Indian Authorities Ban Pictures On Planes (Under Many Circumstances)

Filed Under: Air India, Other Airlines

There’s no denying that India has its fair share of aviation “stories,” ranging from an Air India pilot flying drunk three times in a row and not getting fired, to both pilots of an Air India flight leaving the cockpit to go take a nap in business class, leaving the flight attendants at the controls. I’ve never really understood why there isn’t more federal regulation of instances like this, given that the Director General of Civil Aviation frequently has some very strict rulings on more minor things.

For example, a couple of years ago SpiceJet was under fire because a crew performed a choreographed inflight dance as part of the Holi celebrations. The DGCA argued that this lowered the crew’s alertness, and that the dancing could have thrown off the plane’s center of gravity. Hmmm….

Well, the Indian Director General of Civil Aviation has just released a new Air Safety Circular, with the subject “Cockpit Visit on Ground.” Interestingly the decision largely has nothing to do with cockpit visits on the ground, but rather involves picture taking. Here’s the directive:

Many instances have come to the notice wherein cockpit crew has indulged in photography in the cockpit. In few instances, both pilots were away from the aircraft controls when the photographs were taken. On few occasion crew have also allowed people to enter cockpit and take photographs even though their entry was not covered under AIC 3 of 1997.

Taking photography during flight is source of distraction, which may lead to error and resultant reduction in safety. DGCA has already issued advice in this regard vide Operation Circular 4 of 2011 on the subject “Managing Disruptions and Distractions”. In a recent case one of the pilot was engaged in photography during training flight, which eventually resulted into an accident.

In view of the above and to ensure safety of aircraft operations, all the air operators are required to ensure the following:

a. Provision of AIC 3 of 1997 and Operation Circular 4 of 2011 on the subject are scrupulously followed.
b. Crew do not indulge in photography during any phase of flight.
c. Passengers do not indulge into photography while embarking/disembarking from the aircrafts.

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So according to this, the crew can’t take pictures during any phase of the flight, and passengers can’t take photos while embarking or disembarking the aircraft. I’m curious how this will be enforced in practice, as the content of this new circular doesn’t really seem related to the subject, which specifically refers to “cockpit visits on ground.” It’s also not entirely clear if “crew” refers only to the cockpit crew, or the crew as a whole.

This decision seems a bit drastic, because if taken literally:

  • On a 17 hour flight from Delhi to San Francisco, a crew member wouldn’t be able to use their phone to take a picture even during their designated rest period
  • Passengers won’t be able to take pictures during embarking and disembarking, which I assume would be whenever the door is open

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Again, I’m curious how this will be enforced in practice, since this circular is certainly open to interpretation…

How do you interpret this new rule from the DGCA, and what do you make of it?

(Tip of the hat to Live from a Lounge)

  1. India, like many developing countries seem to have plenty of no photo policies everywhere (train stations, near the government offices etc). There seem to be soft enforcement, so unless you get caught and stay too long at a crime scene (keep moving) it’s ok. Otherwise someone might come to tell that it’s not allowed and you should delete the photos.
    So If I would be reviewing an Indian airline I would not say a word about pictures and take those without attracting too much attention.

  2. I interpret the directive as meaning that passengers are not permitted to take photographs of the cockpit/in the cockpit/with the pilots during embarkation and disembarkation, as that may distract the flight crew from their duties. I don’t think anything in here is *intended* to prohibit photography of your seat/self in the passenger cabins. But agree its unclear.

  3. You are at it again Lucky. Can’t hide your intentions.

    DGCA is very careful after FAA downgrade, because competitors are always wishing India will be downgraded again so Indian carriers cannot fly abroad and they can capture that market. They will use their PR dollars to spin any news as bad news, like you are doing.

  4. And then Lucky wonders why people don’t like him or screw with his hotel reservations…. you know, the things that don’t happen to TPG.

  5. Wow, what a shame. A world with fewer geniuses taking photos of everything will really ruin my experience. Now if they would only ban them at historic sites, museums, etc. it would be a total shame. Imagine being able to stand/sit where you want without someone asking you to move so they can get that photo of a lifetime. You know, that photo of a lifetime to add to the 75 trillion other ones they have taken that day.

  6. @Desi

    Cut Lucky some slack. May be he has to write given number of bad articles before Chinese allow adoption, or ME3 offer op-up.

  7. @Desi I can understand why someone who makes his living blogging about travel, a significant amount of which involves reviewing various airlines, would be unhappy with a rule that limits photography on planes.

  8. I was actually surprised how toned down this article was. I was thinking ‘oh oh, not enough troll baiting’, but I guess it doesn’t take too much.

  9. @Julia – lol you hypocrite…. What you did right there is equivalent of putting on make up in anticipation of Desi’s and Loz’s arrival

  10. @ A

    This rule really doesn’t limit Lucky’s desire to take pictures to make his living. It only requires that he not do so while embarking / disembarking, which could actually be a good thing since taking pics at these times could potentially slow down the embarking / disembarking process.

    Just another polarizing clickbait. Moving on.

  11. @A
    First lets complete the half stories Lucky quoted.
    1) AI pilot’s license was revoked and civil aviation asked justice dept to file a criminal complaint.
    2) After investigation SpiceJet was cleared of any wrong doing.
    So where is the need for Lucky to Jumpy about Indian authorities.

    Circular was mainly about crew. Did any one stop him when he took picture on his last AI trip. He probably never going to fly Indian carrier again, so what is his concern here.

  12. This is exactly the sort of poorly thought out policy you get when those making the policy decisions aren’t terribly knowledgeable about the industry they’re regulating.

    There’s a happy mid-point, where the regulators are highly trained and professional, but where they’re sufficiently distinct from the industry they’re regulating that there’s no cronyism.

    The less you pay your regulators, the less you’re able to attract the best and brightest and the less they’re able to do their jobs without needing to rely on the future goodwill or largesse of the industries they’re regulating.

    This sort of haphazard or ill thought out policy has long been the hallmark of 3rd and 2nd world bureaucracies and it’s increasingly the hallmark of 1st world bureaucracies in this age of “fiscal prudence”.

  13. Lol, India. In what other country are there as many rules, and in what other country is there as much complete disregard for the rules? I suspect that these no-photo rules will be followed about as much as the no-horn-honking rule prominently posted on a hospital wall next to a busy intersection in Mumbai.

    (And before the trolls pounce, I love India.)

  14. Rules… Actually, I was just wondering about rules yesterday, when I flew Vienna to Rome on Austrian. The crew member insisted I should turn off my Bose QC35, because there is “no Bluetooth allowed” during the flight. She was quite intimidating, so I did not want to cause a scene and insist on using my proven headphones.

    However, this seems absolutely stupid since I was using these for the past year on ca. 50 flights around the world, and never with any problem from the crew. Wasn’t that surprised, however, since the crews on Austrian are the worst when it comes to politeness. Wonder how this “rule” will hold when people start using their iPhone7s in Flight mode on the planes…….. 😉

  15. Last year I flew with Jet Airways when there was a high-ranking politician sitting in front of me, and once the entire crew in Business Class was clicking photos of/with him through their mobile phone. It didn’t look professional – so I do think it’s a good sign to refrain crew from taking photos during their duty.

    Also, during embarkation and disembarkation there are some passengers who get excited and start taking selfies which could distract the boarding/de-boarding process.

  16. When I was training to be a private pilot, I tried to record my first solo on my phone while I was taxiing. Long story short my Cessna ended up rolling off of the taxiway into the grass…pretty sure the ATC and my instructor saw it. Still have that (partial) recording to this day

    Moral of the story: no photography during critical phases of the flight!

  17. @Debit

    Nah, not really. But i was getting the popcorn ready. Maybe you’re the one putting the make-up on 😀

  18. Given that I won’t be caught dead on an Indian airline, this doesn’t affect me in any way. Thank you for reporting it though.

  19. The title of this post should be:

    “White Man And White Commenters Who Apparently Lack The Ability To Read Between The Lines Are Upset That An Indian Airline Has Banned Photography On Their Planes, Apparently Because They Are Too Lost In Their Own Little Bubble Of White Supremacy To Notice That There Was A Horrible Terrorist Attack In India 2 Days Ago That Received Zero Coverage By The Western Press.”

    The US shut its entire airspace after 9/11 and grounded every international flight. American flight attendants have been known to be pretty aggressive when they catch passengers filming videos onboard.

    But an Indian airline bans photography for security reasons after a terrorist attack, and suddenly the Self-Righteous White Crowd(tm) loses their minds. Sad! I think white men truly have an undiscovered collective mental disease, and that they should offer themselves up for autopsies in order to get it diagnosed.

  20. I do not get it. What does “white man” have to do with anything?

    FWIW – ground staff at Australian airports vigilantly enforce no pictures while boarding rule.

    Oh wait – they were also white men!

  21. Oh, David, that’s the entire point.

    You won’t see Schlappig and co. pointing your Aussie example out, or ridiculing the draconian American policies concerning onboard photography, but the Indians decide to do it for perfectly valid reasons and they’re suddenly somehow a target for ridicule by Schlappig and co. on this blog. Gee, I wonder why.

    On another note, these people are like comedians – they’re all flustered over the fact that they’ll be unable to take pictures of themselves… embarking and disembarking? The next thing you know they’ll probably be whining about being banned from taking pictures of the FA’s cleavage or butt or something. You have the darnedest ‘problems’, not to mention the incredible sense of entitlement on display here. “Waah, I *MUST* have my picture! How dare you prioritise the safety and security of your people over my divine, god-given right to take a picture of me boarding a plane for posterity!”


    1) Seek help, or

    2) Learn to be more grateful. You’re already scamming your way through the airline business and dumping more CO2 into the atmosphere than the combined methane emitted by fat Americans; you don’t get to have it all.

  22. Maybe I am reading a different directive than you, but to me this does not at all prohibit passengers from taking pictures during flight. It just prohibits photography while boarding and de-boarding, probably to prevent people from blocking the aisle for other passengers during these times.

    Furhter, it prohibits the crew, and particularly pilots, from taking pictures. That’s an internal decision with no consequences for passengers.

  23. Who cares – I am able to complete an entire journey without a single picture of myself or the drab plastic world that have the interiors of the aircraft become. Who the hell wants to take images of themselves in just about any of the European or US airline cabins voluntarily either… except for bloggers.

    This law is about as impossible to enforce as the stupid rules that US airlines try to enforce with regards to images of their employees… or my personal favorite analogy: this law is as difficult to enforce as laws governing common decency and tax evasion among politicians in Europe (in particular France and Italy).

    Another pointless post …

  24. Hah! Would be great if they arrested everyone taking stupid pictures and videos during embarking and disembarking who make it bloody irritating for the rest of us who want to travel swiftly and peacefully. Now if they also banned stupid videos and images on board so that: a) we don’t have flashes going off in the cabin, b) we don’t have to keep requesting our photos to be censored from their pointless images and c) we don’t have to listen to stupid narration of an in-flight experience when we are just trying to get some rest without having to wear NC headphones all the time.

    Kudos to the Indian officials for doing this and I hope other airline authorities follow suit.

  25. @snic – hmm…the USA, Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Russia, Poland, my home – The Great Britain (damn – do I need to keep naming all of the countries…)

  26. Ah, Indian bureaucracy. Giving millions of Indians something to do other than fix poverty or maybe clean the human excrement off of the streets.

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