Airline Staff Wrongly Detain Photographer for Taking Photos

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Many photographers are no strangers to uncomfortable moments with authorities of some kind reacting suspiciously to their creative process, but some situations are still unexpected.

This is what happened recently when an aviation photographer was detained by staff onboard an American Airlines flight because he had taken photos inside the cabin.

The freelancer in question, Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, was prevented by flight attendants from leaving the plane when it landed until he had shown them the photos inside his phone.

After the incident, which happened on Friday, October 28th, Dwyer-Lindgren later tweeted to his followers, “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,”

The interesting thing here is that the airline staff apparently wasn’t even so much concerned by questions of Aircraft security as they were about themselves being caught on camera, despite being employees of a public corporation during work hours on a flight open to the public.

Dwyer-Lindgren further elaborated:

“I had stepped into the jetbridge and the FA (flight attendant) had what I think was the pilot or FO (First Officer) 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.”

According to the photographer, the staff cited supposed policies that prohibit staff photos without their consent. Though he doesn’t specify if these were cited as being airline policies or airport policies, they turned out to be untrue.

A Yahoo news reporter, Ross Feinstein, who happens to be a communication professional that has previously worked for American Airlines clarified

“I can’t tell you how many times when I was at AA we communicated to crews (and to the regional carriers too), regarding the fact that passengers are allowed to film. We even updated content in American Way magazine (when it still existed).”

Following the incident and its viral spread in media outlets and social media, American Airlines initiated an investigation into Dwyer-Lindgren’s encounter with its staff. The airline also reached out to the photographer himself.

As Dwyer Lindgren explains in a later tweet:

“AA called earlier and we hand chat around the incident. I’m just gonna bullet point it. They apologized profusely. They admitted the FA cannot touch my phone. The rest was squishy, and all I got on the functional detainment was to the effect of ‘it’s not how I would’ve done it’”

Legally speaking, at least in the United States, there is no specific law that prevents passengers from taking photos of staff and plane interiors during commercial flights. This is aside from the fact that AA has no policies in place that prohibit that same thing.

Either way, the airline isn’t allowed to detain individuals for this reason or demand to see the contents of their devices.

These laws may however be very different in other countries and in some countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, or Qatar among others, photo-taking is indeed illegal. In other countries, consent is required.

If you are a photographer capturing images from within flights, it’s a wise idea to check how the law and airline policies apply in the country in which you’re doing this.

It’s also worth noting that according to the website Aviation Figures, American Airlines has in its own in-flight magazine, a notice stating that “The use of small cameras or mobile devices for photography and video is permitted on board, provided that the purpose is capturing personal events.”

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Shotkit Journalist, Writer & Reviewer

Stephan Jukic is a technology and photography journalist and experimental photographer who spends his time living in both Canada and Mexico. He loves cross-cultural street photo exploration and creating fine art photo compositions.


  1. David Roddis on November 8, 2022 at 2:32 am

    What a nothing burger of an incident. It may well be that one is ALLOWED to take photos on a plane, but even so, any thinking, reasonable adult without huge levels of entitlement would possibly stop and say to themselves: “Hmm. 9/11. Airplane. Patriot Act. Hypersecurity. Hijackings. I wonder if I should just maybe, I dunno….CHECK with the staff if it’s OK…?”

    It’s also OK to take photos in the public square, but people are going to wonder what you are doing and why.

    I think that the flight attendants were well within reason to question his photographs – because you know 9/11 took place after the hijackers went through routine security, not having been thoroughly examined.

    I think the photographer was arrogant, hugely entitled and just plain rude to go ahead and “exercise his right” – he should have been more proactive, realized that there were multiple levels of respect and security concern to be dealt with, and just basically not been such a dork about it.


  2. Helen Currow on November 8, 2022 at 2:27 am

    I always take photos out the plane window. On one flight into Amsterdam the flight attendant asked my husband to tell me not to take photos.
    Red rag to a bull!

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