July 31st, 2011

United Threatens To Place Woman On No-Fly List For Taking Photo Of Name Tag 0

By Carlos Miller

Less than a month after a woman was escorted off a US Airways flight for snapping a photo of an employee nametag, a United Airlines employee threatened to place a woman on the “no-fly” list for doing the same thing.

The passenger named Helen said she was recently checking in her bags at Houston’s international airport for a flight to Costa Rica when she became annoyed at the inept service.

She used her cell phone to snap a photo of an employee’s nametag for the purpose of filing a complaint.

Within minutes, the employee was chasing her down the terminal, ordering her to delete the photo.

This is how she explained it to The Consumerist:

She demanded that I hand over my camera phone so that she could delete the photo I took. I politely refused. She then insisted that I delete the photo while she watched. I again refused. She then informed me that if I didn’t delete the photo in her presence, she would call the Houston Police Department, have be arrested, put me on the “no-fly list” and “make me miss my fancy Costa Rica vacation.” She stated, “you will never fly my airline again.” I asked her what law she was talking about and she replied, “My law.”

Absurd threats from power-tripping ticket agents don’t scare me. However they do scare my daughter, who began sobbing. I knew full well I broke no law and that the police don’t have the time or resources for this garbage. My daughter had no such confidence. I deleted the photo and [the staffer] smirked at us and walked away. When we asked a TSA agent about it, she laughed, “of course it’s not illegal.”

Helen wrote to United and to Continental, which merged last year with United to form United Continental, the world’s largest air carrier.

They are operating as separate airlines until they receive a joint certification from the Federal Aviation Administration later this year, according to Bloomberg News.

United confirmed that photography will in deed get you placed on the no-fly list, while Continental apologized for the incident.

Below are the responses from both airlines, beginning with the response from United:

What you refer to as a law is actually a United policy. We strive to make its customer experience safe and comfortable and accordingly issued the following policy in regard to the use of personal audio and video equipment. This policy is not a contract and does not create any legal rights or obligations.

Unauthorized photography, audio, or video recording of airline personnel, aircraft equipment, or procedures is always prohibited. Any voice, audio, video, or other photography (motion or still), recording, or transmission while on any United Airlines aircraft or in the terminal is strictly prohibited, except to the extent specifically permitted by United Airlines.

Insistence on violating any one of these prohibitions could lead to arrest or being placed on the “no-fly list”. Those results are extreme but are possible depending on the environment at the time. I hope this information helps.

Continental’s response:

The behavior you described is not reflective of our commitment to providing our customers the highest level of service. I apologize for the negative impression this situation created. We intend to provide a high-quality experience, tailored to meet the individual needs of our passengers.

Based on your comments, we did not meet your expectations, and I regret you were not satisfied with the service provided. I realize my apology cannot erase what happened, but I hope it helps to know we take your concerns very seriously.

At Continental Airlines, we believe all customers and co-workers are to be treated with dignity and respect. This philosophy is deeply woven into everything we do. I regret that [the staffer] did not meet this standard.

We expect our representatives to realize their responses to your requests can make a difference in your perception of our overall product.

[P]lease be assured your comments will be included in a monthly Customer Care report… which is distributed to senior management for internal review. I am confident necessary corrections will be made.

Again, please accept my heartfelt apology on behalf of the entire Continental Airlines team for the level of service you experienced. I hope you will not rely solely on this incident when forming your opinion of our overall service. The agent’s actions you described is not reflective of the level of service we usually offer.

So only time will tell which policy will go into effect once the merger is complete later this year.

Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration insists it will not revise its policy on allowing passengers to photograph and videotape the checkpoint areas, even though many screeners act as if it is a violation of federal law.

 


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