Passengers Need To Stop Taking Photos Of Flight Attendants

I’m a strong proponent of passengers being able to take photographs in public, and that includes in publicly-owned airports. While I’m sympathetic to airlines that may want to limit the practice on their private property, I think it’s bad policy.

United Airlines would have ended the David Dao situation with its original statement, apologizing to customers that the passenger had delayed their travel, after the man was bloodied and dragged off of a United Express aircraft. Video by other passengers showed what really happened.

That freedom should have limits, even where the limits are imposed more by norms than by law. While 3 passengers were held in a Turkish prison after filming a flight attendant doing a safety video, penalties in much of the world are not so extreme (even India where a passenger might be charged with ‘outraging the modesty’ of a woman when filming a female crewmember).

This has to stop.

From their earliest days, flight attendants have faced sexual harassment. Harassment may be somewhat less common in the U.S. than it used to be since social norms have shifted away from “coffee, tea, or me?” and air travel itself is, for the most part, no longer ‘sexy’. But nearly everyone has video now in their pockets.

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. Airports and Airplanes are not public they are private business and no pictures should be allowed. Maybe people wouldn’t behave so badly if there was no video. I know I don’t want to be a boob tube victim. Turn off the phone and sit down and chill. Only security cameras should be running.n

  2. That’s not taking a photo of a FA. That’s taking a photo up the skirt of a FA. There is no world where the latter is allowable. None.

  3. …that being said, we need to stop taking photos, videos of strangers and posting them to the internet. Someone in meltdown mode should never be seen as potential clicks and views.

  4. I like how you try to have it both ways — decry the practice, but post the video. Like I am by commenting. Don’t fan the flames, but, fan the flames.

  5. In the world of smartphones, you really don’t know what pictures are taken of who and different people have different interests. I have absolutely no interest in taking a photo of a flight attendant, beautiful or ugly, but maybe I will take a photo of some other person or thing or scene in public and that is very easy to do with a smartphone.

  6. Taking videos of safety officers is the only way to hold them and airlines accountable. That does not mean taking up skirt videos. I feel safer after the airing of the Dao incident video.

  7. @Farnworth Nice try but many if not most airports are in fact both publicly owned and public places. Try checking the facts before posting next time.

  8. If one can’t take pictures, how can one insist on the fulfilment of their purchase from the Airlines?
    There are so many examples of airline emoloyees mistreating customers and later denying it.
    If anything, there should be more video surveilance on airplanes, it helps passengers to hold airlines to their promises, as well as airlines and flight attendants by being able to proof that a passenger was unruly.

  9. Airports and commercial flights open to the public are public places.

    It’s amazing to me how many people get this wrong.

  10. I’ll go out on the wing to say this.
    We are surrounded by cameras that we see and tons more we never will, for good or bad. That fact is.not going away. It seems an airliner is the very best example of where there SHOULD be cameras, documenting both the passenger compartment AND cockpit. Encrypted, secured, whatever, only releasable to LEOs upon subpoena,. Cameras are in every public semi public space as it is, convenience store, police bodycams, Walmart, hair salon, front doors, yet the 100 million dollar aircraft with 500 people on board is somehow not worth “protecting”? Every train, bus, taxi, Uber en route to the aircraft is recorded.
    With what’s going on with passengers and very occasionally the crew, this is so silly. The ability of a flight crew to ERASE the only recordings (cockpit voice) at the push of a button is also total nonsense, as is the miniscule duration of the recording before it loops and self destructs.
    The convergence of cheap nearly infinite storage and onboard satellite internet presents the obvious opportunity to send some data to ground based encrypted storage in real time, or when something on board happens, such as panic button, AI detected ” bad event” or similar.
    Many aviation events could be more thoroughly investigated but for the erased or non existent recordings. It’s not right that the cockpit recordings are erased before the plane even lands, as in the case of the near miss where the “offending” aircraft proceeded to destination and the relevant audio was gone before landing. We the public are not well served by tossing these learning experiences in the bit bucket.
    I am quite sure that crew workload and job satisfaction would vastly improve if passengers were aware their actions might be reviewed by a judge and jury in 4k living color.
    And the few bad apples among cree that sometimes overstep their power would likely learn to change, or be replaced.
    As a professional pilot I never thought I’d feel this way, but for whatever reason, flying today is nothing like when I began 30+ years ago.

  11. Airplanes are privately owned by t he airlines and you are subject to the airlines terms and conditions that you agree to when you purchase a ticket. I’m a flight attendant and no I don’t want anyone taking pictures of me without my permission. It’s creepy and rude. I would, however, happily wear a bodycam like some police do so you can see how horribly entitled and rude that a lot of people are. Also could show you the entire story of an incident and not when somebody just decides to start recording.

  12. I’m so sick of everybody trotting out David Dao. The fact is that incident was 100% Dao’s own fault. He was picked at random. The other three passengers selected to deplane f***ing complied and deplaned. But Dao pulled the Dr card, as if no ther pulmonologist on Earth could have cared for his patients the next day.

    And how did he strike his face on the headrest is he wasn’t resisting?? There is tons of video of him being taken off the flight with a bloody face. But not so much as a photo frame of the police striking him. Also no reports of the police striking him.

    Everybody just assumed a cop hit him because his face was bloody.

    F*** David Dao. He’s a pompous jerk.

  13. While some picture taking is clearly wrong there should be a categorical freedom to film suspected misconduct that no company can deny.

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