Yesterday reader FNT Delta Diamond left the following comment on my review of Air China’s 747-8 first class:
Lucky: Could you do a post explaining what, if anything, crew says when you take all these pictures? I know a couple airlines have stopped passengers from taking pictures but even crew on airlines that don’t care must find it odd to see someone taking so many pictures. I wonder if they ever think you’re a mystery passenger flying to inspect standards or perhaps a spy from a rival airline.
If you’re not interested in the “behind the scenes” of trip reports then by all means skip this. However, it’s probably an interesting topic to address for those who are curious, and also for those who like to take pictures on planes, but are concerned about what the crew will say.
I almost never have issues taking pictures on planes. The only challenging part of the picture taking process for me is trying to be the first person on the plane. If I weren’t reviewing a flight I’d be the last person on the plane, though there are obviously huge benefits to being the first onboard and getting empty cabin pictures. I’ve outlined how I do this in a previous post. Some other blogs contact airline PR departments before the flight to ask for pre-boarding, though to me that ruins the objectivity of a review, since the crew will no doubt know what you’re doing.
So, given that I take hundreds of pictures on flights that I review, what do I say to the crews, and what do they say to me? To start, I use one of three strategies when it comes to justifying my picture taking:
I’m an aviation geek
This is my go to strategy. When I board a plane I’ll give the crew a big smile, say “this is a beautiful cabin, is okay if I take some pictures?” They almost always say “sure, go ahead.” I create the impression that I’m just a huge aviation geek and love planes (both of which are true).
Now, this strategy gets a bit awkward when you’re flying an airlines like Pakistan, Ukraine, Meridiana, etc., which objectively doesn’t have nice cabins. However, for all they know I’ve never flown a premium cabin before, so it doesn’t raise many eyebrows.
Often later in the flight crews will come by my seat and mention how I’m taking so many pictures, and I just explain to them that I love trying new airlines, and that documenting the experience is a hobby of mine. Usually they appreciate the passion, since it’s not often others get excited about the experience.
It’s my first time in business class
It’s rare that I volunteer this as the reason, but often as I board and start snapping pictures, crews look at me and say “oh, is it your first time in business class?” Given that I want to volunteer as little information as possible, I usually just say “yep.” Similar to the above, I find that they love the enthusiasm, and it leads to great service.
I’ve only once ever proactively offered this as a reason, though, and that was in Lufthansa business class.
Lufthansa purser: “I notice you are taking many pictures, why is this?” Me: "It's my first time in business class and I am excited." 😉
— Ben Schlappig (@OneMileataTime) June 16, 2017
I just come clean about what I’m doing
This is extremely rare. Ironically enough, one of the few times I’ve done this was on my recent Spirit Airlines flight. Spirit has BuzzBallz ready-to-drink cocktails, which seemed so fabulously trashy. So I was determined to taste test them, and to also order wine, which I was expecting to be served in a can (unfortunately it wasn’t).
Spirit isn’t exactly a full service airline, and I knew they’d do a single service. I figured saying “I’d like all three BuzzBallz cocktails and wine” without an explanation wouldn’t go over well, given how rowdy the Spirit crowd is to begin with.
So instead I said “I’m writing a story about Spirit Airlines, and have heard so much about by the BuzzBallz cocktails. I promise I won’t drink them all, but is it okay if I buy all three and a bottle of wine, and just test them all out?” The crew was amused, and sold them to me without issue.
However, as it turns out, I guess that explanation wasn’t necessary. The guy next to me said “that sounds good, I’ll have exactly the same,” and they sold that to him without issue. Later he ordered two more BuzzBallz cocktails. He could barely walk off the plane…
Airline crews probably think I’m crazy and have no life. Both of those are very true. 😉
However, I find that I minimize issues relating to photography by being proactive. While I don’t fully volunteer what I’m doing, I always board with a smile, make eye contact and ask the crew’s permission to take pictures. Because I just come across as enthusiastic, usually the questions I get are purely out of curiosity. I’d say about half the time crews don’t say anything to me, while the other half of the time they ask questions out of curiosity.