Rius Vernandes, an influencer with over 500,000 subscribers on YouTube, vlogged about his business class flight from Sydney to Denpasar on July 13.
He posted a video online, and shortly after, the embarrassed Indonesian Airline banned in-flight photography altogether.
In the video — which has received over a million views on YouTube — Vernandes and a friend film their entire journey. At one point, a flight attendant hands them the in-flight dinner menu that is handwritten on a piece of notebook paper instead of professionally printed.
The social media personality later poked fun at the menu on his Instagram Stories, with the caption, “The menu is still being printed, sir,” according to Fox News Travel (the post is no longer available).
In response, Indonesia-based airline Garuda announced it was banning passengers and flight crew from taking in-flight photos and videos, according to an internal memo that circulated on July 14.
A few days later on July 17, Vernandes posted a photo to Instagram of two envelopes he says are from the police calling him in for questioning.
He apologized for his actions in the caption, writing, “I hope you can help share and support me through this problem because I don’t want to see that, in the future, whenever we review something as is, whenever we give constructive criticism, we can be criminalised,” according to a translation by The Guardian.
After thousands of social media users criticized Garuda’s response, the airline retracted it.
“People can still take pictures [on board our flights] for their own use as long as they don’t disturb the other passengers,” the airline said in a statement.
Whether or not passengers are allowed to record video during a flight in general, and capture footage of flight attendants and crew in particular, has been a contentious issue for airlines as more passengers now travel with smart phones.
In July 2018, former NBA player Eric Murdock accused a United crew member of “obvious race-baiting” and a fellow passenger recorded their interaction. The other passenger alleged that the attendant told her: “Erase the video now, or give me your phone! It’s against the law to record me!”
United’s policy about recording on flights does not directly address the circumstances she recounts. It states, “The use of small cameras or mobile devices for photography and video is permitted on board, provided you limit the purpose of your photography and video to capturing personal events. Any photographing or recording that creates a safety or security risk or that interferes with crew members’ duties is prohibited.”
In January 2019, the crew of a flight operated by Canadian airline Porter reportedly threatened to call police unless a passenger deleted photo and video footage documenting a weather-related delay, according to Travel + Leisure.
“The personnel came from behind the desk and started threatening us to call the police if we don’t delete the videos off of our phones and show evidence that it’s gone from our trash bin,” one of the passengers told Canadian outlet Global News. The airline later apologized for the “misunderstanding.”
While there’s no federal law that prohibits in-flight photography, according to a report by the Washington Post, to be on the safe side, passengers should familiarize themselves with an airline’s policies on the topic before traveling, and note that when in the air, the flight attendant’s decision on what is disruptive or unsafe is often the last word.