Passengers have reported finding hidden cameras in their inflight entertainment systems on select American and Singapore Airlines flights.
- In-flight entertainment (IFE) systems are a ubiquitous part of air travel these days.
- Recently, passengers spotted cameras built into the IFE systems on American Airlines and Singapore Airlines flights.
- According to both airlines, the cameras are disabled and will not be activated.
- Airlines purchase their IFE systems from third-party manufacturers, and the cameras were built into the system by those manufacturers.
- The American Airlines system was made by Panasonic, and the Singapore Airlines systems were made by Panasonic and Thales.
In-flight entertainment (IFE) systems are a ubiquitous part of air travel these days — especially on long, transoceanic flights. For the most part, they are innocuous screens on the back of seats designed to entertain us while we jet across the sky.
Recently, however, a few eagle-eyed travelers have noticed that while we watch the screens, they could be watching us.
This week, one passenger aboard a Singapore Airlines flight noticed a camera built into his IFE screen. Another passenger noticed a similar camera aboard his American Airlines flight.
Is someone spying on us? According to the airlines, no.
In a statement to Business Insider, American Airlines said:
"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 echoed those sentiments.
"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."
A Thales spokesman told Business Insider that the cameras in their systems are disabled and cannot be activated in-flight.
In an emailed statement, Panasonic said:
"Panasonic Avionics Corporation (Panasonic Avionics) takes airline passenger privacy very seriously. While the company does include cameras as part of its inflight entertainment (IFE) systems, at no time have these cameras been activated or used in any manner by either Panasonic Avionics or its customers. The cameras have simply been included to support potential future applications like seat-to-seat video conferencing.
"Panasonic Avionics will never activate any feature or functionality within an IFE system without explicit direction from an airline customer. Prior to the use of any camera on a Panasonic Avionics’ system that would affect passenger privacy, Panasonic Avionics would work closely with its airline customer to educate passengers about how the system works and to certify compliance with all appropriate privacy laws and regulations, such as GDPR."
The camera-equipped IFE systems can be found in the premium economy cabins of select American Airlines Boeing 777-200s, 777-300ERs, and Airbus A330-200s.
The cameras are a bit more pervasive in Singapore's fleet. They can be found in the business, premium economy, and economy cabins of the airline's Airbus A350-900s, Airbus A380s, Boeing 777-300ERs, and Boeing 787-10s.
Thales and Panasonic Avionics are two of the most prominent original equipment manufacturers in the airline industry. This means these systems may be on planes beyond just Singapore and American Airlines.