Porter passengers allege arrest threats for filming exchange with airline staff
Porter passengers flying from Boston to Toronto last Friday say they were threatened with arrest if they didn’t delete recordings of statements made by staff at the gate when the flight was cancelled.
Kira Wegler, one of the passengers who filmed the encounter with Porter personnel, said the flight was initially delayed for three hours before passengers were allowed to board the plane. They sat on the tarmac for another two hours, she told CTV News Channel Tuesday, as crew provided intermittent information about a problem with a luggage latch door that wouldn’t close. She said passengers were told that if it couldn’t be fixed within a certain timeframe, the flight would go beyond the crew’s allotted shift time and would have to be cancelled.
Eventually, passengers were told they had to exit the plane and go to the gate for more information.
“So the entire plane unloaded and was waiting in lane at the gate for about another two hours. No announcements were made to the passengers. They claimed that the loudspeaker was broken so they were unable to communicate to the entire plane. So only the individuals at the front of the line were able to get updates, but very minimal.”
People began to crowd the desk for answers, said Wegler.
“We just wanted to go home and we wanted to know where we would be sleeping that night.”
She said frustrated people began to pull out their phones to document the “very poor customer service that we were receiving.”
Porter staff then came from behind the desk and demanded that all the recordings be deleted or security would be called, said Wegler.
“That’s when I pulled out my phone and started videotaping those threats and those demands. At that point, as you heard in the video, they were going to people’s phones and making sure they were not only deleted out of their albums but out of their recently deleted folders as well.”
Wegler did not delete her recordings. She said Porter representatives were “very rude and disrespectful” and she believed they just wanted to keep any footage from hitting social media.
“I figured these were just meaningless threats and if they were going to call security, then we would deal with that when the time comes.”
The passengers did not make it back to Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto until Monday afternoon.
There is generally no law in Canada or the United States that prohibits pictures or videos from being taken in a public place and officials with the Boston Logan airport confirmed there was nothing prohibiting filming in the facility, except in secure areas.
Porter also confirmed it has no policy against filming in airports.
The airline issued a statement apologizing for the delay and cancellation, saying it was due to severe winter weather affecting the East Coast.
But Porter said that airline staff simply misunderstood regulations about videotaping in secure areas of Boston’s airport.
“While the request to stop filming or delete footage was incorrect, the intention was only to try and enforce what was believed to be an airport policy,” communications director Brad Cicero said in a statement to CTVNews.ca. Police were not called to the gate by Porter staff and Cicero says that "there was no direct statement that passengers would be arrested."
Wegler is not impressed by Porter's statement.
“I think it’s an empty corporate apology. I think if they did, in fact, misinterpret the situation, they could have done it in a way more professional and courteous manner, not come from behind the counter and threaten us and check our devices.”
She said it’s up to the airline to make sure its staff is properly trained.
Wegler has been offered a $100 Porter voucher and the airline did help with accommodations and some meals for stranded passengers.
“I’m definitely going to think twice next time flying Porter and I suggest knowing your rights before you fly Porter or any other airline,” she said.