If you are among the millions of people who will be taking to the skies during the summer travel season that is just getting underway, it might be a good idea to review your airline's policy about photography before heading to the airport.
|United 737 departs SEA|
A flight attendant (F/A) rushed over and demanded he stop, which he did, but it didn't end there. You can read Matthew's story here.
Over the intervening three years, incidents involving travelers who were confronted for taking pictures in - or even of - airplanes brought the issue back around. In one such case, a traveler was chastised for snapping a picture of an American Airlines (NYSE:AAL) plane that was sitting at the gate at Washington, D.C.'s Reagan National Airport (DCA). Arash Shirazi was waiting for his flight Los Angeles (LAX) when he decided to take a picture of the plane. A gate agent who saw him demanded that he stop and said he would be noting Shirazi's "security breach" in his travel records.
In fairness to American, Washington, D.C. exists in an atmosphere that is highly politically charged and where security concerns are paramount. It is quite possible that it was airport rules and not airline policies that prohibited or discouraged photography from the terminal, from which one can literally see many of the city's monuments and the U.S. Capitol. I did not receive a response from officials at DCA when I asked them to comment.
|ANA Dreamliner arrives in Seattle|
I was initially shocked when I heard of Klint and others being scolded or worse because, virtually every time I fly, I see lots of my fellow passengers snapping away. So, with the summer travel season coming up, it seemed appropriate to update this list of airline photo policies.
It is important to understand: There is no FAA regulation that prohibits photography on commercial aircraft. FAA spokesperson Allen Kenitzer confirmed this, and that each airline sets its own policy. Accordingly, there are bound to be differences from one airline to the next.
As to those policies:
The United Airlines' (NYSE:UAL) policy that was in place when Klint was ejected from his flight started out clearly enough but then took a twist that left it a bit confusing and allowed for a fair bit of interpretation. Since then, it has been simplified to reflect the basic principles of "Common courtesy, common sense."
United spokesperson Karen May said the policy in effect since May 2015 is: "The use of small cameras or mobile devices for photography and video is permitted on board, provided you keep the purpose of your photography and video to capturing personal events. Photographing or recording other customers or airline personnel without their express consent is prohibited."
The policies of the other airlines contacted by TheTravel Pro are equally straightforward.
"We understand you may want to document your travel on Southwest Airlines. Want to photograph and/or record Southwest Airlines Customers or Employees? Let them know first! The use of cameras and mobile devices is permitted onboard to capture personal events but can never interfere with the safety of a flight and should always respect others’ privacy." the policy states.
The current photo policy at Delta Airlines (NYSE:DAL) is also unambiguous. "The guidance we provide to employees about customer photography [is], 'It is common for customers to photograph and video all aspects of their travel experience. In most instances there is nothing unlawful about the use of these photos/videos. However, it is Delta’s policy that customers refrain from recording or photographing other customers or Delta employees without prior permission'," spokesperson Ashton Morrow confirmed in an email. Again: common courtesy, common sense.
Alaska Airlines (NYSE:ALK) "[P]ermits passengers to take photos or videos on its planes [and] are welcome to share photos of their positive experiences on Alaska on Facebook or Twitter," spokesperson Bobbie Egan said in a May 2015 email. However, Alaska does have other policies that passengers should keep in mind when deciding whether particular photography or video filming is appropriate. "For example, passengers should not take photos when crewmembers ask them to stow equipment in preparation for takeoff or landing. Passengers should also be respectful of other passengers on the plane and the Alaska crewmembers." Again, common courtesy, common sense.
|Photo courtesy JetBlue|
To provide a more global view, I also contacted several non-U.S. carriers about their policies.
British Airways trusts in the good judgement of its passengers. "We know customers delight in taking travel pictures and they are welcome to do so," spokesperson Caroline Titmuss told me. "We do ask that any filming is done with the least amount of disruption to the other customers for their own safety and comfort. We would also ask that customers do not take photographs or record other customers or our employees without their prior permission."
Small electronics are generally allowed to remain on from gate to gate since a change in FAA regulations in late 2013.
Likewise, U.A.E.-based Emirates and Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA) also trust their passengers' to use common courtesy and common sense.
However, the ease of finding those photo policies before boarding the aircraft, at which point it would be virtually impossible to obtain any permission that might be required, could be problematic. While every airline's PR department responded quickly to my inquiry, the airlines' policies were not always easy to locate using other sources.
For example, while United's policy is contained in the in-flight magazine Hemispheres, two searches of its web site using the words "photograph" and "photography" at the time of my original article yielded eight results, none of which related to in-flight photography. Now, though, the carrier does publish the guidance on its web site.
In reviewing these policies, I saw some common themes that should provide some useful guidance:
- Taking pictures for personal use is OK as long as it doesn't interfere with the safety of the flight. That means you won't be allowed to do anything that could be construed as interfering with the flight crew.
- No pictures of other passengers without asking.
- No pictures of the flight crew without permission and, in some cases, not at all.
- If you're a commercial photographer who will be selling your work, you will need to obtain permission from the airline in advance.
Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.
Photos by Carl Dombek unless otherwise indicated
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