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On a flight from Sydney to Guangzhou I noticed an attendant on a China Southern airline wear a body cam on two of his 'rounds'. Sadly, I wasn't able to get a photo of the guy. One was about 40 minutes after the plane took off and the other was about 7 hours into the flight (9 hours+ of flight). There were no unusual incidents on the flight. It couldn't be for counting purposes as we were 'tally clicked' while boarding the plane and once again by another attendant walking inside counting the number of passengers.

I am trying to understand the following:

  1. Why would a flight attendant need to wear a body cam on a flight?
  2. Is an airline not bound to inform me that I will be recorded for whatever purposes ?
  • It sounds like a good idea. Just as NK said, there is absolutely on expectation of privacy on an airliner - they can, do and should video everyone all the time. – Fattie May 28 '18 at 19:41
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I would bet there's a line in the small print when you booked the flight about them being allowed to record you at any point for security purposes. Arguably with a growing number of cases of passengers getting drunk and/or abusive with airline staff, a body camera might seem like a good way of making sure there is evidence of exactly what went on in any interaction (even if this doesn't sound like what was going on in your particular flight).

According to Aviation Stack Exchange, many airlines do already have in-cabin monitoring cameras, from which body cams are a small step. Also, this article from the Wall Street Journal mentions an attendant with a body camera on a China Southern flight who appeared to record some western journalists specifically. The official line when asked:

China Southern says the crew member was an air marshal, charged with safety on board.

Generally, I wouldn't think there was an expectation of privacy on a airplane (outside areas like the toilets), and once in the air, the laws of the country where the plane is registered start to apply, which given the Chinese government's approach to surveillance would mean I wouldn't expect any privacy at all.

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