American Airlines Uses Secret Rule To Ban Passenger From Flight

An American Airlines passenger wasn’t allowed to board his flight from Austin to New York JFK because he was filming a gate agent that he thought was rude. The agent didn’t like him filming and called for a supervisor, who refused to allow him to take the flight. They deemed filming employees to violate the airline’s rules – though these are secret rules which do not appear published anywhere that customers can see them.

Police were called, the officer confirmed the passenger wasn’t breaking the law, but they still weren’t allowed to board.

Apparently the dispute began when the passenger tried to bring two bags onto the plane that the gate agent deemed carry-ons (rather than the allowable carry on bag and personal item).

  • According to the passenger, the agent asked them to consolidate into one bag.

  • The passenger did so, but then the bag was deemed too large to be allowed on board and they were asked to check it.

  • That’s when the frustrated passenger filmed the agent, who objected.

They told the police officer they’re willing to gate check the bag, they just want to fly, and were filming so they could identify the agent they wanted to submit a complaint to the airline about. The passenger offered to delete the video if they’d be allowed to fly. However they were refused boarding, refused rebooking, and told they could request a refund.

Meanwhile, another passenger kneeling by the bag sizer at the gate says that the agent pushed her.

@liranhirschkorn @American Airlines will kick you off a flight without explanation. Ive taken 100s of flights in the last few years and never had an flying with delta. Please share. #americanairlines #kickedoffmyflight ♬ original sound – Liran Hirschkorn

Filming in public is not illegal, and there is no FAA or Department of Transportation against filming inside an airport or on board an aircraft. Filming is even permitted at TSA security checkpoints provided “the screening process is not interfered with or sensitive information is not revealed.”

However American Airlines adopted a policy in 2014 to prohibit photography of employees, they published it at the time only in their on board American Way magazine. They don’t have signage anywhere telling passengers this, and it doesn’t appear in their Contract of Carriage or on their website. The magazine that used to have this policy was eliminated two years ago.

Is a secret policy, than runs against common cultural practice where people film things with their phone at will (and even tag the airline in social media daily without being told they’ve violated any rule), even a policy at all?

Moreover, the right to film is important. David Dao would never have gotten justice after having been dragged off of a United Express flight and bloodied if there hadn’t been video of the incident. United itself initially defended Chicago Aviation Police and apologized to other passengers that they’d been inconvenienced by Dao’s behavior.

It is certainly understandable that employees don’t like to be filmed doing their jobs. They’re in public spaces, dealing with members of the public, but most people doing the filming wouldn’t like it if the roles were reversed! Still, enforcing a policy that customers aren’t on notice about seems… problematic.

(HT: Off The Beaten Points)

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, 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. Kathy white is the ultimate KAReN!! Wow! 86 comments here. Talk about spam, should have been banned.

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