3 On Your Side: Thrown Off United Flight For Taking Photo

By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — For most travelers, taking pictures is part of having a good trip. But for one frequent flier, taking a photo caused some turbulence he didn’t quite expect. 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan has the details.

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Matthew Klint loves to travel and has racked up nearly a million airline miles. After settling into a business class seat on a United flight from Newark to Instanbul last month, he did what he normally does for his travel blog: He pulled out his iPhone and took a picture of the empty seat in front of him.

The video monitor on the back of the seat read “Welcome aboard, sit back, relax and enjoy your flight.”

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Unfortunately that wasn’t going to happen. As Klint recalls, “The flight attendant runs over and says, ‘You can’t take a picture.’”

Klint says he was told by the flight attendant that photo-taking violating United’s policy. It’s a policy that appears in small print in the airline’s in-flight magazine. It reads:

The use of still and video cameras, film or digital, including any cellular or other devices that have this capability, is permitted only for recording personal events. Photography or audio or video recording of other customers without their express prior consent is strictly prohibited. Also, unauthorized photography or audio or video recording of airline personnel, aircraft equipment or procedures is always prohibited. Any photography (video or still) or voice or audio recording or transmission while on any United Airlines aircraft is strictly prohibited, except to the extent specifically permitted by United Airlines.

“United’s photo policy is geared towards protecting the privacy of other passengers, and I appreciate that, and I wasn’t taking pictures of other passengers or the flight crew,” says Klint.

He says he immediately put away his iPhone and tried to explain what he was doing to the flight attendant.

“I said, ‘Look, I am a traveler. I am not a terrorist, I write about airline stuff all the time. Here is one of my business cards,’ and she sort of forced a smile on her face and said, ‘I didn’t know that,’ and she refused to take a card, but she walked away,” Klint explains.

The next thing Klint knew, a gate agent was escorting him off the plane. But before doing so, Klint was able to speak briefly with the captain. He says, “The captain is quite rude, and he says, essentially, ‘I don’t want to hear you, get off the plane before I call the police.’”

Klint adds, “It was quite embarrassing, just grabbing my bag and just making that walk forward with all eyes on me.”

After exiting the aircraft, Klint was rebooked by gate agents on another flight scheduled for 45 minutes after his original departure. He says the gate agents were very accommodating, but says it wasn’t until days later — after posting his experience on his travel blog — that United management reached out to him. He says he never received an apology from United but was offered some modest compensation for the change in his travel plans.

“It’s really not about me anymore, it’s about making sure this doesn’t happen to any other passenger going forward,” Klint says.

When 3 On Your Side asked United for an explanation as to why Klint was removed from the plane, we never received an answer. Instead, we were sent this general statement about their policy:

We welcome customers to record their personal experiences on board provided they don’t take photos or videos of customers and crewmembers without their consent. This is both a security and service measure we take that also respects the privacy of other customers. United’s policy was implemented in 2010.

To check out Matthew Klint’s detailed account of his experience, and to add your comments to the hundreds of comments that he has received so far, visit his blog at: Matthew Klint’s Blog

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