San Francisco

United Agent Cancels Man's Trip For Taping Argument

Airline apologizes for confrontation

The high-profile, increasingly videotaped, and often viral battle between airlines and their passengers ensnared a Hercules frequent flyer this past weekend.

He says a United Airlines agent canceled his trip for doing what other frustrated passengers have done to prove their case: videotaping an airline worker.

Navang Oza, 37, posted an unedited clip of lengthy interaction with a ticket counter worker in New Orleans.

“Stop! Stop! Put it down now,” the agent says in the video.

The 4 a.m. confrontation occurred in New Orleans when Oza was checking in for his flight home to San Francisco. Oza says he was told it would cost $300 to check the same bulky bag that cost $125 on the way there. 

"In trying to get an answer, the lady was being rude," he said. So, he started recording.

The clip begins with her pointing her finger at him. “You did not have my permission to videotape,” the agent says.

Next, she appears to instruct an agent to her left. “Cancel the reservation,” she says.

“I want to know why,” Oza asks.

“Because you did not have my permission,” she said.

Oza said he was shocked.

"I was shocked because I didn't know she had the right to cancel my flight because I started recording," he said.

About a minute after ordering his trip canceled for taping her, the United agent is seen recording Oza.

“I’ll do the same thing,” she said, pointing her smartphone at Oza’s.

Some airlines do prohibit photography on the plane. But NBC Bay Area aviation analyst Mike McCarron says those restrictions don't apply inside airports.

"The woman was incorrect,” McCarron said. “[Oza] doesn't have to have her permission to film. He's in a public area, and he can film as much as he wants. As long as he's in a public area and so is she."

Oza said the United agent eventually called airport police. Oza was still rolling when an officer appeared.

“Can I at least keep this recording?” Oza asks the officer. The officer replies, “Sir, you have the right to do whatever you want; it’s a public space.”

Oza admits he had alcohol in his system from the night before and hadn’t slept much. But possible intoxication wasn’t why the United agent canceled his reservation. Her distaste for the video clip was.

“Until that [clip] is erased, you’re not traveling,” she tells Oza.

United Airlines is investigating.

In a statement, the airline said, “The video does not reflect the positive customer experience we strive to offer, and for that we apologize. We are reviewing this situation, including talking with Mr. Oza and our employees to better understand what happened.“

Oza's footage joins a string of other recent, regrettable airline videos. He encourages frustrated passengers to continue taping.

"If people are being rude, if people are making up rules at kiosks of airlines, I feel like that's something we should be recording and sharing with everyone," he said.

Oza said he ended up buying a one-way ticket on a different airline. He wants United to pay for that trip and cancel his future travel on United without a penalty.

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