Indian Regulators Backtrack On Airplane Picture Ban

Filed Under: Air India

On Saturday I wrote about how India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) essentially issued an order threatening airlines that allow photography on planes. Well, just 24 hours after the original order was issued, the DGCA has “clarified” the policy, or more accurately, walked back on it.

It’s not photography that’s banned anymore…

The DGCA has issued the following clarification regarding its photography policy (bolding mine):

In continuation of order No. 8/100/2009-IR dated 12.09.2020, it is clarified that a bonafide passenger travelling in an aircraft engaged in scheduled air transport services may do still and video photography from inside such an aircraft while in flight; take off and landing in terms of order No. 9/12/2003-IR dated 9th December, 2004 disseminated through AIC 7/2004. However, this permission does not include use of any recording equipment which imperils or compromises air safety; violates prevalent norms; creates chaos or disruption during operation of flight or expressly prohibited by crew.

In other words, the ban isn’t on photography. Rather the ban is on being a complete jerk by violating crew instructions, compromising safety, etc.

Saturday’s order was issued after dozens of reporters stormed the aisle on an IndiGo flight with professional cameras and microphones, in order to catch a glimpse of a Bollywood star. Even though the plane was taxiing and social distancing guidelines should have been followed, dozens of people got up and crowded the aisle while the plane was taxiing.

Hopefully my trip reports don’t create too much “chaos”

Was this actually a clarification?

The DGCA is claiming that the above circular is a clarification of Saturday’s order. But is that actually the case? The order quoted a previous rule, which stated the following:

No person shall take, or cause or permit to be taken, at a Government aerodrome or from an aircraft in flight, any photography except in accordance with and subject to the terms and conditions of a permission in writing granted by the Director-General, a Joint Director General, a Deputy Director-General or the Director of Regulations and Information of the Civil Aviation Department.

This seems pretty clear to me — no one can take pictures from an aircraft inflight, unless they are specifically given permission in writing. It goes without saying that the clarification is a lot more logical. Pictures should be allowed, unless they compromise safety, create chaos, or disrupt operations.

But that’s also not what India’s published rules for aviation say. So isn’t it time that those are updated, or can someone help me understand how “Rule 13 of the Aircraft Rules 1937” doesn’t contradict what the DGCA is saying now?

It seems to me that India has had a ban on inflight photography, and it just hasn’t been enforced at all.

Air India business class

Bottom line

It has now officially been clarified that photography isn’t banned inflight in India. Rather the ban is on using photography to create chaos or violate crew member instructions. That’s much more logical, and I’m happy to see this clarified.

However, it does still seem to me that current published rules pretty explicitly ban inflight photography of all kinds without permission, so what am I missing here?

  1. Ben,

    There is nothing to clarify. India has 500 different rules which are never enforced but no one will update them and make them more logical because who wants to take responsibility in case something goes wrong? The bureaucratic response is to use a hammer when a gentle poke would suffice!

    True story: why don’t Indian airlines flying within India serve alcohol? Because a passenger in the 1990s flying on a domestic route imbibed too much and created a ruckus. Just like people do all over the world. But Instead of merely banning the guy, Indian regulators just banned alcohol on all domestic flights! And no one has changed it in the last 30 years! Because if someone allows it, and when the next person creates a ruckus—as it will inevitably happen—the guy would be blamed and taken to the cleaner. So just preserve the status quo. And I suspect even airlines might be fine with it because they don’t have to serve free alcohol to premium cabin travelers. Government regulations you see!

  2. They are absolutely correct.

    As per Rule 13 of the Aircraft Rules 1937, nobody may engage in photography unless otherwise authorised in writing.

    The authorisation in writing was granted via order No. 9/12/2003-IR.

    Order No. 8/100/2009-IR clarifies this.

    To fight the bureaucrat, you must understand the bureaucrat. We can ill afford another Kangana.

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