finger-banging and hand-jobs ensued.
A member of the Mile High Club since 2014
I used to fuck a flight attendant. This one time, we found ourselves on the same flight when she wasn’t working. She saw me get up to go to the bathroom, and waited in her seat until I was finished. Then when I opened the door she pushed me back in and closed it behind us. It was very to the point.
We made out, gave each other head, and fucked. To be honest, I couldn’t quite believe that it was happening, but obviously there was no time to ask questions. She worked for the company and knew the people on the flight, which probably explains why no one stopped us. It was fucking awesome.
A member of the Mile High club since October 2017
I always wanted to be a part of the Mile High club. But I also didn’t believe it existed. Then my grandma—yes, my GRANDMA—bought me a Mile High club plane ticket. I thought it was a joke, like she was taking the piss. But sure enough, the ticket cost like $750 and turned out to be essentially a hotel in the sky!
There was champagne, snacks, a bed, and someone who came in to tell you when the altitude was “just right.” I took my girlfriend at the time. It was an amazing experience but somehow it didn’t feel genuine because isn’t doing it in secret the whole point? It definitely wasn’t secret. Everyone on that aeroplane knew exactly what the fuck was going on.
Interviews have been edited for clarity.
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This article originally appeared on VICE AU.