Another passenger was thrown off a United Airlines flight yesterday for taking pictures.
Full details here, but here’s my summary: Passenger is on a flight from Austin to Denver. He has top-tier status with United and is a million-miler flyer, so he has witnessed the politics between ex-Continental and legacy United staff since the 2011 merger.
This flight is operated by an ex-Continental crew and the purser and captain do not seem to be getting along. Captain announces that this is a “Continental flight” and mispronounces purser’s name. Purser, obviously annoyed, immediately corrects him on PA.
Passenger, taking note of the pilot’s Continental identification also notices that there are Continental-labeled bins in the galley and snaps a picture of them using his iPhone during the safety video.
Another passenger must have complained because the purser, seemingly perturbed at the mispronunciation of her name, comes over and asked the passenger about it. Passenger confirms he has taken a few photos, shows them to FA, and offers to delete them.
FA and passenger became engaged in discussion about Continental/United merger, with the FA claiming there are no problems between legacy UA and CO. Passenger complains about captain’s “Continental” announcement and purser then references United’s onboard photo policy below–
The use of still and video cameras, film or digital, including any cellular or other devices that have this capability, is permitted only for recording of personal events. Photography or audio or video recording of other customers without their express prior consent is strictly prohibited. Also, unauthorized photography or audio or video recording of airline personnel, aircraft equipment or procedures is always prohibited. Any photography (video or still) or voice or audio recording or transmission while on any United Airlines aircraft is strictly prohibited, except to the extent specifically permitted by United Airlines.
Passenger erases photos but purser has gone to fetch the captain. Captain shows up and asks if passenger will be “any more trouble”. Passenger explains what happened and seatmate verifies. Captain asks purser is she is comfortable with passenger on the flight and purser says no.
Captain asks passenger to step into galley for a more private conversation, but passenger refuses, saying he wants witnesses to any conversation that would transpire. Captain becomes upset, plane returns to gate (had been taxiing), and passenger is met by a UA rep and two police officers.
Police saw no issue to file report and UA rep booked him on next flight to Las Vegas, where he arrived four hours later than planned.
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That’s the passenger’s side of the story and we may never hear the other side. Certainly, we never heard from the FA who lied about me and the spineless captain who backed her up last year when I was thrown off a United flight for taking a picture of my seat. My story was independently verified by several passengers onboard and I will be most interested to see if other passengers step forward to attack or defend the passenger removed from the flight.
The passenger has since opined on Flyertalk that he was just caught up in the middle of a power play between the captain and purser. As I mentioned above, the purser was angry that the captain did not pronounce her name correctly during his in-flight announcements and the passenger reasons that he was the pawn to get the pilot in trouble (for unreasonably removing a passenger).
That sounds outlandish to me. Many are attacking the passenger for being combative and not following the captain’s request to speak privately in the galley. Others are suggesting that there must be something else the passenger is holding back – something that would make the Captain stop the plane from taxiing and exit the flight deck to address.
Those are fair criticisms, just as it was fair (though ultimately unreasonable) for some to suggest I should never have said the word “terrorist” onboard my ill-fated flight to Istanbul.
I generally think captains are decent and honorable people, but not always – on my flight to Istanbul, the captain was nasty/confrontational from the start and had no desire to talk to me – he would not even look at me in the eyes (I initiated the conversation with him).
A different situation here in that it seems the Captain was the one being proactive, but I’ve got to tell you — I don’t trust a captain who calls United Airlines “Continental” three years after the merger….
I will revisit this story as more facts emerge.
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Before the story above hit this morning, this article was going to have a very different tone.
Hidden in United’s new safety video at 1:57 is a scene in which a man photographs a FA (with flash!) while she is performing the pre-flight safety demonstration. This appears to be in blatant violation of the onboard photo policy above (“Also, unauthorized photography or audio or video recording of airline personnel, aircraft equipment or procedures is always prohibited.”)
Electronic equipment, including cameras, no longer must be powered off after the aircraft door is closed on all flights departing the USA. I thought the inclusion of this onboard photography in the new safety video was a reflection of this more relaxed trend and also (and I don’t mean to flatter myself) a bit of an apology for what happened to me. Or at least with me in mind…
How hypocritical for United to feature this in the safety video and throw off a passenger just a week after its release for also taking a picture during the safety video!
Yes, yes – I know, it was about his refusal to accompany the captain in the galley and not the picture. But it all started because a passenger allegedly complained about the picture – the FA should have said…photos are allowed onboard as long as they do not violate the privacy of other passengers or crew members. End of story – in fact there would not be one.
I don’t know who signed off on the new safety video, but I would edit out the photo scene immediately – it has no place in the video if the action specifically violates United’s photo policy and if it mimicking is grounds to remove passengers from airplanes.