Man Kicked Off American Airlines Flight After Filming Gate Agent. What’s the Law?

A man booked to fly on American Airlines out of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport was kicked off his flight after filming an argument with a gate agent. I want to figure out who’s right.

The video

The individual in question, Liran Hirschkorn, posted a video to TikTok of the interaction which you can check out below:


@American Airlines will kick you off a flight without explanation. Ive taken 100s of flights in the last few years and never had an flying with delta. Please share. #americanairlines #kickedoffmyflight

♬ original sound – Liran Hirschkorn

According to Hirschkorn’s explanation to an airport policeman in the video, the incident stemmed from a disagreement over carry-on baggage. At some point, Hirschkorn told the agent that he was going to lodge a complaint with American Airlines and began recording. The agent then told Hirschkorn that because of his recording, she was denying him boarding. 

American Airlines (lack of) policy

According to guidance by the US Department of Transportation, “an airline can refuse to transport a passenger for the reasons listed in its contract of carriage, so long as the refusal is not discriminatory.”

American Airlines’ contract of carriage (the agreement you sign whenever you book a ticket on American) makes no mention of a prohibition against taking photos or videos, either at the gate or on the plane.

Granted, the contract does say that you may not be able to fly for failing to “comply with American Airlines rules or policies,” but you won’t find anything about American Airlines’ photography policy on its website or anywhere else I can find. It previously outlined the policy in its in-flight magazine, American Way, prohibiting “unauthorized photography or video recording of airline personnel, other customers, aircraft equipment, or procedures,” but the magazine has ceased operations (thanks to Gary Leff for pointing this out!). All this is to say that there is effectively no American Airlines policy, at least not a published one, that prohibits photography or filming of gate agents.

The trump card: common carrier laws

Most importantly, American Airlines falls into a legal classification of firms known as common carriers. The legal definition of a common carrier is complicated, but one key feature is that it cannot arbitrarily deny a passenger the right to travel, which regular private companies can do as long as they’re not discriminatory.

At the same time, common carrier airlines also have the authority to refuse service to a passenger under specific circumstances, most notably in scenarios where safety might be compromised. Denying a passenger on safety grounds would likely be covered by 49 USC 44902(b): “Permissive Refusal. — Subject to regulations of the Under Secretary, an air carrier, intrastate air carrier, or foreign air carrier may refuse to transport a passenger or property the carrier decides is, or might be, inimical to safety,”

The problem is that there is very little case law defining what “inimical to safety” actually means in practice. Nevertheless, given 49 USC 44902(b), an airline simply having a policy in their inflight magazine is not sufficient grounds to deny a passenger boarding. Rather, their behavior has to be deemed unsafe in some way.

So who’s right?

If this were to go to trial, American Airlines would likely need to prove that Hirschkorn’s behavior was a threat to safety. I can’t make a definitive judgment on that based on the video alone (nor am I a lawyer, paralegal, judge, or anything close to a legal professional) but I personally have a hard time believing that Hirschkorn’s filming constituted unsafe behavior.

In short, American Airlines is probably wrong and Hirschkorn is probably right.

A caveat

All of this is just one amateur’s legal interpretation of this situation. I tried to simplify things as much as possible and there’s lots more complexity here, not least because the US Department of Transportation’s own guidance seemingly conflicts with common carrier laws. 

Though I’m sure you won’t, don’t take anything I write here as authoritative. For a definitive answer on any specific scenario, you’d need to consult a legal expert or attorney who could provide advice based on the specifics of the situation and the applicable laws and regulations.


The incident involving Liran Hirschkorn and American Airlines raises surprisingly complicated questions about passenger rights. Based on the given information and the video in question, it appears that American Airlines might have acted inappropriately by denying Hirschkorn boarding due to his filming. Their justification hinges on a policy that is only outlined in their in-flight magazine, while the filming behavior does not seem to be directly tied to any clear safety concerns.

  1. The passenger intention was to taunt the agent because she didnt or couldnt give him what he asked.
    The moment he chose his weapon (the camera) he only wanted to harm her in a personal way by posting her doing her job.
    I appauld the gate agent for her actions and more over the arrogant passenger for showing us all how stupid you can be by losing your cool.

  2. In an airport it’s reasonably understood that you are being recorded. How many camera , facial recognition etc is constantly active in an airport ? So what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. You’re already being recorded , staff or passengers, so why is it not ok for me to record ? You don’t have to like it or agree. But fair is fair

  3. The agent was absolutely correct in denying the offending passenger boarding privileges. The passenger was intent on escalating the situation which led to the delayed boarding for other passengers and a possibly late departure. The agent should receive a bonus for standing up to this unruly passenger.

  4. Well when they sell tickets lower than greyhound what do they expect. Jack up the price,put decent comfortable seats on the plane bring back food, service and joy in flight, enforce a respectable dress code. and leave the trailer trash to Spirit. Why does our Airlines continue this race to the bottom. The Airlines brought this on themselves, and since COVID the crew has gotten a lot worse at being bossy and snotty. Even encountered this at the United lounge at LAX last week. Don’t even start with those rude ass people at TSA having pre-check means nothing anymore.

  5. This passenger is another reason why travel has gotten so ugly. Classless complainers. He was in search of a problem and found a weak link. Imagine if he did not escalate it with his phone – he’d be on the flight. Wasn’t getting home more important? I fear this behavior will only worsen with these types of people over time. Wish they would think about things that are more important in life, like, in his case, his kids.

  6. I’m sorry to say I watched the TikTok video. He came across as antagonistic and dramaphilic. Unfortunately, this sort of material gives him a lot of clicks… sort of like all the videos of mean poorly-behaved people getting kicked off of Spirit Airlines flights bound for Ft Lauderdale.

    Good for the AA gate agent and her supervisor for standing up for themselves and denying him boarding. The other passengers were certainly better off without him.

  7. We don’t know the context. As is always the case, he started recording after something happened. He obviously escalated the situation. No smoke without fire

    European carriers generally mention it’s prohibited to film without permission in their conditions. In some countries it’s prohibited as there are strict privacy laws.

    KLM even makes a pre departure announcement.

    Americans, however, think it’s acceptable to whip out their cameras and film people even if their isn’t an issue as it’s their “ constitutional right”. They even think their rights apply in other countries because they’re American.

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