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I must admit that Cathay Pacific is one of my favorite airlines. I’ve loved flying them multiple times on my trips to India and around Asia. However, this comes as a big shock. Cathay Pacific has admitted that they monitor passengers with in-flight cameras. This is stunning and a huge reveal for all of us who are concerned about passenger privacy and rights.

In-flight Cameras

Cathay Pacific has highlighted this information, albeit surreptitiously. It shows up in section 2.1 e of their privacy policy.

Information such as previous travel arrangements, feedback about your experiences, details of lost luggage and other claims, your use of our inflight entertainment system and inflight connectivity, your images captured via CCTV in our airport lounges and aircraft, your use of our cargo services including details of the cargo shipments, and your purchase of our duty free products and branded items.

Not that it’s comforting, but the airline specified that they collected these images via onboard CCTV cameras. They denied using any seat back cameras of IFE systems for the purpose of monitoring passengers.

Cathay Pacific’s Response

When CNN Travel reached out to Cathay Pacific, their explanation was on expected lines:

In line with standard practice and to protect our customers and frontline staff, there are CCTV cameras installed in our airport lounges and onboard aircraft for security purposes” a spokesperson for Cathay Pacific told CNN Travel. All images are handled sensitively with strict access controls. There are no CCTV cameras installed in the lavatories.

Cathay Pacific’s explanation about this situation doesn’t seem plausible at all. The airline is no stranger to data breaches. It was only last year when hackers breached and broke into their database. The hackers got access to data belonging to over 9 million passengers.

The Pundit’s Mantra

I don’t buy Cathay Pacific’s argument. They’re basically telling us: “Believe us, we’re the good guys. Your data is safe.” We’ve seen with multiple recent incidents how even the most sophisticated systems can be breached or broken into. Airlines are also no stranger to data breaches, as evidenced by what happened to British Airways. As technology becomes an integral part of in-flight experience, it will be interesting to see how regulators tackle these increasingly sensitive issues of privacy.

What do you think about this admission from Cathay Pacific? Would you be comfortable flying an airline if you knew in advance that the in-flight cameras are monitoring your activity on board? Let us know in the comments section.

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