One particularly egregious story of onboard bad behavior has spawned many other tales. Every story is tantalizing. Every story is horrifying. But every story is contested. Is the solution to install cameras onboard planes?
Municipalities have responded to police abuses by mandating officers wear body cameras. This keeps law enforcement accountable but also eliminates countervailing narratives that can be easily discredited. We see cameras popping up on trains, busses, and in taxis and Ubers. If you’re in the UK, about the only place that doesn’t have CCTV is the loo…
So why not airplanes? Surveillance cameras will not eliminate poor behavior, but cameras may certainly mitigate it and at the very least quickly sort out truth claims.
We already see carriers like Cathay Pacific, Asiana, and Emirates that have “spy cameras” in first class used to monitor the needs of passengers. That’s how FAs seem to magically appear when you awake from a nap. Why not install cameras throughout the plane?
I can imagine that unions, particularly in the USA and Europe, might strongly oppose the privacy intrusion that cameras would require. Non-unionzed Delta experimented with cameras over a decade ago but abandoned the idea.
Certainly, these concerns can be appreciated. Even a CCTV system designed for “security reasons” could easily be used to monitor service standards and other non-safety items. While keeping FAs on their toes may lead to better service, it might also lead to more guarded interactions and a sense of unease that will be visible to customers.
Consumer Privacy Objection
Do we really want a camera that records our conversations, computer screens, and reading materials while onboard a plane? That records what we eat, how we drink, and what we are wearing?
But imagine the system. When a passenger acts up, the captain can be notified, replay the footage from the Flight Deck, and make a call as to whether the passenger remains onboard or is ejected. If the passenger is particularly disruptive, footage can be forwarded to the law enforcement agency on the ground at the arriving airport prior to arrival. Something stolen? Camera footage can be used to apprehend the culprit or at least pinpoint suspects.
I’m on the fence about it, but only because it might mean the end of free bottles of wine and leftover business class for me when I fly economy class. In terms of safety and helping to defuse potentially contentious situations, I think cameras would do wonders.