Did You Know Your Inflight Videos Break Airline Rules? That Needs to Change

If passengers hadn’t recorded video of Dr. David Dao being dragged off a United flight, and also of his bloody return, do you think United would have ever changed its story from ‘apologizing for having to re-accommodate passengers’ to declaring the events truly horrific?

The widespread use of cell phone video has become important to document events and create proof when bad things happen.

That’s why it concerns me that Michael Nissensohn says he was escorted off a jetBlue flight for taking video of himself on the plane.

The Delray Beach man was flying Friday on a JetBlue flight from Palm Beach International to New York’s La Guardia airport.

During the flight, Nissensohn said the crew chief noticed he was recording video and told him he wasn’t allowed to take video or pictures during the flight.

“He got really nasty about it and said, ‘Hey listen we’re going to confiscate your phone,’” said Nissensohn.

When the flight arrived in Palm Beach he says the rest of the passengers were told to remain seated while he was escorted off the plane and then “Port Authority police held him for one hour while he was questioned.”

Restrictions on film and video are quite common. United says you can capture personal events but not photograph other passengers or crew without their consent, or take photos of airline equipment without United’s prior consent.

A couple of years ago American Airlines took its similar policy and expanded it to cover the gate area.

You can photograph to your heart’s content in public, including of other people. Aircraft belong to the airlines, and they can set conditions for transporting you (within bounds of Department of Transportation regulations). I’d be curious whether there’s as strong a case for a ‘gate area’ restriction since most airports are government owned and some airports don’t lease gates exclusively to a single airline but make them shared news.

Four years ago a BoardingArea blogger was thrown off a United flight for taking pictures.

I think the use of personal recording devices, as long as you’re not harassing another passenger or outraging the modesty of women, has become imperative. And I don’t suggest that ‘the airlines should just record all flights’ (though I’m shocked they don’t) because if an incident occurred you can be confident that the tape would happen not to have worked on that flight, or would get inadvertently erased.

(HT: Richie)

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. Good grief! JetBlue can not confiscate your phone anymore than it can confiscate your watch. As long as he obeyed the flight crew’s instructions to stop filming he committed no crime so I am not sure why the Port Authority was involved.

  2. The actual solution is for a camera to cover all areas of the plane the same way police cruisers all have cameras so there is historical proof of what happened when things go south. Filming should not bea passenger duty. The airlines should be required to film and then I GUARANTEE that the abuse that crew passes out “in the name of security ” would drop dramatically.

  3. @JustSaying : it can easily have the opposite effect. Crews, with fear that *anything* could be misconstrued online, would bend all policies rules and regulations to offer special treatment to please those who violate anything they can imagine just to shut them up, while the rest, mostly rule-abiding passengers, get shafted because we chose not to act like a whiny baby kicking and screaming until we get our way.

    This is the society we now live in – acting unruly and misbehaving IS rewarding.

  4. I’ll take the camera and it’s effects ANY Day over the abuse we now get from our “security hostess”

  5. The very fact that the first report outright LIED about the passenger being disruptive – and if we hadn’t had the video showing the calm discussion BEFORE he was injured UA would just keep on blaming the victim. Most FA are fine but there are a few who really shouldn’t be on the job (like the one who moved me out of a desirable seat (while I was multiple year 1k when it meant something)- to move a befuddled passenger from the back to my seat “for weight and balance” on a 747- she then removed her name tag and none of the other FA knew her name?!?).
    I understand Munoz standing behind his people BUT ONLY IF THE FACTS ARE KNOWN can we know what the truth is and unfortunately there are too many examples of crew on power trips or having a bad day or……. and just totally abusing their position to not have video proof available:(

  6. This needs to be approached like videos of police which now are allowed in almost all jurisdictions because to not do so abets a coverup of actions which citizens might want to document. In the case of airlines especially, some crew have started behaving so outrageously – regularly telling polite customers that “If you say another word you’ll be removed” just for asking for their name – that the only way to effectively change this intolerable behavior is to record it and post it to Facebook to make them permanently famous. For an airline to disallow this is the same as saying we endorse the behavior since they should be the first to want it exposed if they truly don’t support and endorse that type of customer treatment.

    Airlines need to be queried by bloggers like yourself for whether they support customers taking cell phone video of their employees acting outrageously, and if not then Why not. If you are harassed while quietly documenting bad crew behavior, be sure to get good video and post it to Facebook where whatever satisfaction they think they got from abusing you is balanced by them becoming famous enough that many will be recognized wherever they go as abusive tyrants. Then let the airlines defend the Typhoid Mary’s.

  7. This happened to me. Was on a AA flight last year where a passenger attempted to rush the cockpitZ flight was diverted to Lubbock where police took the passenger off the plane. AA crew came through the cabin and asked each passenger if they recorded anything. They were clear it was a federal offense and they would prosecute if it wasn’t deleted.

  8. @Weeklyflier

    This happened to me. Was on a AA flight last year where a passenger attempted to rush the cockpitZ flight was diverted to Lubbock where police took the passenger off the plane. AA crew came through the cabin and asked each passenger if they recorded anything. They were clear it was a federal offense and they would prosecute if it wasn’t deleted.

    I’m sure that the AA legal department would be interested in this. There is no federal offense and no ability to prosecute you for filming on an airplane. They could ask you to leave for violating their policy, however. What’s interesting is that the AA crew, however, could have committed a crime – obstruction of justice (by requiring the destruction of evidence). At the very least, had the defense attorney of the passenger who rushed the cockpit learned of this fact, it would make conviction of him more difficult. Stupid!!!!!!

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