Take it from the guy who was thrown off a plane for taking a picture of his seat…there is going to be stiff flight attendant resistance to United’s updated onboard photo policy. And maybe some passenger pushback as well.
I’m the guy a FA threw off a flight from Newark to Istanbul in 2013 for taking a picture of the back of my business class seat. You can read the full story here.
United Airlines recently updated its onboard photo policy, relaxing restrictions on what kind of photographs passengers can take onboard.
The use of small cameras or mobile devices for photography and video is permitted on board, provided that the purpose is capturing personal events. Photographing or recording other customers or airline personnel without their express consent is prohibited.
The use of small cameras or mobile devices for photography and video is permitted on board, provided that the purpose is capturing personal events. Any photographing or recording of other customers or airline personnel that creates a safety or security risk or that interferes with crewmembers’ duties is prohibited.
Note the subtle difference in wording that I have bolded above. Other passengers and crew members can now be filmed without permission, as long as it does not create a safety or security risk. A safety or security risk? More on that in a moment.
In explaining why this policy changed, United told FAs:
Every day, we connect our customers to the moments that matter most. Capturing those moments – from the concourse to the cabin – is a meaningful part of the journey for many of our customers. Those moments are also opportunities for us to deliver truly caring travel experiences that keep our customers safe.
We live in a world where the vast majority of our customers carry smartphones which they frequently use to capture aspects of their travel experience. Always ensure your behavior is in line with our core4 principles. Should a customer begin taking photos or videos and capture you doing your job, you should feel proud of the job you are doing.
Allow customers to photograph or record you unless they are creating a safety or security risk or preventing you from doing your job. If you believe a customer is violating this policy, then please follow your standard operating procedures and escalate to your supervisor.
The “Safety and Security” Exception
While I actually love how explicit the FA memo is above in stating that consumers should be allowed to photograph FAs performing their work, remember how vague and broad the words “safety” and “security” are.
It was on those pretenses I was thrown off my flight. I can imagine it will be on those pretenses that many will be stopped from filming FAs at work during the flight.
I do not expect any more Dao incidents again, but if a FA asks you to stop filming, understand that you have very little recourse, even if the new rules are printed clearly in Hemispheres magazine. At the same time, nothing will ever stop passengers from filming incidents in which FAs or other airline staff overstep their bounds. I think FAs already know that.
How to Protect Against Invasive Passengers?
There’s still a line of decency that should not be crossed. If my seatmate starts videoing me, without my consent, during the flight…I’m going to resist. I see quite a difference between taking a few cabin shots that may include seated passengers and FAs and explicitly taking pictures of other passengers in the cabin without their consent. And on that note, I do see why FAs might be angry at this change.
As Gary Leff noted, “The widespread use of cell phone video has become important to document events and create proof when bad things happen.” That will never change. But I applaud United for liberalizing their photo policy. Even so, I expect significant FA pushback…especially from ones who do not wish to be held accountable for their actions. I also would not be surprised to see a few cases of “air rage” result from this incident when a passenger who does not want to be photographed is included in another passenger’s photo.
(H/T: The Points Guy)