If you haven’t already read about fellow blogger Matthew getting kicked off a United Airlines flight, I encourage you to do so.
The short version of his story is that he took a picture of his BusinessFirst seating area (the IFE monitor), a flight attendant advised he couldn’t take any pictures of the cabin and a bit later while still at the gate, he attempted to explain why he was doing so. The flight attendant allegedly didn’t want to hear an explanation and before the flight left, a Global Services representative pulled him off the flight mentioning, “the captain is not comfortable with you on this flight.”
There’s a lot more to his story and his post has created a lively discussion in the comments. But I want to focus on the policy itself. In his post, Matthew offers a picture of the onboard photo and video policy listed in the Hemispheres magazine. It reads:
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 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.
I certainly understand not capturing crew or other passengers without their consent, but other parts of the policy seem open to interpretation. What does United consider a “personal event?” For me, capturing a picture of the seat I’m about to sit in qualifies. And the meals I eat in premium cabins and report about on this blog are certainly personal events.
I understand why some photos would cause alarm (exit doors, galley equipment and some flight deck pics), but I just don’t see an issue with those specifically related to a passenger’s in-flight experience.
I happen to have been stopped by two Federal Air Marshals upon deplaning a flight at JFK after a passenger alerted the crew I was taking pictures and video. They were incredibly polite and professional, and after explaining my intent, showing what I captured and providing a business card, they were satisfied and let me keep my images. I’m sorry Matthew didn’t get the same courtesy of a proper investigation.
Is United’s policy warranted? Yes, but I think proper discretion on the part of both passengers and crew members is essential.