14 February 2009

The video that got a JetBlue passenger escorted off the plane in handcuffs

By Carlos Miller
The video that JetBlue flight attendants feared would go on Youtube has finally been posted on Youtube.

And only because JetBlue executives have shown a complete disregard towards Marilyn Parver, the passenger whom flight attendants had escorted off the plane in handcuffs after she refused to delete a video of an altercation between two passengers.

The incident occurred on a flight from New York City to Las Vegas on July 26th. The altercation was between the mother of an unruly child and a man who had lost his temper over the child kicking the back of his seat.

Parver, a 56-year-old grandmother from Arizona, was sitting two rows behind the mother and child, using her camera to photograph clouds out the window when she switched to video mode and started filming the altercation.

Flight attendants ordered her to delete the video, accusing her of planning to post the video on Youtube to embarrass JetBlue. As if they have not done enough to embarrass themselves.

Parver says she had no intention of posting it on Youtube. As she stated in her complaint to JetBlue’s top executives, she merely wanted to use the video to show her daughter an example of bad parenting.

I am a grandmother who only wanted to show my daughter that uncontrolled kids really do irritate other people.

But Parver sent the video to Photography is Not a Crime after JetBlue sent her a scathing response to her complaint, accusing her of being “argumentative, condescending and belligerent” towards flight attendants. I, in turn, posted it to my Youtube account, marking the first time the much talked about video made it online.

She has yet to receive a response from the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration, both who also received her complaint.

“I have no attorney but wish I did,” she said. “I have not found anyone willing to take it on contingency and that is my only option.”

The video proves that Parver had not stepped out of her seat as she filmed the altercation, which is pivotal considering JetBlue had first accused her of interferance with a flight crew member, a federal crime that carries a maximum penalty of 25 years.

The four-page response from JetBlue is signed by Joanna L. Geraghty, Vice President and Associate General Counsel. In other words, JetBlue’s in-house attorney. Parver calls it a “letter of lies” and asked that it not get published with this article because of its defamatory nature.

One of the main lies, she says, is how Geraghty accuses her of lying about having been lead off the plane in handcuffs.

“The entire plane saw this happen,” Parver says.

The Las Vegas Police Department claims they do not have a record of the incident because they ended up not arresting her.

The letter also claims that Parver continued taking photos of the flight attendants after her initial exchange with them to “antagonize the crew”, which Parver also denies.

But the most dubious claim is that flight attendants told her that photography in an aircraft is forbidden as stated in the Flight Attendant Manual.

“Due to both privacy and security concerns, the F1 (lead flight attendant) asked you to delete the photos and the movie. The F1 also advised you that the Flight Attendant Manual did not permit the taking of photos. However, you refused to delete the photographs.

At this point, the F1 called the Captain who suggested that she show you the relevant section of the manual. The F1 brought the manual to your row. You refused to look at the manual and again refused to delete the photographs.”

“I was never offered any manual,” Parver says. “If there is something in a manual about taking photos inflight…why not put it in the seat pocket?”

The truth is, you will never find the Flight Attendant Manual in the seat pocket because it is not meant to be shown to passengers. In fact, flight attendants are specifically warned against showing the manual to passengers as a security precaution.

Peter Dooling, a Miami-based photographer who spent several years as a flight attendant for United Airlines, says the Flight Attendant Manual is a highly sensitive book that contains all the Federal Aviation Administration regulations, security codes from airports around the world, specific information about every commercial airplane as well as specific company policies.

“It’s something that we always had to keep under lock and key,” he says. “We were not allowed to show it to the passengers for security reasons.”

This is also confirmed by flight attendant Mary Jo Manzanares, who maintains the blog, Fly Away Cafe.

The Flight Attendant Manual (FAM) is our “bible” containing information regarding the various aircraft we work on, the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR’s), company policies, first aid information, service guidelines and policies, emergency procedures, and a variety of other things that vary from airline to airline.

The FAM is our reference guide. The place we go to look up something that we don’t remember, or to double check on a policy or procedure. It’s big because there’s so much in it.

By the way, the FAM is a private and secured document, so it is not something that is shown to passengers or anyone who hasn’t been qualified to see it. When customers say “show me the rule that says that” we are not going to dig out the FAM to show them. 

So if it is true that the lead JetBlue flight attendant attempted to show Parver the Flight Attendant Manual, she was committing an actual security breach.

The JetBlue letter also states that:

“JetBlue’s policy above 10,000 feet is to request passengers discontinue videotaping or photographing, particularly photographing the cockpit area or inflight procedures.”

So does this mean that JetBlue passengers are allowed to videotape and photograph below 10,000 feet? If that’s the case, then JetBlue is at odds with every other airline in the world which only forbid you to use electronic devices upon landing and departure, not during cruising altitude.

“Maybe things have changed after 9/11, but when I was a flight attendant, photography was not a big deal,” says Dooling, who worked from 1997 to 2001. “It happened all the time. Tourists always carry cameras.”

But if airline policies regarding photography have changed since 9/11, then somebody did not inform the members of the Flickr group Inside the Plane, which states that “any shots inside the plane will work. Cockpits, johns, seats, meals and crew. If it’s inside the plane (on the ground or in the air) - it works!”

More than 500 Flickr members have joined the group since 2007, posting more than 3,000 photos, so it doesn’t seem like there is much of an anti-photography policy inside commercial airlines But granted, none of these photos show two passengers arguing.

However, one photo shows two JetBlue flight attendants posturing for the camera during a flight, specifically a flight attendant named Judy wiping her fellow flight attendant with a maxipad. No, I’m not kidding.

Also, as Photography is Not a Crime reader Dave points out in the comments section, there was the JetBlue Point of View photo contest, which encouraged passengers to take photos outside the window at cruising altitudes. More than 1,700 entries were submitted to the contest last year.

So it’s really difficult to believe the claims outlined in the JetBlue letter.

Logic tells us that the flight attendant never showed Parver the Flight Attendant Manual. Just as the video shows us that Parver never interfered with a crew member. Just as the above photo and photo contest shows us there really is no JetBlue policy forbidding photography in flight.

Logic tells us that this predictament is a result of a flight attendant trying to prevent a video from appearing on Youtube.

You have to love the irony.


The Flying Pinto said...

Wow, how did I miss that one?
People are crazy, in this case both passenger's and crew: ) And, of course you can take pics on the plane!

Anonymous said...

I have a few things to add.. I am a current flight attendant. This situation is very sad that something so small got taken so out of hand. I feel terrible that this lady had to go through all of this. However, she is not innocent. There is a very important F.A.R. (Federal Aviation Regulation) that clearly states: You must comply with all crew instructions. This is part of every flights pre-departure safety briefing, and is usually printed on the safety card as well. It is airline policy, and TSA regulation that you are not allowed to video tape any ramp operations, crew members, or flight crew procedures. So, the passenger should have first, followed her crew members instructions. However, flight attendants are allowed to use their manuals as a point of reference to a passenger as long as the information on said pages are not S.S.I (Sensitive Security Information). When we went through training I was specially told that. I feel that this article was geared towards attacking the crew members to displace blame off of the disruptive passenger. Regardless of who's policy it is, the flight crew asked you to comply with their instructions and you did not. This is not only grounds for your removal, but arrest, as well as being a felony. Speaking from personal experience, I can name many instances where passengers think it's fun or funny to video tape you doing your job. I've had people take pictures of me on their cell phones, little did they know i was standing right behind them as they zoomed up on my face and sent it out. This is a huge security breach, both on airline security standard, as well as a personal identity problem. I have no idea why people stalk flight crew members, but I've had people take my name and number of my crew luggage and contact me, off of my badge as I've walked by, ect. So we are sensitive beings when it comes to our identity. Some more points why this isn't allowed: It contained video of other passengers, airline property, safety and security procedures (which were poorly executed on this flight, sadly) and crew members. Quite frankly this lady should be happy they didn't arrest her, and that she isn't on a No-fly list with the airline. Yes people, it exists. I've dealt with and heard of so many horror stories of people that are no longer able to even step foot on an airplane, or even buy the ticket.

You are correct, photography IS allowed after 10,000ft, however it shouldn't contain any of the above mentioned security issues. I adore taking pictures out of the windows, it's a gorgeous planet out there! As far as your photo of the flight attendants having fun, yes we are people too, and this photo was most likely taken by a co-worker. Being voluntarily photographed is another story.

Regardless, this situation got very out of hand, and unfortunately there is no way to prove or disprove her being told and shown by a flight attendant what she shouldn't have been doing. I think that she should walk away from the situation and be happy it wasn't worse. The flight attendants were doing their job, even if it was a little tactless, they were doing their job nonetheless. The handcuffs and escorted of the plane thing, protocol for a disruptive passenger (because that's what you become after you refuse to comply, a violator of FAR's that is subject to arrest)

Happy Flying! Keep those camera pointed where they should be ;)

reallyme said...

Nonsense. Failure to comply with a crew member's instruction is an issue when aircraft safety (or security) is an issue. It was not meant to send you to prison for failure to follow everything a crew member tells you to do. The crew member was clearly abusing this regulation. There was clearly something going on, and if there was a physical altercation, I am quite sure the victim would have no problem if the attacker was filmed in the act. The video had NOTHING to do with the safety or security of the aircraft and the crew member had no right demanding it be erased. As I understand it, the claimed violation was refusal to follow the crew member's demand to erase the video. This was clearly wrong.