Can You Take Your Video Camera on an Airplane?

Yes, you can; however, using it to record images onboard a commercial aircraft is an entirely different story. It’s a lesson I learned the hard way during my recent flight to Hawaii.

Since the birth of my daughter I have diligently brought my camcorder on all of our family’s vacations. When we fly I simply place my video camera in my carry-on bag and shoot at will. However, during our recent flight departing from Chicago to Honolulu I was told that shooting at will was no longer acceptable.

Actually, this is a more precise recounting of what happened on board our flight:

Shortly after we boarded the plane (but prior to take off) I gave my daughter my camcorder to play with while I was getting her art supplies, books, and snacks out of her backpack. I was completely preoccupied with getting the items out; the bag zipped up and returned to the overhead compartment (before another passenger snagged the little open space that was left) that I didn’t notice the flight attendant standing next to me. I snapped out of it when I heard her saying, “No, no. No, no sweetie. You can’t use that in here.”

The flight attendant was talking to my 3-year-old daughter while trying to get her to hand over my camcorder. Mind you this is all happening while other passengers were busy boarding the plane. Given the timing of her remarks I simply took the camera from my daughter, gave her a coloring book instead, and didn’t ask any questions.

I would note that while my camera was on and live images could be seen on the LCD screen it was not in record mode. Of course, the flight attendant had no idea of knowing that and I certainly wasn’t going to get into a Q&A session with her when 300 other passengers were trying to get to their seats.

The bottom line is that I didn’t realize the use of camcorders was prohibited in commercial airliners.

Newsflash: It isn’t.

Once I returned home I called the airline and was told that there isn’t an all-encompassing ban on video camera use throughout the industry. (Meaning the FAA doesn’t have a specific regulation stating that taking video images inside a plane or out an aircraft’s window is “illegal.”) HOWEVER, individual carriers have the right to set and enforce their own rules regarding the use of video cameras on their planes (whether they are on the ground or in the air). Moreover, individual flight attendants have the right to restrict the use of any digital media and passengers are required to do what the flight crew says under U.S. regulations.

Makes me glad I didn’t answer questions at the time.

Have you ever been “caught” using your video camera during a flight on a commercial aircraft?

Related Articles:

My Favorite Video Camera

Cutting Edge Camcorders

Why You Shouldn’t Have Your Film Go Through Airport X-Ray Machines

Rules to Remember Before Taking Your Camera on an Airplane

Why You Should Never Pack Unused Film in Your Suitcase

Photo Challenges

Protecting Your Camera from the Elements

Should I Delete This Picture?

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.