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Video of argument on airplane over vaccination status is staged

A video that appears to capture a conflict between crew members on a commercial flight and a passenger demanding a seat change after a fellow passenger refused to show proof of vaccination isn’t real — it was staged for a short film. Let’s take a look at the facts.

A screenshot of a tweet from the verified user Jessica O’Donnell that contains a TikTok video showing what appears to be a passenger and a crew member arguing on a commercial flight. The tweet reads, “I would love to buy this pilot a pint or 5,” and the subtitle text on the video frame reads, “Putting my life in danger.” The News Literacy Project has added a label that says “FICTIONAL SKIT.”
The video in this tweet — which purports to show an unruly passenger on a flight demanding a seat change because another passenger refused to produce vaccine documentation — is not authentic.
It is a short fictional film titled Covid Flight in which the passenger is eventually asked to leave by a pilot who also says, “There will be no discrimination on my aircraft … vaccinated or unvaccinated, we should respect each other.”
A clip from Covid Flight also went viral out of context on TikTok where one post garnered more than 35 million views and 4.5 million likes.
The film was produced by a social influencer named Richard Williams, who has a history of creating realistic videos that are “designed to go viral” and often are published without disclosures that they’ve been staged.

Here is a full copy of the video:

NewsLit takeaway

The pandemic has prompted a spate of real incidents involving conflict over COVID-19 safety protocols on airlines, and raw cellphone videos of unruly passengers often circulate on social media — so it’s not surprising that many people who encounter this video might initially believe it’s authentic. This vignette also resonated with people who are resistant to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and safety protocols because it caricatured the “passenger’s” concerns about her unvaccinated seatmate and framed her request for a new seat as “discrimination.” Staged videos that aren’t clearly labeled as fiction have become an “engagement bait” trend on TikTok — and one company has gone so far as to create “fictional influencers.”

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