Recently, travelers have noticed built-in cameras on their in-flight entertainment systems. One passenger had made the observation on their Singapore Airlines flight. Another passenger noticed the camera in their IFE on their American Airlines flight. As alarming as it may be, the airlines state that the cameras are not in use during the flight. The overall statements from the Airlines justify the IFE’s by mentioning they are bought by a supplier.
Just found this interesting sensor looking at me from the seat back on board of Singapore Airlines. Any expert opinion of whether this a camera? Perhaps @SingaporeAir could clarify how it is used? pic.twitter.com/vy0usqruZG
— Vitaly Kamluk (@vkamluk) February 17, 2019
American Airlines Camera Incident
Apparently, Rihanna might not be the only one watching what you do on the plane. Usually, the sole purpose of the IFE in front of you during your flight provides media entertainment. One passenger on an American Airlines flight noticed the camera on the IFE. So the question naturally rises, “Are passengers being spied on?”
Business Insider obtained this statement from American Airline: “Cameras are a standard feature on many in-flight entertainment systems used by multiple airlines. Manufacturers of those systems have included cameras for possible future uses such as seat-to-seat video conferencing. While these cameras are present on some American Airlines in-flight entertainment systems as delivered from the manufacturer, they have never been activated and American is not considering using them.”
Singapore Airlines Camera incident
Unfortunately, this not a one time breach of trust. American Airlines is not the only airline of concern because multiple passengers have commented and even tweeted about the suspicious cameras on Singapore flights. Singapore Airlines has a similar response to Business Insider: “Some of our newer IFE systems provided by the original equipment manufacturers do have a camera provisioned and embedded in the hardware,” an airline spokesman told Business Insider. “These cameras have been intended by the manufacturers for future developments.”
“These cameras are permanently disabled on our aircraft and cannot be activated on board,” he added. “We have no plans to enable or develop any features using the cameras.”
Where do these cameras come from?
Both of the airlines do not build their own IFE systems. They can only choose the content and presentation. As a result, the built-in hardware of each IFE is determined by the supplier. Panasonic is the supplier for both Singapore and American Airlines. Thales also provides for the Singapore.
Thales can reassure Business Insider because the cameras are disabled and can’t be activated during the flight.
Which flights had these cameras?
For American Airlines, they were on the seats of premium economy of certain Boeings. The models called into question are the 777-200s, 777-300ERs, and Airbus A330-200s.
As for the Singapore fleet, cameras were found on both premium and economy classes. The models under scrutiny include the Airbus A350-900s, A380s, Boeing 777-300ERs, and 787-10s.
In the end, the airline reaction is quiet. Though this might influence personal choice regarding which airline to fly. It might even influence the decision on which economy flight is better; Singapore economy or Qatar economy. Keep in mind that Panasonic is a prominent company for many airlines, so the cameras will most be likely found again on another airline.