Passenger On American Airlines Flight Detained, Had Cell Phone Seized For Taking Photos

A flight attendant for American Airlines wholly-owned regional carrier PSA detained a passenger and confiscated his phone when the plane had arrived at its destination. The passenger explained that they were already on the jet bridge headed into the terminal, but the crewmember wanted to review the phone’s photos to see whether they appeared in any of the shots.

The man, a professional photographer who has done work for airlines, reported that at the request of this flight attendant one of the pilots prevented him from proceeding the rest of the way off the flight and that he was marched back onto the aircraft where the phone was taken out of his hands.

Honest question: can a crew member physically prevent me from getting off of the airplane until I showed them the contents of my phone (they wanted to see the last 3 photos) to verify that I did not take a photo that contained them in it.

— JDL (@photoJDL) October 28, 2022

I had stepped into the jetbridge and the FA had what I think was the pilot or FO block me from going further. Then they brought me back on the plane and the FA demanded I open my phone and show them the last several photos and then took the phone out of my hands to inspect them.

— JDL (@photoJDL) October 28, 2022

To be clear, the passenger explains they were detained and had their property seized by employees of American Airlines Group. And this was done for – at most – suspicion of violating a company policy. And it occurred when the passenger was not even on the aircraft.

Taking photographs on board an aircraft is not illegal in the United States, nor is taking photographs of other people in public. Interfering with various duties, or obstructing people physically are another matter. However airlines often have their own policies against photographing crew without their consent, and an airline might choose not to do business with a passenger over it.

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.

A spokesperson for American Airlines tells me, “A member of our Customer Relations team has reached out to learn more about the customer’s experience.” The passenger reports that American acknowledges their crewmember should not have touched his phone and that they “had opened an internal investigation on the incident.”

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