Passengers left stranded at Boston’s Logan International Airport after last week’s winter storm say an airline employee ordered them to stop filming near the carrier’s gate counter and delete videos from their phones. Passengers said the employee threatened to call police and have them arrested if they failed to comply.
At least one passenger on the Toronto-bound Porter Airlines flight scheduled to leave Friday evening defied the order, later posting a video online showing the Porter representative citing security and government regulations and telling passengers to delete any video they had taken. Passengers apparently were frustrated by the employee’s handling of customers attempting to get flights out of the city.
“If you’re going to arrest us for taking a video, call the cops!” one passenger is heard shouting in the minute-long video.
“Don’t make it worse,” the airline worker responded.
“Who is making it worse?… You said you were going to call the cops. Call the cops!”
“Help us,” another passenger pleaded. “We are waiting in line for hours.”
Before the encounter, passengers had sat on the tarmac for about two hours. The crew, a passenger said, had told them they were having difficulty closing the latch on the plane’s luggage compartment. The airline said the weather conditions were so bad — just after the “bomb cyclone” had battered the Northeast with snow, ice and frigid cold — that one of the aircraft’s doors froze and could not be fixed in time before the crew exhausted its regulated duty day limits.
Passengers were deplaned. Another two hours later, at the gate, and in line to get information about their way out of Boston, passengers grew frustrated, Kira Wegler said. Some did what many air travelers do these days.
“People started pulling out their phones,” recalls Wegler, who kept filming after the directive to stop. “People wanted to document their experience and the (airline) personnel threatened to call the police and security and have us arrested. He said, ‘I will not help you until you delete the video.’ ”
There is no law that prohibits filming inside Logan, except in secure areas and of security procedures, according to Kelly Smith, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Port Authority.
Filming is even allowed at the security checkpoints, according to the Transportation Security Administration, “as long as the screening process is not interfered with or sensitive information is not revealed.” Restrictions include filming of equipment monitors that are shielded from public view.
In a statement, Porter Airlines apologized to the passengers, acknowledging the airline worker was wrong to ask passengers to stop filming and to delete footage. But the request was made only with the intention “to try and enforce what was believed to be an airport policy,” the statement said.
“In this particular case, there was a misunderstanding by the team member involved that taking video beyond the security checkpoint was part of the secure area and was not permitted,” the airline said. “He did not realize the distinction at the time, but we have advised the team members involved for future reference.”
Porter disputes passengers’ assertions that its representative threatened to have passengers arrested.
“While it was indicated at the time that police based at the airport could be called to address this situation, there was no direct statement that passengers would be arrested,” the airline said.
Flight 948 was carrying 74 passengers and scheduled to depart Boston for Toronto around 5:30 p.m. Friday. Passengers were rescheduled to fly out Monday, the airline confirmed. According to the Toronto-based regional carrier, the flight was complicated by the weather conditions in Boston. Hundreds of flights had been canceled and delayed Friday, a day after the major winter storm.
But no weather conditions justify misleading passengers on a policy that doesn’t exist, passengers and experts said.
“It is clear that in this instance the airline employees overstepped their bounds,” said Douglas Kidd, an advocate with the National Association of Airline Passengers. He said the group is also concerned that airlines might be blaming weather for a mechanical problem to avoid compensating passengers.
“Airlines might be unreasonably blaming weather as the cause of flight cancellations, when in fact mechanical issue or other internal issues are to blame.”
That’s an important distinction, Kidd said, because passengers are compensated in the event of mechanical issues but not when a cancellation is due to weather.
As far as filming in airports, he said: “Photography is not a crime, but passengers should be wary of unnecessarily antagonizing security and airport personnel. Know and follow TSA and airport guidelines when you photograph and make audio and video recordings. Be discreet. Should unreasonable demands be made by anyone other than police, simply walk away and take a bathroom break. Remember the advice Pallas gave Hercules: Strife will only increase if you feed it.”
Wegler said she wants travelers to know their rights and not be intimidated by airline personnel.
“In this day and age you pull out your cellphone and go to social media,” she said. “I think that is the reality of 2018.”