A Miami photographer was escorted off a US Airways plane and deemed a “security risk” after she snapped a photo of an employee’s nametag at Philadelphia International Airport Friday.
Sandy DeWitt said the employee, whose name was Tonialla G., was being rude to several passengers in the boarding area of the flight to Miami.
So DeWitt snapped a photo of her nametag with her iPhone because she planned to complain about her in a letter to US Airways. But the photo didn’t come out because it was too dark.
However, once DeWitt was settled in her seat, preparing for take-off, Tonialla G. entered the plane and confronted her.
“She told me to delete the photo,” DeWitt said in an interview with Photography is Not a Crime Saturday morning.
DeWitt, who already had her phone turned off in preparation for take-off, turned the phone back on to show her that it didn’t come out, but deleted the photo anyway.
“I complied with her wishes but it’s not something I would normally do,” she said. “It just wasn’t usable.”
But Tonialla G. wouldn’t let the issue go. She then walked into the cockpit to inform the pilot that DeWitt was a “security risk.”
Next thing DeWitt knew, she was being escorted off the plane by two flight attendants. Her husband followed.
“I announced to the other passengers that I was being removed because I took a photo,” she said. “ I announced that photography is not a crime.”
By this time, she had Tonialla G.’s named memorized, so she didn’t even need the photo anymore.
Off the plane, she spoke to a Michael Lofton, a US Airways manager at Philadelphia International Airport, who told her she would not be allowed back on the plane because she was a security risk.
But even though she was supposedly a security risk, Lofton directed her to American Airlines where they supposedly had a flight back to Miami leaving soon.
However, that flight had already departed and it was already after 7 p.m., so there were no other flights back to Miami until the following morning.
“We were expecting to spend the night at the airport,” she said.
They eventually boarded a Southwest Airlines flight to Fort Lauderdale at 11 p.m.
They landed at 1:15 a.m. and had to wake up a friend to drive them to Miami International Airport, about a 45 minute drive, where their car was parked.
“Southwest really stepped up to the plate for us,” she said. “I can’t say enough about them.”
DeWitt is a commercial photographer who graduated from the Rhode Island School of Photography.
UPDATE: Sandy DeWitt is not the only traveler who has had issues with US Airways. Check out Tracy Reed’s story.
UPDATE II: Business Insider ranked US Airways sixth in a list of the 19 Most Hated Companies in America.
UPDATE III: MSNBC interviewed US Airways about the incident and was told that DeWitt was removed from the plane because she used profane language.
Todd Lehmacher, a spokesperson for US Airways, told msnbc.com that DeWitt was removed for being “disruptive.”
“Once onboard, she was using foul and explicit language,” Lehmacher said. “She was removed at the request of the captain.”
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