60% of Japanese Flight Attendants Say They’ve Been Secretly Taped Inflight

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I know Gary doesn’t do this but it always makes me cringe when I see certain bloggers post photos or videos of flight attendants as part of their flight review. Not to name any names but some bloggers seem to flaunt their reviews with photos of flight attendants (or them w/flight attendants). I would hope the bloggers actually get verbal approval from those individuals when they post media with a shot of the flight attendant.

  2. I was a Grand Juror in an upskirt case. They showed a number of videos on a number of women as evidence. The perpetrator was middle aged man with children and had been secretly taking these upskirt videos for years. To be honest, I do not get it. I was bored after about 6 seconds.

  3. @Kory.

    Europe has a new privacy law in place and if you post photos of faces of persons whom you have not obtained the proper consents from, you are liable for damages.

  4. Gary are you aware cellphones in Japan make audible clicking noises when taking photos. That’s how engrained the perv culture is in Japan, with salarymen eager to take photos up the skirts of women and underage girls. The manufacturers and government came to an agreement on this years ago to combat this but obviously being raised on manga and inability to be a civilized normal male in the presence of women has led to this sorry state

    It’s disgusting.


  5. Europe & the EU are way over the top. There are more rules and regulations covering things that are just plain stupid. Ever since WWII, every country is being forced to be made to look like every other country.

    It will fail. You can see some stress points now. One is Brexit. There are many others, like the whole country of Hungary.

    When the end finally comes, it will be a total mess. The French and other countries will expel all Muslims, no matter what other factors are present. The French have MILLIONS of foreign Muslims living in the country. They have NOT been assimilated, and never will be. They don’t want to assimilate.

    The US and local liberal loonies have tried to change Europe so there is not a repeat of WWII. Instead, they have laid the groundwork for a future mess.

  6. @James. 100% on board with your statement, until you blamed USA. I am going to now say something that you disagree with: God bless America.

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