Taking pictures and documenting details of the various aspects of travel is the bread and butter of travel bloggers. One such blogger, Matthew Klint, who took a photo of the video screen on the back of the seat in front of him on a United Airlines flight, was ordered off the plane for doing so, but he thinks there might be another reason.
Klint, who writes the Live and Let’s Fly blog for UPGRD.com, explained in a post last week how he snapped a photo of the seat on plane that would take him direct from Newark Liberty International Airport to Istanbul. A flight attendant asked him not to take pictures and referred him to the airline’s policy.
Klint wrote that he didn’t take any more photos, per the request, and also noted how another passenger taking photos received a similar reprimand as well.
Still, what Klint was told didn’t sit well with him, so he called the woman back to explain himself.
“I want you to understand why I was taking pictures,” he recalled saying. “I hope you didn’t think I was a terrorist. Here is my business card [offering her one]. I write about United Airlines on an almost-daily basis and the folks at United in Chicago are even aware of my blog.”
From what Klint wrote, it seemed the stewardess accepted his explanation — not his business card — but a few minutes later a Global Services representative came onto the plane, called Klint to the front, and informed him that he was being kicked off.
Here’s more from Klint’s account of the situation:
He was direct—”The captain is not comfortable with you on this flight. You’ll need to gather your things and we’ll find another way to get you to Istanbul.” I was flabbergasted. My first thought was that they had the wrong passenger—they must have wanted the passenger who was arguing.
The GS rep stepped into the galley, around the corner, and asked the FA to verify it was me. She leaned forward, our eyes briefly meant, then she quickly hid herself again. Yes, she meant me.
I asked to speak to the captain—surely this was a ridiculous misunderstanding. The GS rep would not let me approach the flight deck but offered to talk to the captain on my behalf. He stepped into the cockpit for a few minutes and a few minutes later the captain emerged. He would not look me in the eyes as we spoke.
Captain: Sir, you are not flying on this flight.
Me: Can you tell me why?
Captain: My FA tells me she told you to stop taking pictures and you continued to take pictures.
Me: That’s a lie, captain. She told me stop taking pictures and I stopped. I did try to explain to her why I was taking pictures—I am a travel writer [I offered him one of my business cards and he too refused to accept it].
Captain: Look, I don’t care. You are not flying on this flight. You can make this easy or make this difficult. We’ll call the police if we have to.
Me: Why are you threatening me? Your FA is lying—I did not disobey any crewmember instruction.
Captain: Look, we’re already late. I’d advise you to get off this plane now. Make it easy on yourself. Don’t make us bring the police in. Goodbye.
Me: Wait. Captain, may I have one of your business cards?
Captain: I don’t have any, but United will have no trouble finding me. My name is…[removed].
Having no other choice, Klint removed himself and his things from the plane in a “walk of shame” and proceeded to find other means of travel, which it should be noted was not direct, to Istanbul. Klint told the Global Services representative that he wanted it noted he was cooperative and also that the flight attendant lied about his taking of multiple pictures.
“Yes, she outright lied about me, falsely stating that I flouted her order and continued to take pictures. The blame lies almost entirely with her,” Klint wrote also going on to call the captain “unprofessional and weak.”
Perhaps what it really boiled down to, Klint wrote, was his use of the word “terrorist.”
“Even though the 9/11 attacks were over a decade ago, maybe I should have never used the word terrorist in my explanation,” he wrote. “Maybe the FA was not used to a passenger defending his action. But whatever the case may be, nothing can justify the fact that this FA lied about me.”
“This was not an issue of privacy—the real impetus behind United’s onboard photography guidelines above. You can see that the picture of my seat did not compromise anyone’s privacy. Instead, I believe the FA simply could not fathom why I would want to take pictures of my seat and therefore deemed me a security threat and lied in order to get me off the airplane,” he continued.
Klint said he feels like the incident publicly humiliated him and caused him to question his loyalty to United.
United responded to Klint’s experience, and although no concrete agreement as to next steps has been reached, Klint wrote he is confident “United is taking this issue seriously and has launched an extensive internal investigation.” United has not apologized, but Klint said he also isn’t expecting one.
Klint ultimately wrote that he hopes this incident will prompt a “frank national discussion on the use of so-called ‘taboo’ words onboard airplanes.”
Let us know what you think about the use of “taboo” words on airplanes by taking our poll:
Read Klint’s full account on blog Live and Let’s Fly here.