Pilot tries to make a funny example of me by confiscating my iPhone

I had a wacky experience on a Harbour Air flight recently, a float-plane ride across the Strait of Georgia, between Vancouver and Vancouver Island. Harbour Air is a fine company, and this was about my eleventy-first HA flight. For the first time, on any plane ever, the pilot insisted that not only did our phones have to be in Airplane mode, but also stowed.

And the pilot made this clear by trying to make a funny example of me.

My phone was in airplane mode, but I was doing some offline reading. He actually grabbed my phone and tried to pull it out of my hand. I resisted! Because WTF, dude? A surprisingly vigorous little tug-of-war ensued. He pulled more than hard enough for me to get a bit alarmed.

Now, to be fair, this action was clearly a reference to a joke in their safety video about their phone policy, where the pilot takes someone’s phone and throws it out the window into the water. Funny, right? Sure, in the safety video. Not so much in real life!

My emotional reaction to having someone try to grab my phone out of my hand was strong. Grabbing my chin or crotch would have been more alarming, but not by much: that device is so attached to me it is like anatomy.

Mostly I was just baffled by his policy. He was not a young man, and I suspect it was an old-school, anti-tech, my-plane-my-rules thing. And yet (as he pointed out in the rather tense and public conversation that followed), their safety video does indeed specify that phones must be in airplane mode and stowed — a detail that had never registered with me before. It’s a goofy policy that has never been enforced on any plane I have ever been on, including all the other Harbour Air flights I’ve taken. But he was taking it seriously!

A strange incident. I’m the last person to get uptight about a little messiness in human interaction. But I would be interested to know how Harbour Air defends this policy, and if they would frown upon this pilot’s enforcement tactics.