Yesterday, I wrote about United’s loosened new onboard photo policy, which now permits other passengers and FAs to be captured without consent. It’s a positive development and I give United credit for the update. In thinking more about this rule change, however, I doubt it would have saved me from the walk of shame.
Let’s recount what happened to me onboard, for it is instructive in analyzing this new policy. You can read my full narrative here, but here’s the short version:
- I board retrofitted 767-300 and take a picture of my new business class seat
- Flight attendant runs over saying I cannot take pictures
- Passenger in Row 1 overhears FA complain to other FA, “There is a customer in the back of the cabin taking pictures of us while we work.” (see comment from FJFV here)
- I discuss the issue with the FA, stating I am not a “terrorist” but will not take further pictures
- A member of ground staff escorts me off the plane, saying the FA don’t feel comfortable with me onboard
- I appealed to the captain who would not hear my side and threatened me to quickly get off aircraft
Interpreting the New Policy
The new onboard photo policy states:
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.
As irrational as the fear was, I was thrown off the flight because the FA feared for her safety and deemed me a security threat. As expressed by her comments, the picture itself was not the issue: her issue was two-fold. First, why is this passenger taking pictures? For what purpose would anyone take a picture of their seat? Clearly, she had never read my blog. Second, if this passenger is acting “strange” on the ground, how strange will he act in the air? Thus, in her mind, I created a security and safety concern sufficient to throw me off the flight. The concern was not objective, but subjective. And it concerns me that the new policy still allows for a great deal of FA subjectivity.
United should clarify who defines what a safety or security risk is. Examples should be given to FAs of what is a real security risk…and what is not. Heck, maybe my own case can be used.
I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but this topic fascinates me…for obvious reasons. In one sense, I do view the modified photo policy as personal vindication. On the other hand, I believe very little will actually change and that FAs will pull the safety card or the security card to stop onboard photography even if the real culprit is only personal discomfort.
Take it from me: be careful before you go overboard with onboard photography. Sometimes even an innocent picture of your seat can get you in trouble…
image: Jimmy Kimmel Live! (Fair Use)