Given how many pictures I take on planes I guess a situation like this was inevitable. This evening I was flying from Zurich to Frankfurt on Lufthansa. I was in business class for the short 45 minute flight, seated in row four.
Everything was normal, and during the manual safety briefing I was playing around with my phone (which was in airplane mode). Specifically, I was taking some notes in the “notes” app, and editing some photos.
About halfway through the safety demonstration the flight attendant standing at the front of the cabin walked to my row, looked around, walked back to the front of the plane, and then the safety demonstration stopped. I didn’t think much of it. The demo stopped for another 30 seconds or so, and then the purser walked up to me.
“Were you videotaping my colleague?”
“My colleague says you were videotaping her.”
“No, I absolutely didn’t.”
“Well we saw you taking pictures before and she said you were videotaping her.”
“No, I wasn’t. Please look at my phone. You won’t find a single video from this flight on here.”
I showed her my phone, including the video and camera folders. There was nothing there. She continued to stand there and look at me. Eventually she walked away. She didn’t say “okay” or “sorry for the misunderstanding,” but rather walked away as if I was still under investigation.
To be honest I felt embarrassed. They stopped the safety demo, the purser came up to my seat speaking loudly enough so all the people around us could hear, and several people were looking at me like I did something wrong. The purser went back to the galley and talked to the other flight attendant for another 30 seconds or so, both of their heads popped out of the galley a few times to look at me, and then the demo resumed.
I was expecting at some point one of the flight attendants would say something, even if it’s as simple as “sorry for the misunderstanding.” They didn’t.
You guys always tell me I’m too passive, so I decided not to be. When the purser served me my meal I decided to say something.
“I just wanted to say that I don’t appreciate the way you handled that situation. I was doing nothing wrong, and then you stopped the safety demonstration and accused me of taking a video. That’s embarrassing.”
At first she was defensive and tried to argue semantics.
“I didn’t accuse you, I simply asked.”
“You asked repeatedly and kept standing there when I said no, it certainly felt like you were accusing me.”
“Well I’m sure you can understand the flight attendant’s concern. She’s allergic to being recorded, there’s nothing about her on the internet.”
“Yes, but I don’t even understand where the confusion came from. I wasn’t holding my phone above the seats or anything. I just feel like you could have handled it after the demonstration rather than stopping the whole thing, if you were really concerned.”
“No, I wanted to prevent problems before they arose.”
At this point I felt like she was just being pedantic. If they thought I had already been recording then they wouldn’t be preventing anything, but rather they’d be asking me to delete, which is the same thing they’d be doing if they asked me to do it after the demonstration. But I didn’t want to be too argumentative (in the US I’d probably be considered a safety risk and removed from the flight), so I took a different approach.
“I can completely appreciate where you’re coming from. I like my privacy as well. You saw me taking pictures during boarding precisely so I could avoid anyone being in them, and if you want to see them, you’ll find there’s not a single person in them. I don’t want to violate anyone’s privacy.”
Then she admitted there was a misunderstanding.
“My colleague and I had a misunderstanding. She said you were recording, which I assumed to mean that you were video recording. But she thought you were taking an audio recording. I misinterpreted that. Based on your picture taking at the beginning of the flight, that seemed like the most likely.”
I wasn’t going to argue any further, though my logical follow-up question was going to be what it looks like when someone audio records. One can audio record at any time without anyone knowing. What a silly thing to try and police. Beyond that, if the flight attendant doing the demonstration (and not speaking) is “allergic” to being on the internet, then I’m not sure why she had such an issue with the audio recording she was imagining, since she wasn’t speaking.
Anyway, we had a conversation for a few minutes and ended on good terms. She sort of kind of apologized, and said “if you’re embarrassed, don’t worry, this is a short flight and everyone will be going different ways shortly.”
Did I overreact here? Am I wrong for saying something to the purser after takeoff?