There’s a new Internet sensation taking social media by storm, called passenger shaming. Created by former flight attendant Shawn Kathleen, the movement aims to shame passengers who act badly on flights. Passenger Shaming has taken off with travelers on Facebook and Instagram. It aims to shine the bright light of online justice on people whose rude, often disgusting, airplane behavior makes the flying experience even more miserable for the rest of us.The photos are submitted via email by anonymous flyers and flight attendants.
People often wonder if they can sue over the images. It’s possible, but unlikely. These are taken in a “perceived public space” but include passengers who are sleeping and do not expect to find their images plastered over the Internet. Most of the pictures make it difficult to identify the person, but there still could be some claims of injury. Since it is unlikely that you would be able to track down the anonymous flyer who sent the submission, you are left with suing the airline. Well… maybe.
First, airlines may have rules against photographing other passengers, so you’d need to check with the airline to see if they have them. Second, passengers could claim an expectation of privacy, but this a grey area. It depends upon whether the general area of the passenger cabin is considered public space, or a general area of observation. Generally speaking, you don’t have such protections in public spaces. You might be able to file an inclusion claim based on a public encounter but it is difficult. Some of these pictures could cross the privacy line in getting too close to the subject or intruding into an area where there may be a greater expectation of privacy.
In the end, the best way to avoid having your picture taken in an unflattering light, is to not engage in the activity that will catch the attention of fellow passengers and flight crew. Trying to repair damage to your reputation after the fact is not advised. Equally so, we do not recommend taking pictures of fellow passengers caught in compromising positions and plastering them on social media sites. While the risk may be small, you are still subjecting yourself to possible legal headaches from both the airline and the photographed passenger.
Give us a call. We can help answer your questions and let you know your legal rights. If you think you do have a case, because is some cases there may be one, we can help lay out your legal options and discuss the best course of action.
Goldstein & BashnerN/A