Travel Writer Booted Off a United Airlines Flight for Taking a Picture of His Seat


Matthew Klint is an avid travel writer and loyal United Airlines flyer who spends almost as much time in the air as he does on the ground. Last year alone he traveled more than 200,000 miles, and his contributions can be found in the Washington Times, USA Today, BBC, Toronto Star, and his Live and Let’s Fly blog.

But last week, Klint recorded an airline first for him on what was supposed to be a flight from Newark to Istanbul: he was kicked off of the flight for taking a photo of the seat in front of him, and then explaining why it was he had taken the picture.

The story goes something like this. Sitting in a 767-300 and having just been upgraded to business class, Klint pulled out his iPhone and snapped the following picture of the display on the seat in front of him.


He was immediately approached by a flight attendant, told he was not allowed to take pictures, and pointed towards United’s “Onboard Photo and Video” guidelines in Hemisphere magazine:


He quickly and without argument put his phone away and complied with instructions as the flight attendant rushed off to reprimand another flyer that was doing the same thing. But the whole interaction had bothered him, so he got her attention in order to explain his side and clear up any misunderstandings:

Naturally, the FA’s warning bothered me and I felt the need to explain myself. I signaled for her to come back and asked her to hang my coat. I then said this verbatim—

‘I want you to understand why I was taking pictures. I hope you didn’t think I was a terrorist. Here is my business card [offering her one]. I write about United Airlines on an almost-daily basis and the folks at United in Chicago are even aware of my blog.’

[She] refused to take my business card saying, ‘No, that’s okay,’ then saying, ‘I did not know that’ after I explained my reason for taking pictures. I again emphasize, I took no more pictures.

That’s when things got ugly. A few minutes later, he was asked by a Global Services rep to disembark and find another flight to Istanbul at the pilot’s behest. After several minutes of confusion and a less-than-polite interaction with the pilot, during which Klint realized that the flight attendant had lied to the pilot, he got off the plane and found another connecting flight.

The whole altercation has led to a lengthy write-up on his well-trafficked blog, which will inevitably translate into some bad press for United — and all because he took a photo of the seat in front of him.

For all of the details — including the full dialogue between Klint, the pilot and the GS rep — you can read the entire story over on Klint’s blog.

Thrown Off a United Airlines Flight for Taking Pictures! [Live and Let’s Fly]

Image credits: Photo illustration based on United Airlines – N771UA by InSapphoWeTrust and Off Limits Picture by Matthew Klint

  • lpo

    in Italy you cant take your devices on onboard

  • Evan Skuthorpe

    Land of the free?

  • sean lancaster

    Horrible United!


    this is not bad press, I’d rather fly in an airline that takes Security Seriously… The writer is clearly at fault here… he really did not get permission and United has the right to boot him off the plane…. He should have gone through the right channels and have gotten permission before snapping away willy nilly…

  • Scott M

    Looks like his blog has been taken down!!???

  • Scott M

    Help me understand how taking a picture of a TV screen is a security risk.

  • Ivan

    Where all this is headed, I guess in a few years instructions of this kind on all modes of transportation could read something like this: “You are not allowed to do anything, except what is specifically permitted by [insert company name here]”.

  • Pete M

    More likely that it is getting too many requests

  • Ivan

    The problem is that this particular action has absolutely nothing to do with security.

  • Carsten Schlipf

    Just wanted to write on his blog that United was just removed from my list of possible airlines for my next flight I will book next week from Europe to LAX.

    And all of a sudden the Blog is down.

  • Norwegian-traveller

    That’s just insane (in lack of a better word)!


    im not a security expert and so are u… the rule is that using video and photo equipment is prohibited … so why just follow the rules and stop whining….. so if a terrorist was taking photos of a tv screen it would be ok? ur on the wrong side of this argument…


    well did he break the airline policy? he did.. so case closed…

  • DafOwen

    Back now

  • Orlando 林安徒生 Andersson

    Silly!…well airlines from Star Alliance r never that good…. .if u want to go with the very nice and friendly flight.. go with any skyteam or KLM :D. they dont have any regulations against photography :) well I always fly KLM so no problem there :)

  • mary

    I don’t get the point of this photo. It’s not especially interesting. Not worth the trouble he went through.

  • Orlando 林安徒生 Andersson

    but its pretty lame isnt it?

  • Jonathan Bloom

    The basic problem is airline stewards/stewardesses have way more responsibility and authority than they are trained to handle. The net effect seems to be overreaction.

  • D.G. Brown

    He didn’t get kicked off of the plane for taking a picture. As he mentioned, someone else was also reprimanded for a taking a picture and I’m guessing they remained on the flight (as he would have if that had been the whole story). The problem is that he started harassing the flight crew about it and, from his own description, used words that you do not use on an airplane. I dare you to flag a stewardess and tell her “I hope you didn’t think I was a terrorist” and see how long you remain on the airplane.

  • Jeremy Madore

    And the home of too many cowards…

  • Orlando 林安徒生 Andersson

    sounds like a case of power abuse

  • Carsten Schlipf

    If you read his blog you’ll notice that he was taken off the plane because he said “I am a terrorist.” Oh, wait, no – he said “I am NOT a terrorist”, but he had mentioned that t-word already.

  • Orlando 林安徒生 Andersson

    stop defending the stupid airlines… he should have chosen KLM :)

  • Jeremy Hall

    You take the hard line of “the rules are the rules” but I’d say you are on the wrong side of this argument. The reality is rules like that are meant to be applied with reasonable judgement. It gives latitude yet the ability to be enforced. And yes, if a terrorist was taking photos of a TV screen, I’d say it’s ok. That act in and of itself was not a crime. Photography is not a crime. Leave the rest of us alone.

  • Rob S

    Please explain what a “terrorist” could possibly do with a picture of a seat? Please name one “terrorist” who has ever brought attention to himself and offered his business card. Before you answer, I have been in the “security” business for 27 years so choose your words carefully.

  • Some Guy

    What ever happened to common sense?

  • t_linn

    If you read his post he explains why he took the photo. It was a new business class configuration or something like that. He was just sharing the experience, as travel writers are prone to do.

  • Marc Cramer

    Because being upgraded to business class is awesome and you want to show other how the other half live :)


    i don’t see anything vague about the rule nor did it was open to interpretation… again this is one man’s word against the FA and the Pilot’s, how do you know that this guy is telling the truth? its simply his version… what about the FA and the Pilot’s point of view?…


    before you jump in and badmouth the FA and United… keep in mind that this is one man’s perspective… Who knows if he’s telling the truth? What about the FA and the Pilots point of view… people don’t get booted out of an aircraft for nothing… All you’re getting here is one disgruntled guy’s point of view…


    sure you’re in “security” =)

  • Jean Gill

    It could’ve been me :( I’ve taken photos of my teddy bear on a seat on a plane, and my husband as an executive, for stock pics – very very frightening to think I could’ve had this reaction. Instead I had no problem at all!


    my thoughts exactly… some people just cant stay put and enjoy the business class… they have to make a big fuzz about everything…

  • Alanna

    REIGNER = airline schill/employee

  • jesumjr

    I always have my camera when I fly and on my way to Minneapolis from Manila aboard Delta, I took lots of photos throughout the window. I did the same when I flew from Minneapolis to Ontario California and back on United Airways. Nobody accosted me. Or no FA or crew saw me????

  • dualtec

    Would you please explain what are you talking about!?

  • Kurt B

    If a terrorist wanted to do something bad to the aircraft, he won’t need a camera to make plans. He can just buy a seat, get on an aircraft, and record everything with his eyes.

  • David Ewers

    In all of my years of flying 99.99% of the employees of the airlines have been great and will bend over to make sure that the flight will be a good experience. A few times I have run into flight attendants or ground personell that are having a bad day or have a power trip and think they can take it out on their customers. The airline industry is not the same as it once was, fees for everything, and an attitudes like this will not help the publics opinion of them.


    hahaha… I’m not an employee but I hope to get some UA mileage out of this… maybe an upgrade would do… =)


    who made you the expert? are you in “security” too?

  • Ale Gomez

    So you’ve clearly never flown United….

  • Scott M

    Hello. I’m common sense…have we met? Security policy must have relevant application to some semblance of infrastructure or personnel. I do not need to be a security specialist to know that, just have a “Rare Earth element called common sense. Go troll somewhere else.

  • Scott M

    nothing “vague” about the rule?” How about “The use of…cameras is…permitted only for personal events.” Seems sane to me. Sitting in my seat, looking at my screen seems pretty personal.

  • Bink Binkerson

    Just Rebooked my transatlantic trip to avoid United. Lufthansa’s gain.
    Jeff Smisek was the guy who took an enormous bonus to sell out a decent-enough airline (Continental) to a trainwreck mess that was/is United. The employees hate the company, and are squeezed & abused by their employer and the crappy conditions, and then have to deal with all the dissatisfied customers. The execs involved greased themselves big-ass bonuses, while service deteriorates. Add the Giuliani-ish pussification of America (“Noun! Verb! 9-11″) and you are off to this airborne theatre of the absurd. [ I have 1.5 million actual flown miles on Continental ]

  • Chris Lyn

    Where does it say that those rules are for safety or security?

  • Canon Ae

    It is better to avoid argument with police, airport securities and flight crew. Because they dont listen to you mostly and they always try to show their power. If you want to take a picture, reduce brightness of your phone’s screen, pretend like you are playing games and take picture silently. Dont hold your phone like holding camera when you take picture :)

  • Michael Brian Bentley

    United used to be my goto airline until about 13 years ago. It felt then like the company was adopting a business attitude that I wasn’t as copacetic with as those of other airlines, so I switched. For example, months later I noticed that United had applied luggage-sized templates in front of the scanners, so if the bag was too big you couldn’t even get it into the scanner. They do these things to make their operations more efficient but it made me feel put upon. If the official policy of United is to not permit picture taking inside the plane, that’s their decision, they can make that call. In my experience, an airline that I do business with is less likely to do that.

  • Mike

    Nah, just an unemployed troll

  • Mansgame

    He broke the rules and was given a break and not kicked off the plane. He then started arguing about it with people whose job it is to be responsible for everybody’s comfort and safety so he was kicked off. Seems fair to me. Stop whining, you’re not special.


    you’re the one trolling on my post… again before you troll, make sure you know the facts.. in this case neither of us do… so why pass judgement…its the blogger vs. the FA + the Pilot…. u chose the defend the blogger because you think you he’s some kind of a victim here and you’re the one to defend him….. you are taking one man’s word as the truth and you’re getting fired up about it which is ridiculous… I side with the Pilot and the FA because they must have felt that this guy was a threat or somehow delaying the flight… if you have some kind of common sense you would be fair to all parties here and not just take one version of the truth…