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Porter Airlines passengers stranded in Boston told to delete videos from phones or face getting arrested

Newsweek logo Newsweek 2018-01-09 Newsweek Europe

(Provided by Storyful)

Passengers made to sit on the tarmac at Boston Logan International Airport for around two hours say they were forced to delete videos of the incident from their phones by an airline staff member, who also threatened to have them arrested if they didn't comply. 

After would-be passengers of the Toronto-bound Porter Airlines flight learned that their trip would be canceled due to a mechanical malfunction on the aircraft, they were ordered to leave the plane and wait in the terminal building.

“There was a problem with the latch door to the luggage compartment and when it passed 10 o’clock apparently the crew couldn’t fly anymore because … in their words, they would turn into pumpkins,” Kira Wegler, a Toronto resident returning home from a Florida vacation with her family, told Canadian television network Global News.

smoke coming out of the water: Logan Airport Boston Bomb Cyclone © Provided by IBT Media (UK) Logan Airport Boston Bomb Cyclone After being told that the gate's public address system was not working, passengers had to line up to get information individually from Porter staff. 

 Things became heated however, when frustrated passengers began to pull out their phones and video record Porter staff delivering information. 

“At that point, the personnel came from behind the desk and started threatening us to call the police if we don’t delete the videos off of our phones and show evidence that it’s gone from our trash bin,” said Wegler.

She said passengers were warned that if they failed to delete their video recordings, they "were going to have us arrested."

Wegler said many of her fellow passengers agreed to delete their videos. However, she decided to keep some on her phone, despite airline staff's threats. 

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Her videos appear to show a Porter representative explaining that video recording in the airport was not allowed under security rules. 

The Massachusetts Port Authority (MPA) has said there is no such law or policy, however.

"There is no law or policy that prohibits filming inside Logan Airport except in secure areas and of all security procedures," MPA spokesperson Jennifer Mehigan told Newsweek. 

Porter Airlines spokesperson Brad Cicero told Newsweek the company "apologizes to everyone who was affected by the flight delay and for the information provided about taking video." He said the delay was a result of the "bomb cyclone" that rocked much of the east coast.

"We do not have any policy that would prevent people from taking video at airports," he said, adding that: "Circumstances may differ on an aircraft if taking video has the potential to affect safety or the personal comfort of others on board."

"There is an airport policy at Boston Logan Airport about not allowing filming in secure airport areas and at security screening. In this particular case, there was a misunderstanding by the team member involved that taking video beyond the security checkpoint was part of the secure area and was not permitted. He did not realize the distinction at the time, but we have advised the team members involved for future reference." 

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Cicero said that while the request to stop filming and to delete footage was incorrect, "the intention was only to try and enforce what was believed to be an airport policy." He said that he has been advised that in practice, if policies are in place, which was not the case in this instance, it is not uncommon for staff to ask that video and photos to be deleted.

He also refuted passengers' claims, insisting that "while it was indicated at the time that police based at the airport could be called to address this situation, there was no direct statement that passengers would be arrested."

Passengers ended up having to spend three extra days in Boston until they could be placed on a different Toronto-bound Porter flight on Monday. 

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While Porter has provided hotel accommodation and covered the cost of some meals, it has refused to pay stranded passengers additional compensation, citing weather as the cause of its flight delay, rather than mechanical reasons.

It is common policy for airlines to be exempt from having to pay compensation for flights delayed by weather-related issues. 

"The conditions were such that, after arriving, one of the aircraft doors froze," Cicero said. "It could not be fixed prior to the crew exhausting their regulated duty day limits, preventing the flight from departing."

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"Because the root causes of the cancellation were weather related, we assisted with finding hotels in the area for those who needed accommodation," Cicero said. "Porter does not typically pay for these costs when flights are affected by weather, but we do our best to help find reduced rates."

He added: "We understand that this is frustrating for anyone who has a flight delayed for multiple days. It isn't our intention to put people in this situation, but the severe nature of the storm resulted in significant effects."

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