A photographer is suing American Airlines (AA) following a bomb scare that allegedly began when another passenger mistook the man’s vintage camera equipment for an explosive device during a flight.
The unidentified amateur photographer is suing AA for defamation, false imprisonment, and emotional distress, among other charges following the in-flight disturbance which occurred on a flight from Indianapolis to New York’s La Guardia Airport on October 9, 2021
The incident resulted in the hasty evacuation of passengers and the photographer’s detainment by FBI agents, reports Rolling Stone.
So the end of our flight got interesting pic.twitter.com/gdJSUUG906
— Laura (@lbrgdl) October 9, 2021
According to Rolling Stone, the lawsuit alleges that a female passenger with an infant seated next to the plaintiff treated her seatmate with suspicion for an extended portion of the flight, repeatedly leaving her assigned seat and attempting to move elsewhere on the aircraft — including while the seatbelt light was illuminated.
At some point, the woman brought her concerns about the photographer to flight attendants, whom the lawsuit states made no attempt to speak to the plaintiff, nor relocate either passenger to a new seat. The suit seeks $75,000 in restitution on behalf of the unidentified plaintiff.
Rolling Stone reports that the lawsuit states no member of the AA staff attempted to question the photographer about his camera equipment during the flight as the “Plaintiff was sleeping or dozing for most of the flight.”
The court documents contend that instead AA flight attendants sent the accusing “woman back to sit next to Plaintiff and asked her to spy on Plaintiff and report back to Defendants, instead of Defendants ascertaining the facts for themselves.”
Upon the aircraft’s descent into La Guardia, the plaintiff retrieved his camera from his bag to take a photograph of the New York City skyline, at which point the filing claims the woman — who had, yet again, moved to another seat — began yelling, “Don’t do it!” and “We’re dead!” at the man.
The disturbance forced the plane to make an abrupt landing to immediately evacuate all passengers off the aircraft, upon which point the plaintiff was detained by emergency responders on the tarmac.
Footage of the photographer being detained on the tarmac upon arrival at La Guardia was shared to Twitter by a fellow passenger on the day of the flight.
According to Rolling Stone, the filing says that AA employees on the flight would later tell the Federal Aviation Administration and other government officials that they believed the amateur photographer to be a threat because, according to the female passenger, he “had something dangerous,” “was timing the flight with a timing device,” “was texting pictures of bombs,” and “was looking at pictures of bombs and how to put bombs together,” among other behaviors.
However, court documents state the plaintiff only used his phone to set and subsequently turn off an alarm intended to wake him before the flight landed and that the female passenger eventually could not definitely say whether or not she saw suspicious photos or texts on the man’s phone.
Ultimately, the lawsuit states federal investigators found no evidence on the plaintiff’s iPhone or amongst his belongings to support the passenger’s statements to AA flight crew — and, after a lengthy detention in which the filing claims the plaintiff was neither read his rights nor allowed a phone call, federal agents dropped the plaintiff off at a taxi stand in the middle of the night.
AA allegedly did not issue an apology to the detained photographer for his experience. A Port Authority spokesman would later tell reporter at The New York Times that law enforcement “determined that there was no criminality on the part of the passenger and he was released.”
This is not the first time AA has faced the wrath of photographers. In 2018, Michelle Frankfurter took to social media to share how AA had allegedly lost her cameras equipment worth $13,000.
While another video showed an AA baggage-handler dropping a photographer’s $20,000 camera kit.