British Airways has introduced new social media guidelines that pilots, cabin crew and other employees fear effectively bar them from posting photos of themselves while in uniform on popular social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and Twitter.
The Heathrow-based carrier has forbidden staffers from creating content, such as taking and sharing a seemingly innocent photo of themselves at work, during times when they are “professionally engaged” in their job.
Some pilots and cabin crew that had found success and popularity on social media by posting photos and other content about their jobs have interpreted the new rules as a near-total ban on their hobby.
Fearing that they could face serious disciplinary action, including termination, many employees took to social media on Wednesday to announce they would no longer be posting content from their work lives.
The rules are believed to have been introduced after a surge in social media activity by pilots and cabin crew which had risked leaking sensitive data. The airline was also worried about the rise of ‘social media influencer’ behaviour within its own ranks.
Popular content that could fall foul of the new rules includes pilots sharing photos from the cockpit, cabin crew taking photos of themselves and their colleagues anywhere on a plane, and any photos taken of a passenger – such as a celebrity – unless they provide express written consent for the photo to be shared.
The new social media rules also expressly ban photos and videos taken into the ‘secret’ crew rest bunks, as well as timelapse videos of crew working in the gallery during the meal service or during boarding and deplaning.
The iconic shot of cabin crew sitting inside an aircraft engine has also been barred under the new guidelines.
A spokesperson for British Airways denied the guidelines barred employees from posting photos of themselves on social media and instead insisted that the new rules provided more freedom.
“We’ve not stopped any colleague from posting on social media – in fact, quite the opposite,” the airline said in a statement.
“We’ve given our people clarity about what’s appropriate and when. For example, when our colleagues are flying an aircraft, they’re responsible for the safety of everyone on board. It’s not unreasonable to ask them to wait until their break to take photos”.
The rules seemingly go far beyond social media guidelines drawn up by rival international carriers, where employees have been engaged in similar content creation for years without any adverse effects.
One of the main exceptions to this rule, however, is Qatar Airways (which holds a stake in BA’s parent company), where cabin crew are effectively banned from posting photos of themselves in uniform while employed at the airline.
Of course, cabin crew at the Doha-based airline still take photos of themselves in uniform and onboard the airline’s planes but they have to wait until they quit their job before they can post these photos on social media.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.