Feb. 21, 2013 at 10:25 AM ET
A man says United Airlines kicked him off his flight to Istanbul on Valentine's Day after he took a picture of his seat and made a comment about terrorists.
“I take photos on every single flight I am on,” Matthew Klint, a 26-year old travel blogger, told NBC News. “I have a picture of every airline meal I've been served for the last nine years.”
But on February 14, when he took a photo of his seat before takeoff, “a flight attendant came running over and told me that I could not take any pictures of the cabin,” Klint said. She referenced a policy about in-flight photography published in the airline’s Hemispheres magazine.
Klint says he stopped taking photos and put his iPhone away. But felt a need to explain his actions.
So he signaled for the flight attendant to come back to his seat and said: “I want you to understand why I was taking pictures. I hope you didn't think I was a terrorist.”
He then told her that he is a travel writer and covers the airline regularly on his blog, Live and Let's Fly. She was nonplussed.
Soon after, an airline representative came on board and said the captain was uncomfortable having Klint on the plane and that he needed to get off. After an unproductive conversation with the captain, Klint disembarked and took a later flight.
Other passengers on that United flight 904 corroborated Klint's story.
United Airlines spokesman Rahsaan Johnson declined to confirm details of the incident to NBC News, but the airline has seen Klint’s blog post about it and has “reached out to the customer to fully understand his perspective of what happened onboard," Johnson said.
“For reasons of service and security, our crews may need to restrict photography onboard, particularly when customers are taking photos of other customers or crew members without consent,” he said. The policy has been in place since 2010.
While all electronic devices must be turned off under 10,000 feet, typically "there are no federal regulations restricting what passengers may photograph on an airplane (during takeoff and landing)," FAA spokesman Les Dorr said.
But airlines can set their own photography regulations, and "it is up to flight attendants to inform passengers of these policies and de-escalate potential situations,” said Corey Caldwell, spokesperson for the Association of Flight Attendants–CWA, a flight attendants union.
Enforcement, however, is haphazard.
“I have taken thousands of photos onboard airlines of my seat, out the window, of the food and with permission, crew members,” said David Parker Brown, editor and founder of AirlineReporter.com. Out of all the times he's taken a photo on an aircraft, he said he’s been asked to stop only once.
Klint insists he followed the flight attendant’s instructions and was not uncooperative in any way. He acknowledges, however, "perhaps I should not have used the term ‘terrorist.'"