United Changes Policy, More Flexible Allowing Inflight Photo and Video

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.

United’s rule has been that 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.

Rules against inflight photography were rarely enforced, but the rules can be used as a hammer against customers by overzealous employees such as when blogger Matthew Klint was thrown off a United flight for taking pictures.

And one hand at the airline may not know what the other hand is doing here, such as with airline inflight photo contests.

United has now changed its photo policy and deserves kudos. Their website still says “[p]hotographing or recording other customers or airline personnel without their express consent is prohibited.” However Paddle Your Own Kanoo reports that a new policy communicated to employees last week says on board photography is permitted with the only restriction in the case that it creates a safety or security risk or “interferes with crewmember duties” and that contra the published policy express consent of an employee is no longer required,

Flight attendants have been told they should expect and accept the fact that passengers might take photos or videos of them in their day to day work.

I reached out to United who confirmed this “is an accurate description of the change.”

Of course we’re still at the mercy of whatever a crewmember decides is a safety or security risk but that’s always the case. There will no longer be a separate rule about not taking pictures that might include cabin crew or seats.

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. Airlines themselves considered recording all flights after 9/11, but got pushback from unions. Of course if an incident occurred where a passenger was treated badly by the airline you can be assured that the tape would happen not to have worked on that flight, or would get inadvertently erased.

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. From the FA perspective this is terrible unless the policy goes both ways. To many times the passenger is looking for a free mile.

  2. CYA FA and PAX need to do it if they have to. Outside the airport when you are in public, you can be videotaped with out your permission for non commercial use. If you do not like it the n wear a hat like the celebrity do

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