Pregnant Woman Kicked Off American Airlines Flight for Taking Photo

A woman who was six months’ pregnant says she was kicked off an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Mexico City yesterday.

American Airlines Airbus A319

The flight was past its departure time but American was showing the flight still as on time. This is an ongoing issue with American Airlines that I’ve been covering for more than two years (“American Airlines’ Goldilocks Problem: Boards too Early, Updates Delays Too Late.“)

Initially she understood she was being removed for questioning her flight’s delay.

Indeed the flight delay wasn’t long as far as these things go, but when there’s a lack of information — and the information you’re receiving from the airline is clearly wrong — that can be frustrating. No doubt it’s even more frustrating for someone that’s six months’ pregnant.

However the passenger Ana Heitmann shared on Facebook that although she was initially told she was being removed “because I tweeted about our disgust” over American’s customer service (the agent’s response was reportedly that she could “get off the plane”), the real reason she was kicked off the flight was because “according to FAA it’s illegal to take photos of the crew members inside the flight.”

Of course it is not illegal to take photos of crew members. It is against American Airlines rules but they don’t have signage anywhere telling passengers this, and most don’t know it. In this area of cell phone cameras and social media, people photograph their surroundings all the time. While American allows customers to “record their own personal events” they do not allow photography “in any airline area” and that includes “onboard aircraft” or “ticket counters, gates, baggage services” or cargo.

Other US airlines have similar policies, at least with respect to onboard photography. United publishes its policy in its inflight magazine although airlines aren’t even consistently aware of their own policies, such as when they encourage photography for social media contests. Here’s one from Delta two years ago:

If we had never gotten footage of the United passenger bloodied as he was dragged off a flight by Chicago Aviation Police, there wouldn’t have been outrage — the man wouldn’t have been compensated, and United wouldn’t have changed its involuntary denied boarding processes.

So these policies need to change, especially since most passengers don’t even know about them!

Ultimately Ms. Heitmann says she was put on the next flight to Mexico City which — since American AA2233 appears to have departed on time — means she only got in about an hour and twenty minutes later than her original flight.

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. That graphic appears inconsistent. One cannot photograph or film “in any airline area, including … onboard aircraft”. Yet there is an exception allowing camera use during flight to record personal events. So which is it?

  2. The fact that she is pregnant is really irrelevant to the story….Women can’t say it isn’t a disability and then complain when it suits them. Either way, AA should have updated passengers, it is ridiculous how often airlines could save a TON of wracked nerves, ticked off passengers, etc., if they would JUST TELL PEOPLE WHAT IS GOING ON! Even the jerks can comprehend something as simple as the flight attendant was running behind from another flight, we had to make a change in f/a’s whatever….just tell them the truth or a plausible LIE, lol and save a lot of curiosity.

  3. If taking photos is illegal (per airline regulations), then you guys (travel/trip bloggers) have been doing illegal things. Is it?

  4. There is no end to idiotic behavior by airlines and flight crews. Even if we concede that American’s “hidden” rule makes sense (I do not), the appropriate reaction by the crew would be to inform the passenger (or all passengers via an announcement) that rules prohibit such photography and anyway who continue photographing will be forced to disembark. The idea of having such a draconian rule and not letting passengers know about it until after they’ve violated it is Orwellian

  5. I’m a professional photographer and have taken photos of airline personnel many, many times for trip reports and such. (If a crew member didn’t want to be photographed, I would always respect the request, of course.)

    What exactly is up AA’s ass about photographing their employees???

  6. A lawyer needs to file a suit immediately to clarify if they are trying to stop customers from documenting crew authoritarian behavior. This has come up repeatedly when police tried to keep the public from making video of their treatment of the public, and they lost every time with the judge and public asking why they were trying to suppress the public holding them accountable.

    But it’s understandable why they would try since now this little dictator in the video is going to be recognized everywhere he goes, hooted at on the streets of any country in the world, permanently humiliated for his own imperous behavior. If you don’t want to be a documented social pariah seen by millions of people acting out your goosestepping, then act graciously like you were hired to do.

  7. Why are you putting out so many incomplete stories?
    The pregnancy is irrelevant. UNLESS you are reporting that not-visibly pregnant passengers did something. Just be consistent in how you identify someone.
    The person’s account is just that….HER account. No context here.
    So HER account is taken as factual.
    I have no sympathy with this whiney person who thinks she is entitled to do whatever she wants to do. I have been on flights all this week and have seen more and more bizarre passenger behavior. My sympathies are with the crew until proven otherwise.

  8. The Pregnancy of the Woman is TOTALLY irrelevant…..unless She suddenly discovered She was Six Months Pregnant On The Airplane….doubtful.Taking UNSOLICITED/Not Approved Photos of A Worker or ANY Person has got To STOP. More than likely The Poor Victim spouted off some type of threat/ultimatum or general sense on Nastiness that The Crew thought…..”Really?” These People are Here to Do A Job…..and IF You don’t like it, Guess What….You will NOT be Going and I couldn’t AGREE More. Was just On a Flight where some Assclown interfered during a Medical Emergency and then literally RAN Off the Airplane to avoid being questioned further. Many of these so called Customers need a SERIOUS Attitude Adjustment or need to find alternate transportation.

  9. If some jacktard came into your office, shoved a camera in YOUR face, and started berating YOU, I highly doubt you would be so professional in response. The airplane is these people’s workspace, just as an office space is for others. This madness of public shaming without the complete facts is irrespinsible at best. The propogation of these so called “news” outlets is reckless and repulsive and wreaks of lazy journalism.

  10. Can I photograph passengers being obnoxious, unruly, rude or mean and send it to that person’s employer…or mother? That’s fair, isn’t it?

  11. You may not realize but there is a security compliment to the airline rule on photographing employees. Employees are required to wear badging and photography allows those with nefarious intent to duplicate clothing, badging, etc. This can be a security issue should that person attempt to use said photo to make a fake id to breach security.

  12. @James it is not illegal, it is formally against airline rules that they generally do not tell customers about and enforce erratically at best.

  13. @Gary. Formally against airline rules. It’s the same as forbidden or prohibited or not allowed or not legal, isn’t it?

  14. Their airplane, their rules. So, I won’t photograph there.

    However – at the ticket counters and at the gates, when I am there legally, the airline rules are worthless. Anyone is free to photograph anything as long as they are not in violation of any laws. (Airports may have reasonable restrictions regarding filming for commercial purposes on airport property, but that’s only because they want a cut of the revenue).

  15. So some drama queen wants her 15 minutes of fame? Exploiting a pregnancy to “get sympathy”? Puh-leeze. An airplane is privately owned property, if the airline says “no filming of flight crew without their consent” the company is within their rights to say so. It becomes “illegal” because it is a federal requirement to comply with crew member instructions. If a crew member says “Stop filming” and you refuse, at that point you are refusing to comply with crew member instructions, against federal law.

    People have been acting SERIOUSLY foolish on planes lately in hopes of getting their 15 minutes. This lady is no different.

  16. I’m curious if her story has actually been confirmed. I happen to be on this flight and I hate to tell everyone, but there is a lot more to this story. The “flight” was not delayed, but we were delayed boarding the plane, and had we not had to endure this lady and her husband, we would have arrived on time. Her husband appeared real pushy with flight crew demanding an explanation for the delay. He was very demanding and loud just sitting at the gate. Once we did board the plane, the crew was diligently working to prepare for this flight and assist passengers to their seats. Yhis is when he got verbal with several crew members. Frankly I was delighted to see him leave. NOW, as far as the pregnant wife, no one ever asked her to depart the plane. She was the one that made the decision to get off with her obnoxious unruly husband.

  17. Amazing the authoritarian bootlickers here. They would have had Mike Wallace arrested when he showed up to question the corporate CEO who’d stolen everyone’s life savings, and probably voted for the biggest scumbag who ever ran for office in any country. At least a third of this country are so dumb-as-rocks they need a strongman leader or FA to tell them when to go to the bathroom.

    Then there’s all the slams against her being pregnant as though this means she’s asking for privileges. You just know these are 500 pound men like Roger Ailes angry they have to buy it since no woman has looked at them probably their entire life except with content. Do you think we dont’ know you’re Mr. Rooney, ferret faced flabbos?

    Wrong! What makes a patriotic American is to question authority, to document injustice, to tell the stupidest Trumpsters on the planet to crawl back into your hole like the GOP once did when know-nothings ruined them in 1964, but are too afraid to do it now with the redneck baboons.

  18. I was on this flight and reported to the flight crew that I felt unsafe, due to the fact that there was a man taking photos of a flight attendant with the cockpit door open. The flight attendant and flight crew responded in an extremely professional manner. They did not take action until the woman next to him was seen posting the pictures online. At this point an aa official entered the aircraft and asked the couple politely to disembark. The woman responded, by saying that they should refuse. The man responded by saying not to worry that it would end up on the news.

  19. It’s AA policy, therefore against FAA regulations to photograph or videotape a flight crew member. Translated, illegal!

  20. Just to clarify a couple of things – The no filming or photographing of crew members has been a policy since 9/11. It is clearly stated in the passenger information section of the American Way magazine. I know this because I’m a flight attendant for American and have pointed it out many times. As far as the delay goes – With warmer weather in play, boarding may frequently be delayed because there are finally maximum allowable boarding temperatures. If the cabin temperature is above 90 degrees, the agent cannot start boarding until it starts cooling down. If there is a creeping delay for whatever reason, the departure time doesn’t immediately reset. The tower has to get involved, coordinate with mechanics, etc. There are many factors involved. Finally, most of the time, flight attendants are the last to know what’s going on. It is the pilots job to update the passengers every fifteen minutes if the flight is delayed. Many times tho, they are busy trying to sort out whatever the reason for the delay is. Regardless, the flight attendant in the back of the airplane will most likely be busy trying to deal with all the normal boarding issues and have no idea what is going on in the cockpit. So taking frustrations out on the flight attendants and photographing them when they have nothing to do with the delay is simply obnoxious bullying. The photo posted clearly shows the flight attendant handing out customs cards. So they are actively boarding and he is BUSY. Since the United incident I have seen more antagonistic, ignorant behavior than ever before. People intentionally challenging everything you ask them to do and then sticking their phone in your face hoping for a reaction. When there is a delay and we don’t know the status of how long the delay will be, we always tell people they are welcome to deplane. We’re not going to force anyone to stay and we can’t manufacture answers that we don’t have. There is always more to these stories. Besides the security reasons, it isn’t right that an innocent person gets their photo taken and their reputation smeared by a one sided story. Please stop writing stories that encourage lies and hate.

  21. Once again, the one-in-a-thousand whiner gets center stage. As a 28-year pilot at a major airline, I see thousands of people take normal issues in-stride, and show how people are inherently flexible with travel. Only the whiners get press. In 28 years I have seen about a half-dozen significant issues between passengers and anyone involved with the flight. Pre-flight is a very busy time; delays amplify the pressure; the information is never perfect. Travel is never perfect, either…as all your flight crew understands well. I suggest taking the attitude that everyone is doing all they can to make your flight work.

  22. Welll stated Ryan.
    Enough already people are looking for a pay out.
    Airlines know what your doing so stop.

  23. From the comments made by two people who were ACTUALLY ON THIS FLIGHT, we can see that there are more than one side to this “story,” as usual per this rash of overdramatic, sensationalistic reports we have been subjected to by the media, et al for the last few months. At no time were any of the facts presented by the ACTUAL PASSENGERS presented in this report. Which clearly indicates that no research was done prior to its publication. Responsible, true journalism requires impartiality and an effort to gather ALL the pertinent facts, THEN presenting the whole story, not just the one with the splashiest headline. This story, as have been several others of late, is based upon hearsay and speculation. The pregnancy is beyond irrelevant and its inclusion only serves to create sympathy for the main character of the story, yet only serves to tip the author’s hand and expose his attempts to dramatize and sensationalize the whole affair. Putting out a half- baked, poorly researched (actually, not at all) dramatic recount of events he knows nothing about is akin to simply spreading rumors. Where this becomes and issue is that the employees involved are real people with real emotions, dignity, and a livelihood to protect and this callous, off handed reporting jeopardizes reputations and careers, and ultimately personal safety. It is nothing short of harassment of (often) innocent people and should be a source of shame for all the perpetuate this insanity. What is clickbait to some blogger with no personal connection to the ALLEGED story is often a source of great embarrassment and pain visited upon a real- life human being and their families.

  24. @ Tiffany Ivy — Your account shows that there are always two sides to every story, but we usually only get the “aggrieved” passenger’s version. Obviously, just snapping a photo or two is unlikely to get you thrown off an airplane. I think it’s helpful when other passengers step forward with their own accounts; the airlines themselves usually can’t give much background information.

  25. @Gary. So you openly admits that your activity (including this blog) is a violation against airline policy? Wow….

  26. Pregnant, six months, so, what does that have to do with any part of her complaint ? If you are not familiar with the rules of the airline that you are using maybe you should do a little research before flying. To be picking at a lot of unimportant things, and adding things to your story to make it sound reasonable, I suggest that you find another mode of transportation, it’s their plane, and if you don’t like it don’t board their plane!!!….

  27. Rules are in place for a reason in all of life, like when your parents told you to not touch the stove because it was hot, but you did it anyway. You found out later that you should have listened, the sad part is there’re too many idiots out and about that touch it again and again.
    Here is what know if I don’t like the way a company run there business I don’t use them, but remember it is there business so respect it or drive yourself to where you need to go.

  28. @Ryan, you bring up an interesting point: maximum cabin temperature while boarding. Often the window shades are down to prevent solar heating, but it’s still uncomfortably warm. Is there some reason the A/C can’t be turned on? A hot, stuffy cabin makes passengers more cranky (makes me more cranky anyway) and now we learn that there’s actually a regulation maximum temperature.

    Is cabin A/C turned off to save fuel, or what?

    (All I have to say about the incident is that–he said-she said aside–the number of people ejected from flights on seemingly trivial or arbitrary grounds seems to be way up. After putting in over a million miles in 8 years I increasingly dread getting on a plane)

  29. Gary, you state that UA publishes their “no photography” rule in their airline magazine. As Ryan stated, so does AA. FYI – It is on page 92 of the June issue of American Way.

  30. So many people claiming are actually in this flight. How can we believe the claim(s)?

    If the claim is true, is what you are telling a complete unbiased turn of events?

    Funny how people think what they said is the right one just because they’re the one who said it…..

  31. @LGC (and James) – regulations and laws are also quite different…so again, no, not illegal.

  32. @LGC (and James) – regulations and laws are also quite different…so again, no, not illegal.

  33. @SusanB – Yes. It’s all about the fuel cost. Running the APU on the ground is more expensive than hooking up to ground air. Unfortunately, sometimes the ground air just can’t keep up with what’s needed to cool an aircraft in warmer locations. Flight attendants have fought with management about this for years and finally there are written procedures to prevent passengers being subjected to heat soaked airplanes.

    As far as some other comments regarding illegal vs company policy – Does it really matter? Either way requires a passenger to comply with the rule while they are on the airplane. It is no different than a restaurant that has a no shirt, no shoes, no service rule. People don’t question that. They don’t go in the restaurant and say, but I’m paying for my meal. I expect to be served. They don’t tweet about being barefoot and then being told to leave the restaurant. Or take pictures of the manager saying he must be discriminating because they are _______. No. They respect the rules and that’s that. Why is it that when it comes to being on an airplane, that people think it’s not only okay to ignore the rules, but then have the audacity to go on social media, righteously attacking the airline or employee? I will never understand why people who follow everyday rules out in public with no problem simply cannot bring themselves to respect the rules and crew on an airplane. The rules and crew are there for safety. There is nothing arbitrary about anything flight attendants ask passengers to do. Yet rarely do people comply without some kind of drama. I will never understand why people who are perfectly nice and respectful in any other environment, somehow lose their minds when they step on an airplane.

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