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The Truth About Filming on Airlines

While customer service issues go viral, they could be against airline policy.

Although passenger-filmed videos aboard commercial aircraft shed light on egregious customer service shortcomings, have they been entirely lawful? An investigation from the Associated Press discovered that many of those videos may have violated the legacy carrier’s photo and video policies.

The question over whether taking photos and video aboard an aircraft came to the forefront in April 2017, after several videos depicting a passenger being dragged off a United Airlines-branded aircraft went viral. While the images forced the Chicago-based carrier to issue a public apology, the videos may have violated the terms of flying.

Under the United policy, passengers are allowed to take pictures with their small personal devices, including smartphones if the “purpose is capturing personal events.” Taking images of passengers or staff without their consent is against the policy and could lead to a passenger being removed from a flight. A similar policy is mirrored on the other three major American carriers.

Punishment for policy violations are at the discretion of the captain and flight crew. While some are simply given a warning for their behavior, one flyer told the AP he was removed from a JetBlue flight and detained by police after taking a selfie. The carrier told the AP they do not publish their photography policy “for security reasons.”

Although taking photographs aboard commercial aircraft is not against federal law, experts say it may be a gray area for shutterbug flyers. While a passenger cannot be arrested for filming something of public interest or keeping a recording of a conversation with a customer service agent for their records, the airline can ask a passenger to leave for taking the images.

In conversations noted by the AP, unidentified airline executives say they would not take legal action against a passenger for breaking the policy. Flyers are left at their own discretion and a crossroads: Take a picture to document an event at the risk of being escorted off their flight.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

Comments are Closed.
Boggie Dog May 28, 2017

The videos on the United flight were a public service. The airline might not like it but almost everyone can be a news reporter these days. Film at 11!

cynicAAl May 25, 2017

given the choice of complying with "airline policy" and not recording, or recording someone being dragged down the aisle, I'm pretty sure I'd record the event. I break at least 1 airline policy rule on every single flight.

Mcgr45 May 25, 2017

I was recently on a Southwest flight, where they had a promotion called "Live at 35". That's 35,000 feet. They brought on two country singers competing in a SWA contest. All form of camera phones were out filming. SWA had no problems. So I guess I depends on the situation...