In India a passenger got two years in jail for recording video of flight attendants. The man was charged with ‘outraging a woman’s modesty.’
Several days ago a United Airlines passenger was charged after placing a video recorder in an aircraft lavatory. The FBI found deleted files on the device from an Emirates flight where he had recorded one of their flight attendants as well.
It turns out that filming flight attendants is especially prevalent in Japan, where a Japanese union representing cabin crew at Japan Airlines, ANA and other carriers says that 60% of their members have been filmed while on duty.
To be sure the 60% figure lumps together flights attendants who say they’ve been filmed or photographed secretly (but if it was secret how would they know – so the number may be higher) and those who have been captured “without any prior consent.”
Laws vary worldwide. Generally in the U.S. photography is subject to an airline’s own rules inflight. Historically it’s been banned, sometimes excluding carve outs for ‘personal events’, though in practice allowed. That has meant that airlines could stop it whenever they wished relying on vague and inconsistently enforced rules, which often meant deferring to the whims of the flight crew. And has largely been permitted under the catch-all rubric of ‘security’. You might be taking photos to help you plan a future terrorist plot.
Photography rules in the U.S. have relaxed somewhat in the aftermath of United’s David Dao passenger dragging incident, as well as changing mores around the ubiquity of cell phones. The public has quickly learned their only defense against an unreasonable airline employee is video proof of what actually happened.
At the same time, privacy laws in Europe may protect third party passengers who haven’t given their consent to be filmed.
In Japan photography of flight attendants “can be punished under nuisance-prevention ordinances set by each prefectural government if they are committed on public transportation.” However there’s not a national law that applies inflight, and prosecuting under the jurisdiction whose skies a plane is flying above is difficult.
Some of the videographers are really creepy, too.
The respondents cited among the reasons why they believed it had happened as that they were told of the acts by others, or that they themselves had found a smartphone camera placed in a particular location to take so-called upskirt shots.
A flight attendant in her 30s who works for a major airline once discovered a male passenger with a camera hidden in the toe of his socks during a domestic flight. She asked him to accompany her to the in-flight kitchen where she asked for his cooperation in examining the camera in question. This revealed more upskirt shots of other flight attendants in his camera.
Now, I’ve photographed a Japan Airlines flight attendant though I was really just interested in grabbing a shot of this cabin when I boarded.
And I was much more interested in my meal on this Tokyo Narita – Shanghai Pudong flight.
I think there’s a big difference between photographing someone, and photographing an upskirt of that person. The union survey seems clearly conducted with an eye towards legislative change. And while adjusting laws to make addressing the latter seems reasonable, these laws should be carefully tailored not to blanket ban photography in a cabin (no more trip reports!) or of bad customer service situations.