Is it Legal to Take Photos on an Airplane?

Camera on planeBy now you’ve probably read about the travel blogger who was thrown off a United Airlines flight from Newark to Istanbul for taking a picture of his seat when he boarded the plane. Quotes by fellow passengers back him up, so it appears the flight attendant involved was off her rocker.

But I’m still not clear… Is it legal to take photos on a plane? I know you aren’t supposed to use anything electronic during takeoff and landing but how about the other times?

I’ve literally taken thousands of photos on airplanes and have only been told to stop twice. Once was during decent on a Horizon Air flight from Los Angeles to San Jose and the other was by some crazed TAP flight attendant before the cabin door was even shut on a New York to Porto flight.

Somebody, please help me out. Is it legal or not and have you ever been told to stop taking photos?

Johnny Jet

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About the Author

Johnny Jet

I used to be afraid to fly and at times even leave the house! I conquered my fear (long story) and now I travel to 20+ countries a year sharing my firsthand knowledge, tips and deals with friends, family and readers. Please sign up to our free newsletters and tell your friends!

6 Comments on "Is it Legal to Take Photos on an Airplane?"

  1. I am doubtful that photography on a plane is illegal, but a plane is private property. So whether or not photography is allowed is probably at the discretion of the flight crew.

  2. The analogy would be a business refusing to serve you based on a business policy. It’s not “illegal” or even inappropriate in my opinion to show up at a convenience store by the beach wearing nothing but surf shorts but I’ve seen many “No shoes, No shirt, No service” signs hanging in windows too. It’s a business policy, the violation of which can result in having the cops called if you don’t abide by the business policy. I think it’s also pretty stupid because the ultimate result is a loss of revenue in a surf side store. But since all airlines are allowed by the FAA/FDOT to have onerous, one-sided “contracts of carriage,” there’s not a whole lot that can be done.

  3. I take pictures of the food they serve me on the plane all the time. And I take photos of the clouds and scenery outside my dirty plane windows. So far, they have not hand cuffed me.

  4. So you can use your video cam instead?

  5. I’ve also taken pictures of the clouds outside my windows and didn’t have a problem; however it might be different if you were snapping pictures of people on board. Kind of (although not completely) akin to taking pictures in a casino.

  6. Almost anything, eating, drinking, and taking photos, can be restricted when you are on private property. When in public you can take photos of almost anything or anyone without breaking the law. The legal issues come into play when you decide what to do with the images. The government does restrict photo taking of locations they think are secruity sensitive. And some states have restrictions on taking photos of Public Figures/Celebrities. But if a sworn member of law enforcement tells you to stop taking photos you should. They can charge you with a variety of crimes not related to your photography, like creating a disturbence.They can also tell you to move to a different location because the officer feels his or your safety is a concern. More info: http://photorights.org/faq

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