The Right To Bear Video Cameras

I’m a big defender of flight crews because, in the confrontations between flight attendants and passengers that I’ve seen, the customer is nearly always wrong.


It doesn’t look that way, though, in the case of Marilyn Parver, who was handcuffed and detained after she refused to delete a video taken aboard a JetBlue flight. It will be interesting to see what happens with this case, depending on how it shakes out.

Parver, who told her story to travel columnist Christopher Elliott, took some video of a confrontation between two passengers over a noisy child. She has reportedly turned her video over to ABC news for an upcoming segment.

She told the Kingman Daily Miner in Arizona that she was taking photos out the window when the altercation broke out, and she turned her camera on it instinctively. She was thinking, too, that the video would “be a good example to show her daughter how children’s behavior affects other people.”

The flight crew interviewed passengers about the altercation, and Parver told them she had taken video. They watched it, and then ordered her to delete it, she said. She refused, and   was taken off the flight in handcuffs when it landed in Las Vegas.

Her transgression, she was told, was interfering with an airline crew member.

Whether Parver was right to take video of the argument is not the issue here. We’re talking about legality, and I just can’t see where it’s illegal. (Unauthorized electronic device? Then it wouldn’t make sense to turn it back on to delete video. Security issue? Oh, please. As if terrorists don’t know what the inside of a plane looks like. Privacy? Not a legal right on mass transit.)

Now maybe the airline wishes to show that she committed some other offense. But JetBlue hasn’t made that allegation. 

And if a flight crew can force a passenger to delete photos and video, what of the recent cell phone video footage of the depressurized Qantas flight? That’s mighty embarrassing for Qantas, but why shouldn’t the public – and investigators – see it?

As one commenter on Chris Elliott’s blog sagely observed, there has to be a practical limit to this absolute authority of a flight crew:

I mean, if a crew member instructed you to dance an Irish Jig on seat 31-C, and you respectfully declined, would you be in violation of federal law?

Well, would you?


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