Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Airline have more rules than most Masonic Lodges.

Many are understandable. 

Some, though, make passengers frown in dismay.

For example, aviation journalist Seth Miller got on a United Airlines flight and did something he's done many times before.

He placed his GoPro camera against the window and then attached it using a suction cup. 

For those who enjoy dramatic footage, the suction cup keeps the camera steady. For those who don't understand why this is all so dramatic, I do understand.

Miller was then confronted by a United Flight Attendant. As he explained on Twitter

Just informed by a @united crew member that having my camera in the window with a suction cup is a @FAANews violation. Very surprising given the number of other pilots and FAs I've had comment on the exact same setup admiring it. Anyone know the actual rule??

So is this really a Federal Aviation Administration rule?

United's ever-alert Twitter feed offered a response: 

Attaching it to the window of an aircraft would temporarily alter the aircraft. This would be a violation. Additionally, all personal electronic devices must be turned to airplane mode and stowed during taxi, takeoff and landing.

Miller thought this answer something of a drag. He continued by wondering what difference it made, as he could easily have chosen to hold the camera, which, presumably, would have been fine. Even if the footage wouldn't have been quite so perfectly dramatic.

Things became a touch more humorous. Tweeted Miller: 

A second FA has told me it cannot be attached at any time while a third said that's only for taxi/takeoff/landing.

Some rules invoked by cabin crew can be shaky. As in shakily non-existent.

Are you ready for a delicious dénouement?

Miller noticed there was an Federal Aviation Administration Inspector on his flight.

On landing, Miller says he corralled the inspector. Now, about that rule, Inspector: 

In news that will likely come as a shock to no one but the FAs on my last flight, the @FAANews inspector on board confirms that there is no FAA policy against such mounts. If the airline documents and files w/the FAA then maybe it could be considered such. I doubt UA did that. 

Oh, goodness. 

I felt overwhelmed by such confusion, so I asked the FAA to referee this one for me. Its spokeswoman told me: 

FAA regulations don't specifically address this, but it would likely be covered under the sections aimed at making sure that items are off and stowed for takeoff and landing. The primary reason for this is that we don't want to see an emergency evacuation hindered by something in the seat back, the aisle or in a passenger's lap.

Likely? Oh, that doesn't sound likely a rule, then.

I asked United whether this was, indeed, its own rule and will update, should I hear.

The FAA spokeswoman, however, said the Administration expects airlines to "develop and enforce their own policies."

She explained: 

A flight attendant might not get exorcised about a GoPro attached to a window, but it would be another matter entirely if you tried to haul out a 70mm motion picture camera.

Well, yes. But here we seem to have several United Flight Attendants not even agreeing what the rule was.

Please don't think, though, that United is alone in sorta, maybe shunning such window-mounted gizmos of drama.

Here is the Points Guy's JT Genter offering that a Cathay Pacific Flight Attendant got exorcised about his mounted GoPro. He was given a different reason for having to take it down. He needed to see outside during an emergency.

The lesson for flyers is a simple one.

When a Flight Attendant tells you you're breaking the rules, it's possible that you're not.

It's possible, indeed, that the Flight Attendant has made up the rule to make their life easier.

And the FAA may well be happy with that. Its spokeswoman told me: 

The bottom line is that passengers are expected to abide by a flight crew's safety instructions. If a crew member believes something might threaten safety, we aren't likely to second-guess his or her judgment. 

Published on: Feb 13, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.