What is the best airline to work as a pilot?

Ah. Excellent question and one that’s on many pilots’ minds too.

I always say this:

  • You either fly at home, in your own country, and unless that’s a big place, there’s usually only one big airline, usually the national carrier. That’s the one to go for.
  • Or you fly “somewhere else”, and once you do that, you become a prostitute of the industry. You go with who pays you best or who treats you best, or a combination thereof that suits you.

What is the best airline to work as a pilotI’m a prostitute of the industry. I started off in a loyal marriage with my national carrier, building up seniority from very young, being proud of the company I flew for. Lo and behold, they went bust a few years later. So there I was, betrayed and lost everything I invested in them.

I think the days where you start in a company, stay loyal to it for all your active career, and then retire in the same company, are finished. You may get lucky, and I certainly wish that upon all pilots, but it’s likely you’ll end up like one of us expat pilots: wondering how to weld your personal life with your career, while looking for a contract that isn’t taking you for a ride.

The problem in an aviation career is that holy seniority that rules everything. A pilot can only make promotion, and can only get the nice flights or the leave he requests, with enough years working for that company. Switch to another one and you reset your accumulated benefits. I often make arguments that this seniority is actually working more against us than for us in the modern world, but hey, it’s not about to change soon. So you’ll have to take that into account.

It’s all good and well to say that it’s better working for Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines, but if you’ve already given 15 years of your life to KLM or Alitalia, you’re not going to start from zero there.

If you’re young, then you have better options. I would then recommend that you decide whether you really want to fly at home, where your family is, your friends whom you grew up with and you’re likely going to stay friends with forever, and possibly a partner. Don’t underestimate the importance of this in your life. They could easily be worth a big pay cut or the fact that you can’t say you work for a legendary five star carrier.

If you’re not too attached to home and are quite independent, then look further and keep in mind that you can play the industry like the industry plays you. Pay is important but not everything. However, if you leave home, you have to keep in mind that you lose the benefits that come with that: pension and free health care for example. So you have to be able to put enough aside to compensate for that. Usually that means that people rarely want to be a long term expat unless they make a lot more buck at the end of the month than they could at home.

At the same time you have to be realistic. Great, you want to work for Lufthansa, but you don’t speak German or don’t have the right to work in the EU. Tough luck. It’s all good and well to say that pilots in this and in that airline are better off, but to be honest, those are not jobs that you can normally reel in.

A lot of friends/colleagues of mine keep switching airlines as expat, playing the industry. I personally never wanted to do this. Instead I preferred to go somewhere where it’s good, and stay there a long time. The main reason for that is that I want to plan my personal life, and not wonder every two years where I’ll end up for the next two years.

All this to say that if you compare airline jobs, you have to realize that what’s best for one pilot isn’t the best for another. People have different benefits from their governments in their home countries and different pilots have different priorities in life.

So I’d split up your list. You need a list for who flies at home and for who is an expat. And you need a list for a young pilot seeking to make career versus a seasoned pilot who doesn’t want to give up his seniority anymore.

From word of mouth I’ve consistently heard this among colleagues (and keep in mind I’m a European flying in Asia, so the Americas are a bit off my sphere):

Best airline for young expats who have to make career:

  1. Emirates: fast growing, great conditions, great airplanes, wonderful ratings
  2. Easyjet: work hard but get paid well, fast career, move on to greener pastures if needed later, chose a base close to home
  3. Etihad: fast growing, nice atmosphere, good pay, great equipment

Best airline for seasoned expats who’ve built up seniority there already: (I will throw in an extra and do a top 4 here, since this is really my terrain)

  1. Cathay Pacific: the new contracts aren’t what they once were, but great lifestyle combined with a good pay and benefits. Live in Hong Kong or on one of their overseas bases.
  2. Emirates: a lot of my friends there may complain all the time, but wouldn’t dream of leaving to somewhere else for conditions that they consider puny.
  3. Singapore Airlines: prestige, great expat conditions for captains (not First Officers), great place to live.
  4. Cargolux: great benefits, great lifestyle, great destinations

Best airline for homeboys who are just starting:

  1. British Airways: fly everywhere in the world, prestige, great conditions
  2. Qantas: good career prospects, good conditions
  3. Air France: lots of destinations, good career prospects, good conditions and pay

Best airlines for homeboys who have seniority there:

  1. United: I keep on hearing this over and over, even though I don’t actually know anyone there, so there must be something true about it. Pick your own schedule and with great conditions. Seeing the age of their pilots and flight attendants in hotels where I have layovers, it must be true: nobody seems to retire there.
  2. Qantas: good conditions, good pay, good benefits
  3. British Airways: great pay, fly everywhere, good benefits

Now, please realize that this is my personal image based on the stories and the word of mouth I get from friends and colleagues and from where I’ve seen people go to – and stay – through my years in aviation.

I actually hope for feedback here, though I am fully aware that feedback from pilots will be more to deny their airline’s position in this ranking based on what’s all wrong in their godforsaken company, rather than to say where they would go if they had the option. Go ahead, shoot.

American Airlines: 15 Interesting Facts You Didn’t Know

American Airlines is one of the most popular airlines that people use to travel both domestically and internationally. However, despite the fact that the airline has spent a considerable amount of time in the spotlight and under the scrutiny of the public eye, there are still some things that many people don’t know. With that in mind, here PPcorn presents a list of 15 facts you probably didn’t know about American Airlines.american airlines

Number Fifteen: American Airlines Gets the Bulk of Its Business From Fliers Who Travel Once a Year

You might think the airline would earn the most money from its business-related travelers who jet-set all over, but that’s not actually the case. In reality, the airline earns 50 percent of its revenue from people who fly once a year or less.

Number Fourteen: Its Biggest Competitor Isn’t What You’d Expect

Though airlines like Delta and United are big names like American, the truth is that the airline’s biggest competition is Spirit Airlines. This is because Spirit offers similar routes at equal or lower prices and non-stop options.

Number Thirteen: It’s Catering to its Customers on a Budget

In late 2015, an American Airlines president Scott Kirby announced that the airline was working on an option for its customer base on the smallest budget. Like Delta’s “Basic Economy” option, this will most likely involve a choice to pay a lower price than Coach but without the option of seat assignment or upgrades.

Number Twelve: It’s the World’s Largest Airline

It’s true! In terms of fleet size and revenue, AA it the largest airline in the world. It’s also the second largest airline in the world in terms of destinations served – the first is United.

Number Eleven: It Came From 82 Separate Airlines

The airline was created in 1930, and it came about from a conglomeration of 82 other airlines. It has since undergone several more mergings, and its most recent was with U.S. Airways.

Number Ten: It Was the First to Fly the DC-3

The DC-3 was a plane developed by C.R. Smith and Donald Douglas under the Douglas Aircraft Company. The plane itself is a fixed-wing propeller-driven plane and the first time it was used by AA was in 1936.

Number Nine: American Airlines Was the First Airline to Profit From People

When the airline was first created, it solely transported mail (just like other airlines at the time). However, AA was the first to profit from carrying passengers without any mail.

Number Eight: American Airlines Owned the World’s First Airline Lounge

Lounges are now quite popular in airports as a way for members to relax without the stressed out crowds so often seen in airports. AA was the first to create such a lounge, and it did so at New York’s LaGuardia airport. The lounge was known as the Admirals Club.

Number Seven: It Offered its Planes to Filmmakers for Free

Though renting planes for films now comes with a steep price, AA lent one of their planes to producers for the 1951 film Three Guys Named Mike. It also provided advertising for the film.

Number Six: It Was the First Airline to Use Electronic Booking

Though most airline customers book their flights online today, it didn’t used to be that way. AA was the world’s first airline to launch an electronic booking program, which it called Sabre.

Number Five: It Used the Same Logo for Nearly 50 Years

American Airlines’ iconic eagle logo was introduced in 1967 and was designed by Vignelli Associated. The airline used the logo all the way until 2013.

Number Four: It Hired a Female Pilot Before Any Other Major Airline

It’s true! AA was the first major airline to hire a female pilot. Her name was Bonnie Tiburzi.

Number Three: Its Current Headquarters Comprise More Than One Million Square Feet

AA’s headquarters are located in Texas, and the headquarters are comprised of two large office buildings. Together, the buildings contain about 1.4 million square feet and require over 4,000 employees to maintain it.

Number Two: It’s Environmentally Conscious

Airlines need a lot of water to operate. To prevent water waste, American airlines recycles water for washing planes, rinsing tanks, and irrigation. Since 2002, the airline’s decision to do this has saved them over one million dollars.

Number One: It’s Gone Through Nearly 20 Different Slogans

That’s a lot of catchy lines! The airline’s first slogan was “America’s Leading Airline,” and its current one is “Going for great.” We hope you enjoyed our list of 15 interesting facts you didn’t know about American Airlines!

Do Airplane fly over North Korea?

Yes. North Korea is a member state of ICAO and is fully compliant with ICAO policies regarding overflights. I know it seems odd, considering everything North Korea has been up to lately, but it’s true. I have dealt with North Korean air traffic officials in the course of my work, and they were actually easy to work with… probably has something to do with the fact that a country can charge fees for overflights. The USA actually makes a fair amount of money with the overflight fees for the huge chunks of airspace “owned” by U.S. air traffic control.

However, not too many airliners actually do overfly in NK airspace because the airspace is small and in an “out of the way” part of the world. In addition, some countries advise their flag airlines to avoid the airspace for safety reasons. Considering the number of unannounced missile launches lately, that’s not a bad idea.

EDIT: I was just reminded that some airlines (countries) also avoid North Korean airspace so they don’t have to pay overflight fees, as mentioned above. This is one way of complying with the economic sanctions against NK and further “rubbing their noses” in it.

For exp: Yes , commercial flights fly over North Korean airspace in order to reach Pyongyang.
However , I further checked north Korean airspace using a website which provides real time info about flights equipped with ADS-B ( have no idea what it means :p , but about 60% of passenger flights have this system built in according to website )
Website link : WWW.flightradar24.com
And found this .

8 top-secret aircraft that definitely aren’t UFOs

Since its establishment in 1955, the Groom Lake airfield at Edwards Air Force Base—better known as Area 51—has hosted the development of some of the most exotic and advanced aircraft the world has ever seen. These so-called black projects, named for their ultra-classified nature, have produced planes like the SR-71 Blackbird, which is still the fastest and highest-operating aircraft ever built (that we know about); the F-117 Nighthawk, the world’s first stealth attack aircraft; and the RQ-170, a mysterious and seldom-seen aerial reconnaissance UAV.

Gallery: Area 51 Aircraft | 8 Photos

It’s not hard to see why many of these aircraft have been mistaken for unidentified flying objects. Their extreme performance is a direct result of their outlandish designs. Just look at the D-21. This Mach 3+ recon drone looks more like the A-12 Oxcart’s engines that it rides upon than any conventional UAV.

“Some of the most exotic aircraft developed and/or test-flown at Area 51 can certainly be mistaken for UFOs and indeed were reported as such on occasion, especially before the existence of these aircraft was public knowledge,” Nick Pope, a journalist and author who used to investigate UFOs for the British government, told Engadget. “Some of these sighting reports came from pilots who, when confronted by something flying at heights and speeds they thought impossible, didn’t know what else to think.”

Pope explains that these reports often worked to the benefit of the Defense Department, as such incredulous tales would prevent Soviet intelligence analysts from prying into its beyond-top-secret projects. “It’s the ultimate irony that, far from covering up the truth about UFOs (as conspiracy theorists allege), the US government may have played a large part in creating the phenomenon.”

Of course, the mystery surrounding many of these projects—not to mention their reputed links to unexplainable phenomena—aren’t nearly as mind-boggling for the folks actually involved in their development. Retired Air Force colonel Kenneth Collins is one of a handful of pilots who flew the A-12 Oxcart during its testing phase at Groom Lake, but he doesn’t remember much hubbub regarding UFO sightings near Area 51. “The Oxcart program and Area 51 were very classified and very secret; we pilots were only given the information needed to fly the aircraft,” Col. Collins said. “We never received any outside reports … I never heard anything on the news about lights in the sky or anything unusual.”

“The strangest thing for me was,” Col. Collins continued, “I was in the area near my quarters and got a call from operations. So I raced over [to the airfield], got into my pressure suit, and they launched me in the A-12 to go chase down a Russian surveillance balloon that had floated over. I don’t know what they thought I was going to do at Mach 3 while chasing a balloon. I went by it so quick I wasn’t able to see anything. But someone had the wild idea to try it, and I was more than happy to fly.”

[lede image credit: Lockheed Martin]

5 Reasons No Nation Wants to Go to War with the U.S. Air Force

5 weapons, that is.  Dave Majumdar  The Air Force’s tiny fleet of twenty Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bombers is the only long-range

The Air Force’s tiny fleet of twenty Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bombers is the only long-range penetrating strike asset in the service’s arsenal. No other aircraft in the Air Force inventory has the range to take off from the continental United States and strike at targets on the other side of the globe inside highly contested airspace. The B-2 has an unrefueled range of around 6000 nautical miles, but that can be extended to around 10,000 with aerial refueling.

The U.S. Air Force is by far the most capable air arm on the planet. In addition to proper training and rigorous doctrine, the Air Force needs modern weapons to keep ahead of potential competitors. Over the past decade, America’s lead in the air has started to erode as Russia has slowly been recovering from the collapse of the Soviet Union [3] and China has begun to remerge as a superpower [4]. Nonetheless, these following five systems are the backbone of the U.S. Air Force and should continue to hold the advantage for some time to come if ever the unthinkable occurred:

Boeing LGM-30G “Minuteman III” Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

Though strategic nuclear deterrence has become less prominent since the end of the Cold War, the mission remains the single most important one for the Air Force. The backbone of America’s nuclear deterrence remains the 1960s-vintage LGM-30G Minuteman III [5]. Some 450 of these missiles form the land-based component of the so-called nuclear triad.

(This first appeared in 2014 and is being reposted due to reader interest.)

Over the years, the long-serving missile has been modified and upgraded with better guidance systems and new rocket motors. Though originally designed to be fitted with three multiple independent reentry vehicles each carrying a nuclear warhead, the current version of the missile carries only one 300-kiloton weapon. The United States plans to continue to upgrade that missile, but eventually will have to develop a new ICBM to replace the Minuteman. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when.

Recommended: 5 Reasons No Nation Wants to Go to War with Israel [6]

The readiness of the nuclear-missile force has come into question repeatedly over the past several years. A number of officers have been caught cheating in tests—and a number of senior officers have been dismissed as a result. All of that has cast a shadow over the entire force.

Recommended5 Worst Generals in U.S. History [7]

Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit

The Air Force’s tiny fleet of twenty Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bombers is the only long-range penetrating strike asset in the service’s arsenal. No other aircraft in the Air Force inventory has the range to take off from the continental United States and strike at targets on the other side of the globe inside highly contested airspace. The B-2 has an unrefueled range of around 6000 nautical miles, but that can be extended to around 10,000 with aerial refueling.

RecommendedCould the Battleship Make a Comeback? [8]

Nor does any other warplane in the Air Force inventory have the ability to penetrate the kinds of dense air defenses against which the B-2 was designed to operate. The B-2 was designed to fly deep into the heart of the Soviet Union to deliver a payload of thermonuclear bombs in the event of a third world war. While the B-2 has never had occasion to fly that doomsday mission, those same capabilities allow the bomber to strike with near impunity against almost any target around the globe. Further, while fighters like the F-22 [9] or F-35 are very stealthy against high-frequency fire control radars [10], a large flying-wing aircraft like the B-2 is also difficult to track using low frequency radars operating in the UHF and VHF bands.

The problem for the Air Force is that there were only twenty-one B-2s ordered before the first Bush administration terminated the program. Of those twenty-one jets, one has already been lost. Not only is the fleet tiny and in high demand, the bomber has sensitive coatings and is ridiculously expensive to maintain. To make matters worse, potential adversaries like Russia and China are learning to counter the B-2 [11].

The Air Force has a follow-on bomber project called the Long Range Strike-Bomber in the works which is set to become operational in the mid-2020s. The service hopes to acquire between eighty and 100 of the new stealth bombers for a cost of $550 million per jet, which is less than the B-2’s near $2 billion price tag.

Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor

High flying and fast, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor stealth fighter is arguably the best air superiority fighter in existence. In many ways, gaining and maintaining air superiority is the core mission for the service. Only with absolute control of the air and space can ground and sea surface elements maneuver unchallenged.

The F-22 is extremely stealthy and is fitted with advanced avionics. Further, it can cruise at supersonic speeds greater than Mach 1.8 at altitudes up to 60,000 ft for extended periods. When operating at lower speeds and altitudes, it has the ability to vector thrust from its engines—which gives it tremendous maneuverability. In short, the Raptor’s combination of sheer speed, altitude, stealth and powerful sensors makes it a lethal killer.

The problem for the Air Force is that there are only 186 Raptors in its inventory—less than half of what it needs. Of those 186, only 120 are “combat coded”—which is Air Force speak for ready for war. There are only six operational Raptor squadrons, one operational training squadron and a handful of test and training assets at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and Edwards Air Force Base in California. Those squadrons are also smaller than the typical Air Force fighter units. Raptor squadrons only have twenty-one jets and two attrition reserve planes. By contrast, a typical fighter squadron normally has twenty-four jets and two spares.

The Air Force is starting to investigate follow-ons to the Raptor with the F-X program.

Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle

The F-15E Strike Eagle [12] is the long-range heavy hitter of the Air Force’s fighter fleet. The Air Force has 213 of these dual-role fighters, which replaced the long-serving General Dynamic F-111 strike aircraft.

Unlike the air superiority–focused F-15C/D from which it was derived, the Strike Eagle is primarily a strike aircraft. It has far greater range and payload capacity than any other fighter in the Air Force inventory. But even with the added air-to-ground role, the F-15E remains a respectable fighter—especially in beyond-visual-range engagements.

The F-15E, like many aircraft in the Air Force’s ageing inventory, will continue to serve well into the 2030s. The service is upgrading the jets with new Raytheon APG-82 active electronically scanned array radars and other modern hardware, but a number of pilots complained that foreign versions of the jet are far better equipped. Meanwhile, while the upgrades will keep the Strike Eagle relevant into the 2030s, the Air Force has no plans to replace the venerable jets.

Originally, the Air Force had hoped to replace the Strike Eagle with a version of the F-22 Raptor, but those plans died when then defense secretary Robert Gates cancelled that program. One senior Air Force official suggested that the service should extend the production of the future LRS-B stealth bomber to fill the gap—but said that was his personal opinion, rather than service policy.

Boeing KC-135

While often overlooked, what makes the U.S. Air Force unique amongst the world’s air forces is its ability to hit targets around the globe. The KC-135 aerial refueling tanker [13] is what enables American air power to conduct its missions. That’s not just for the Air Force; the Navy and Marine Corps’ aviation assets are also dependent on the air arm’s “big wing” tankers to carry out their missions.

The Eisenhower-era KC-135 is old, and it needs to be replaced urgently. The Air Force has made several abortive attempts to recapitalize part of the fleet over the past two decades. The current Boeing KC-46 tanker effort will replace a part of the massive KC-135 fleet. However, even with the addition of 179 KC-46 tankers by 2028, the bulk of the fleet will remain KC-135s. The Air Force hopes to conduct follow-on competitions to replace the remainder of the fleet eventually.

— This story originally appeared in The National Interest CLICK HERE —

15 Reasons Why Flying United Airlines Sucks

flying-united-airlinesWhen I decided to move to Sweden, I switched airlines. Normally, I’m a loyal American Airlines traveler and member of the Oneworld alliance. I like American Airlines and their Oneworld partners (except Finnair — that airline sucks!). However, the main airline in Sweden, SAS, is part of the Star Alliance network. Not wanting to lose my elite flier benefits, this year I switched to United Airlines (the main US Star Alliance member) in order to earn elite status. That way, when I flew SAS, I could get lounge access and potential upgrades.

I had never flown with United prior to their merger with Continental. I can’t really say how their service compares to what it used to be, but after 15 flights with them this year, I can say that their current service is absolute shit. I mean, it is so awful that I would rather walk than fly United. Once I get back to America, I plan on switching back to American Airlines, especially since they just decided to join the rest of the world andupgrade their planes. I long for American every time I sit on a United airplane. And the thought of having to fly United for the next few months of the year in order to reach the top-tier service makes me depressed. (Once I hit top tier, I’ll get a status match from American so I can be top tier on their network.)

Let me count the reasons why I think you should never fly United Airlines if you have the choice:

  1. They lose children.
  2. They kick service dogs.
  3. They break guitars.
  4. United is so bad, pilots will still tell you they’re a Continental crew. It’s their not-so-subtle way of telling you they aren’t part of this mess.
  5. United doesn’t respond to customer service requests on Twitter.
  6. When you do call customer service, you get some guy in India who has no idea what you’re talking about. Now, I’m a product of the global age, and I don’t care where a call center is located. Hell, the Mars rover could be answering my customer service request. Doesn’t matter. What I care about is that the customer service representative speaks my language and knows what I’m talking about. It took 20 minutes for the rep to figure out I wanted a round-the-world ticket, not a round-trip ticket. Then, upon telling me that wasn’t his department, he transferred me to someone else who had no idea why I was calling and who also passed me off to another department. And another time when I called for help, the representative just hung up on me.
  7. Their planes are old and ugly. They keep talking about upgrades, but at least American has a date for the arrival of their new planes. United does not.
  8. They have the worst on-time status of all the major airlines.
  9. They lose the most bags.
  10. Their on-board meals are a joke. I understand that economy meals are never good, but when I’m paying $10 USD for something, I’d like it to be at least mildly edible. Their snack boxes are not. At least I can get a sandwich on other airlines. The bad (and free) cheese sandwich I got from Croatia Airlines was better than what you get fed on United.
  11. There are no upgrades, even when you offer money. On my flight to Sweden, business class only had three people in it. I asked if there were any elite upgrades and when they said no, I asked if I could purchase an upgrade, having heard the guy in front of me ask and get an affirmative response. I was told, “No, there’s no space.” That plane flew with a half-empty first class and a mostly empty business class. Way to encourage customer loyalty among your elite fliers, United!
  12. Their in-flight service sucks, and the flight attendants are pretty sour. (My guess? It’s a manifestation of the crappy corporate culture post-merger.)
  13. Have I mentioned their planes are old and outdated?
  14. They have no Wi-Fi.
  15. Their flights cost more than their competitors…but with crappier service!

Words cannot express the dislike I have for United. They make my blood boil. US Airwaysused to be my most hated airline in the States, but now I think United is far worse. At least US Airways is cheap! This video sums out everything I would tell United:

Not a day that goes by that I don’t hear people complain about United. The news is littered with reports of their customer-service problems, and frequent fliers actively try to avoid United. When American Airlines offered to match the elite status of United’s most frequent fliers earlier this year, so many people tried to switch that American stopped the offer early.

One of the reasons I love the Star Alliance is that it is a large airline network with far more members than Oneworld, including Air New Zealand, ANA, and Singapore Airlines — all top-class airlines. But if being a Star Alliance member means I have to fly United when I travel around America…no thanks. I’ll pass.

If you’re looking for an airline, please choose anyone besides United.

How my family of 4 traveled almost for free on Southwest for a year

By the end of this year, my family of four will have traveled to six destinations in the United States, spending no more than $100 per trip on airfare. We’ve kayaked in the ocean off San Diego, we’ll hike the Rocky Mountains, meet up with Mickey at Walt Disney World and Disneyland and frolic on the beach on Marco Island.

And we’ll do it all flying Southwest – and entirely on frequent flyer miles.


FlightAttendantSpeechSouthwest Airlines is well known for its lower fares and more relaxed attitude about air travel, and the video below makes it very clear why!

The flight attendant in this clip is both talented and dedicated, and he is bound and determined to give his passengers a bit of entertainment as the board the flight, find their seats and put away their bags.

This musical Southwest flight attendant named David puts on a funny, but quite professional rap version of the usual safety and introductory speech that passengers here on every single airline flight they take.

David’s rap song version covered all of the important information but presented it to passengers in a much more entertaining fashion. He began by asking the passengers on the flight to please clap their hands or stomp their feet to give him a beat to work with. Once a few passengers started up, pretty soon most of the cabin was clapping or stomping along, and David launched into his rap safety / instructional spiel.

The talented flight attendant and rap artist got a hearty and well deserved round of applause at the end of his rap monologue.

Don’t Take a Picture on the Plane Until You Read This Story

Next time you’re tempted to take a snapshot of an interesting cloud formation or your seatmate sprawling into your personal space on a plane, remember Arash Shirazi and Steven Leslie.

Both of them are law-abiding citizens and air travelers. And both recently ran afoul of the airline industry’s confusing photography rules.

With only days before the busy summer travel season unleashes millions of shutterbugs on America’s airports, it’s helpful to know about the airline industry’s little problem with cameras so that your own camera doesn’t become hung up on it.

Don't Take a Picture on the Plane Until You Read This StoryShirazi, a music agent, was recently waiting in the Reagan National terminal for a flight from Washington to Los Angeles when he decided to take a picture of an American Airlines aircraft with his smartphone. He wanted to share it with his friends on social media.

A gate agent saw him snapping photos, stopped Shirazi and “demanded to know why I was taking a picture of airport equipment,” he remembers. “I showed her the picture and offered to delete it, but she became even more combative, accusing me of being a security threat. She made it a point to tell me that she was going to document this security breach in my travel record.”

Shirazi said he apologized, adding that even as a frequent flier he was unaware of any prohibitions against taking photos of planes. “But she was curt and told me to either get on the plane or take the next one,” he recalls.

He’s right. American Airlines doesn’t publish any prohibitions against taking photos of its aircraft. But late last year it updated its internal policies to allow employees at the airport, including ticket counters, gates, cargo, baggage, and onboard, to stop passengers from taking pictures.

“The policy is in place to protect employees and customers,” says Andrea Huguely, an American Airlines spokeswoman.

Steven Leslie faced a similar reaction from an airline employee when he started filming a passenger boarding a JetBlue flight. Leslie, a soft-spoken pharmacist flying from Albuquerque to New York, noticed a family with a sick child. The crew looked worried about the boy’s health. His family said he had cancer and had been medically cleared to fly.

The incident occurred only a few days after another cancer patient was expelled from an Alaska Airlines flight under similar circumstances, and Leslie decided to tape the conversation on his phone.

“It was my original intent to record this uncomfortable situation because I felt it was wrong,” he says.

Apparently, JetBlue felt something was wrong, too. After the family was removed from the aircraft, an airline employee ordered that Leslie delete the video. He politely refused, and then he, too, was escorted from the aircraft.

The reason? A crew member told him he didn’t “feel safe” being recorded.

JetBlue rebooked Leslie on the next flight, which departed nine hours later. After I covered the incident on my consumer advocacy blog and a New Mexico TV station aired a report about Leslie’s expulsion, the airline reviewed the incident and admitted to Leslie that the crew member’s request to delete the recording fell into a “gray area.” It apologized, offered him a flight credit and covered some of his expenses associated with spending an extra night in Albuquerque.

It turns out JetBlue doesn’t have a published photography policy, either. “Our crew members use their professional judgment in evaluating the appropriate use of photography or videography onboard, especially when it involves the privacy of other customers and the safe and secure operations of the airline,” says Morgan Johnston, an airline spokesman.

If these incidents prove anything, it’s that airlines can be a little camera-shy. That’s not new. When pressed, most airlines say that their policies allow cameras to be used onboard to record a “personal” event, but that snapshots of the crew, other passengers or any security procedure are off-limits.

But what’s unusual is the number of photography cases that have crossed my desk recently, thanks to the loosening of restrictions on in-flight electronics. They’re amplified by a larger debate about police misconduct and body cameras happening beyond travel. If I had to make an educated guess, I’d predict more confrontations between crew members and passengers with cameras in the future.

Can airlines stop you from taking photos? Yes, if you’re on a plane, says Daniel Greenberg, an attorney who specializes in photography rights issues.

“You can’t prohibit photography in public,” he says. “But the prohibition of photography on private property is legitimate. That decision is up to the property owner. If you don’t want to follow the carrier’s rules, don’t get on the carrier’s plane.”

For summer air travelers, it’s perhaps best to view photography on planes as you would taking pictures in France, a country known for its restrictive public photography laws. At least that’s how Nancy Nally, a frequent flier and photographer, thinks of it.

“I’m very careful about the circumstances I photograph in onboard,” she explains. “I am very clear about not pointing the camera at anyone but myself or inanimate objects. I don’t photograph with flight attendants nearby. I have gotten very good at not drawing attention to myself because I know that my travel schedule is subject to the whims of the flight attendants.”

Jeffrey Loop, an attorney and photographer, agrees that keeping a low profile is the best way to avoid a photography-related entanglement. “If you are taking photos on the aircraft and are asked to stop, don’t argue or take offense,” he adds. “Just stop and save yourself a heap of potential trouble. Arguing with cabin crew about your perceived rights will almost always be a losing proposition.”

Why are airlines so photo-sensitive? Part of the reason is surely publicity; they don’t want to end up in a viral video. Another part is security, which Shirazi’s incident only hints at.

Either way, it means that on your next flight, you’ll need to watch where you point that lens.

After you’ve left a comment here, let’s continue the discussion on my consumer advocacy site or on Twitter, Facebook and Google. I also have a newsletter and you’ll definitely want to order my new, amazingly helpful and subversive book called How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle). Photo: Shutterstock.


10 mistakes you’re making at the airport

By Deb Hopewell

From the baggage drop to the security line to the boarding gate, just getting through the airport these days can throw pitfalls at you that you never saw coming. Even if you sail through the lines, there are other things you can do to make the wisest use of your time — and money — at the airport. Here are 10 typical airport mistakes you may be making, as well as my expert tips on making it out of the airport, and onto your plane, with as little hassle as possible.

1. Not downloading your airline/airport app

Using your carrier’s app is important not just at the airport, but before you get there, too. Most carriers have apps you can download on your smartphone that will alert you if your flight is delayed or canceled, even before you leave for the airport. Once there, the information on the app is often more up-to-date than the arrival/departure screens in the terminal. More and more airports have developed apps that help travelers navigate the terminals with maps, lists of services, etc. One particularly useful app is GateGuru, which covers more than 200 airports and, among other features, allows users to rate shops and restaurants as well as offer insider tips — a Yelp for airports.

2. Not checking in online

I was flabbergasted recently at the line snaking up to the ticket counter — just to check in. (And there were even check-in kiosks!) Unless you have some kind of problem that can’t be resolved ahead of time, there’s no good reason for not checking in online. Just have the ticket sent to your phone (via text or email link), and if you don’t have any luggage to check, you can skip the counter and head straight to the security line. (If you have luggage you’ll need to drop it off, but if you’ve checked in beforehand, this goes quickly.) Also, some airlines only let you choose a seat when you check in; if you’re flying one of these, you’ll want to check in and choose your seat as soon as possible within the check-in time (usually 24 hours).

 3. Not having TSA PreCheck

If you fly more than just a few times a year, you’ll want to apply for TSA PreCheck. It’s very rare that the PreCheck lines are anywhere as long as the regular lines.  And because you don’t remove your shoes, laptop and liquids, the lines move much quicker AND you’re not likely to leave something behind in the bin as you scramble to get things back into your carryon. You’ll need to fill out the application and pay a $85 non-refundable fee, then schedule an appointment at one of the more than 380 enrollment centers. That may sound like a lot of work (not to mention the money), but it’s good for five years and worth its price in saved time and aggravation.

4. Not bringing food with you

It’s no secret that airport food, whether from a grab-and-go vendor or a sit-down restaurant, comes with a hefty price tag — and the only value-add is convenience, usually not quality. And that’s not the only reason to pack a snack in your carry-on luggage: If you get held up in the TSA line and get squeezed for time, a sandwich, chips, cookies and fruit in your carry-on can save the day. Most food is allowed, except for liquids like salad dressings, soups, yogurt, etc. If in doubt, check the TSA’s website for prohibited food items.

5. Wearing the wrong clothing

I don’t just dress for comfort on the plane, I strategically dress to get through the line faster too. Even if you have TSA PreCheck, there will be times when those lines are closed and you end up in the regular lines, unpacking your laptop, taking off your shoes and belt, and digging out the liquids. It pays to play it safe if at all possible. That means eliminating anything that could set off alarms when going through the body scanner, like chunky jewelry or a belt. Keep your footwear simple, too, with shoes that are quick and easy to get on and off (and don’t forget socks!).

6. Not taking advantage of courtesy checked bag at the gate

If you’re a travel warrior who never checks a bag, this isn’t for you. But if you have to check a bag (i.e. you’ll need to go to baggage claim anyway), you can often check your carry-on at the gate for no extra charge. I’ve run across this numerous times, especially on domestic flights that are full and when overhead space is at a premium.  Usually the gate agent will make an announcement asking for volunteers to check their carry-ons, but I’ve asked and been given the OK. I just make sure the things I need on the plane can fit in a bag under my seat, and I have one less bag to carry around — particularly helpful if you have a connecting flight and don’t want to lug it around the airport.

7. Not playing nice

It’s not a matter of if, only when: You’re going to need someone’s help. It could be a problem of your own making, or the airline’s, or a force majeure, but it almost never pays to be angry, indignant or whiny. Patience and a smile go a long way when it comes to increasingly harried gate and flight attendants, TSA agents and even your fellow travelers. I’ve seen overweight bags given a pass (no punitive fee), seats changed and special favors accommodated clearly because someone asked nicely. And even if you don’t end up getting what you want (or need), you know you went about it the best way possible.

8. Not buying a pass to the airport lounge

If you’re not an elite flyer, or aren’t enrolled in a credit card that offers this perk, the world of airport lounges can seem like a pricey, exotic indulgence. But there are occasions — most notably if you have a long international layover — that it’s worth buying a day pass to your carrier’s airport lounge. Not long ago I had a seven-hour layover in San Salvador, and I happily coughed up the $25 fee just to have a quiet place to rest. It also included free Wi-Fi, surprisingly good food and a generous array of beverages, including liquor. Most U.S. airlines charge $50-$60 for a day pass, which is a good chunk of change. But not paying food and drinks offsets a good part of that.

9. Sending personal information over the airport Wi-Fi

Thankfully, more airports are acknowledging that free Wi-Fi isn’t just a convenience for travelers, it’s a necessity. And that’s a good thing! But never forget that “free” doesn’t mean “safe”: Public Wi-Fi networks aren’t secure, so whatever you do, don’t type in personal information — passwords, IDs, etc. — or you could return from your trip only to find your Facebook has been hacked and your bank account drained.

10. Not marking your luggage

You’ve been there, done that, and now you’re almost home. All that’s left is to grab your luggage from baggage claim. And one by one here they come, an endless stream of suitcases that look more or less the same. Save yourself the hassle of looking at each bag as is it goes by marking yours with a brightly colored tag (mine’s bright orange). Not only will it have your contact info  — gasp — your luggage go missing, but if all goes as planned you’ll be able to spot yours in a quick second and on your way you’ll go.