Can the airlines force you to check you camera gear?

Discussion in 'Travel' started by marc_felber|1, Jul 17, 2009.

  1. I had a problem with a airline that try to have me check in my camera gear. I had to had carry all my glass since this is what they would have stolen if I had check it in with the bag. Can you force the airline to allow you to carry on your camera gear since they are not liable for stolen camera gear. American eagle has a no carry on policy. But carried one gear many times until this one agent started acting like a nazi that demanded I check in my camera gear. How do you solve this problem?
    1. have the airline sign a legal document making them liable if the item is lost, stolen, or broken on arrival.
    2. use a smaller bag
    3. don't fly
    4. demand to speak to a manager and explain the rules to him that is listed on your ticket the airline is not liable for camera gear.
    5. Anymore info you wish to add?
  2. Yes they can if they determine that your bag cannot be "safely" stowed onboard. Travel with a smaller bag or drive. Regarding #4 - they don't give a #$%@. This website may be of interest to you (written by a photographer who travels A LOT):
  3. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    American eagle has a no carry on policy​

    Then set your expectations accordingly instead of calling people names and complaining. And don't expect things like #1 and #4 in your list.
  4. "And don't expect things like #1 and #4 in your list."
    In fact, not to gang up on the OP... read the ticket, website, etc.: all of the legleze absolves the airline of loss, damage, spindling and mutilation.
    Choose option 3, or fly a bigger airline!
    Re: #5. The United Express (who fly CRJs and the like) allows me to carry on my camera bag as long as I cram it under the seat in front of me. I travel light so that is never an issue.
  5. mark,
    it pays to be extremely polite. do not demand but politely ask if they would do you a kind favour. if it is within their policy they would of course oblige and if it is not, they are rather more likely to oblige a polite request.
  6. ted_marcus|1

    ted_marcus|1 Ted R. Marcus

    Number 3 is increasingly the best option, and not just because of the risk to camera equipment. Unfortunately, that isn't always possible.
    Has anyone tried Option 6, bypassing the airlines (and the TSA) entirely by FedExing camera gear to and from the destination? It's probably expensive, but (if money is no object) is it reliable and practical enough to consider?
  7. [OP] "American eagle has a no carry on policy"
    That is untrue. Check here:
    and here:
    When in doubt, call to talk with a rep weeks before your flight , and they will answer your questions and often even meet you at the gate should you have a problem. I had a SW rep pack and Fed Ex my 200 rolls of film to my hotel for free when I had a TSA problem after talking with her and being assured there would be no problem.
  8. I chose #3 a long time ago. X-rays, inspectors, shoe removal, whole body thermal imaging. I think they have gone nuts.
    Years ago flying was a class act. Today it is nothing more than a flying bus and I refuse to board. I feel sorry for the people who need to travel that way.
    For the 30 days after 9/11 the skies almost immediately turned azure blue over Chicago and stayed that way. I was showing my work collegues how clear it was. They all agreed. So 4000 airplanes, which is the average number in the air at any given time, have created noticeable air polution to the point where it looks like we are in the middle of a dirty cloud. And yes it got filthy again as soon as they started flying and the azure blue has not come back except for a scattered day or two after a series of storms to clean the air.
    To bad we can`t repeat the experiment and then shut `em all down so we can breath clean air.
    I will not even type the insulting BS the the EPA gave me about the situation. I will tell you people with scientific methods of documenting the events were making a stink to EPA.
  9. What kind of gear, how many, and how heavy? I can't imagine if you only have a D40x, the 18-55 kit lens and maybe a small flash, they'd raise an issue? That's another story if you have two D3's, a 600/4 lens and various fast f/2.8 zooms. The airline's website usually has a section on the weight and dimension limitation on your carry-on baggage, so it's worthwhile to check it out and make sure your stuff is within the limits before you arrive at the airport.
  10. The only time I have been asked to check equipment was on a small commuter plane. The equipment was put directly into the hold as I was standing there and out the same way. Other times, there are planes that will not accomodate normal size roll-ons and so my bags are kept smaller and fit. On another commuter flight, slightly larger than the 6 seater I mentioned above, I was just very nice and honest with the crew as to what I was carrying and they let me seat belt it into an empty seat(empties are a lot less likely these days!)
  11. david_henderson


    How big was the bag you tried to carry on- and did it comply with their policy since they clearly have one?
    Don't get deluded about the balance of power. The idea you pose in No. 1 is ridiculous. Which individual is going to sign that and would they be deemed to have the authority to bind their employer to it? In general around the edges of policy the airline can tell you what they want you to do and quite simply deny you boarding if you don't comply. If afterwards you demonstrate that the individual has acted unreasonably , you've still missed your flight, and when the circumstances become apparent your travel insurer won't pay out for a replacement flight or any consequential loss ( charges for accommodation, car hire etc)
    Airlines assume that the items they carry are covered by your insurance. If you travel with photo gear that is not so covered then I think you need to re-assess. It is perfectly possible for airlines to re-assess that policy but they won't because it would mean fares going up. Fact is you need to insure anyway against perils that are not part of air travel.
    Did you try your number 4 and did it work?
    It is up to you to find out the policies used by your airline and also those operated by TSA. And to comply with them or carry the risk and inconvenience if you should fail.
  12. Starvy, I was being polite, that agent just started acting like nazi thats when I unload almost the whole bag and carrying all the glass on the plane,
  13. Until recently I flew nationally every week. The answer is quite simple, they can do what ever they want and will. However, each airline has carry-on guidelines, as long as my carry-on was within their size limitations, they never asked me to check my bags.
    On a very small plane I was once asked to put my case in the body of the plane which I did not want to do. I politely explained that it was full of glass and they immediately said that it was OK to keep it with me. The last thing they want is a claim.
    Flying used to be such a dream. Today, it is simply a bus in the sky. What a shame. The golden age of air travel is lost.
  14. According to TSA you are allowed to carrying camera gear on in additional to the one carry on and one personal item. Also, if AA eagle has a no carry on policy, then why are their overhead bins on the right side of the plane. Also, the bag I was carrying was a backpack that is had plently of room in it. American told me the same thing in May and told time they were going to be responsible if any of the camera gear was stolen so they let me take it on the plane.
  15. Marc,
    You are a paying customer in a nearly free market. If you don't like the service the airline of you choice provides, choose another one. Send the customer service department a written complaint outlining the areas in which you feel their business is lacking and your intention to go with a better class of service. Airlines and their employees aren't special, without customers they have to file chapter 11 and get bailed out by the taxpayers...just like everybody else.
  16. You could fly southwest which is a bigger plane and they will not give you a hassle if you take a think tank bag on. Also, I have heard that art morris tricks the bag police by sticking the small lens in his vest which makes his carry ons lighter. Great ideal, which I think he puts the big glass in the carry on which does not make him stand out. They have never said anything about the tripod bag as long as the tripod is in a case they will not hassle you. Thats what a TSA person told me. You don't stick out as a threat when the tripods are in a case. The monopod is a different story is like a club and they might think you can use as a weapon and will force you to check it. I check the aircraft type southwest airlines seems like the better option if you traveling with gear. For Travel to South America I would take Lan since they never say any thing if you are a lan pass member they will give you more slack on the weight. I never been charged for over weight by them even flying out of SCL to san pedro.
  17. Not a chance in this country. Not only has all your carry on gear got to fit into a measurement rectangle, it also can't weigh more than 9 kgs. Buy a pelican bag, fit the airline approved locks, check it through and insure all your gear.
  18. you could always send your stuff ahead fed-ex they will insure it. Of course it will cost you. you could have fed-ex deliver it to your rental vehicle or where ever.
  19. it


    I fly all the time with 3 bodies, 6-7 lenses, flashes etc. Never had a problem with carry on. I use a Domke bag which is quite small compared to some of the huge over-built stuff out there.
    Tons of shooters have gone to the Think Tank bags, which are constructed specifically for carry on, but they are expensive.
  20. I know where you are coming from. I recently flew American Eagle (never flown on the small planes before) and I was surprised to find that my bag that fits perfectly in the overhead compartment of a regular jet won't even come close to fitting anywhere in an ATR. I ended up having to do the gate check--along with everyone else who had their roller bags with them. I got my bag back OK, but I was worried throughout the whole flight. My solution from now on is to just pack smaller when I'm going to be flying a smaller plane. I was only gone for a weekend and I was trying to fly with no checked baggage so I wouldn't have to wait at baggage claim. In the future, I'm just going to check all the regular baggage and carry a couple of smaller carry-ons for the laptop and photo equipment. Where you may have gotten confused (I know I did) is that American Eagle considers gate checking TO BE carry-on.
    As far as forcing you to check a bag, if it's larger than their maximum dimensions for carry-on or if you are carrying an item that is prohibited from carry-on then they can force you to check it. But if you have a carry-on that is within their guidelines then I would politely remind them that their written policy states that you can carry it on. It helps if you have a printed copy of their policy with you--it has saved me and some of my friends a time or two.
  21. I fly American Eagle pretty frequently. Because they are smaller planes, its not unusual to have to put a bag under the plane (I will only carry my laptop bag on with me generally). When this happens, you can do a gate check where you hand them the bag right before you board the plane, and it is waiting for you right outside the plane when you get off. That way you can still carry it onto a larger connecting flight. The other word of advice is above all else, be polite. I travel pretty frequently across the country and internationally. I have learned from a lot of experiance that a little bit of patience and courtesy can go a very long way with agents and help you get what you want/need. Just be ready to work with them.
  22. My son and are back from a trip where we were flying.
    I used a Lowepro Vertex 200 and my son used a Tamarac Expedition 6X.
    We tried to carry them on. My sons being a bit smaller was allowed as carry on one leg of the trip where we had a puddle jumper. It fit. Mine on the other hand was a bit larger. It would fit on the overhead in an Airbus A319 and A320. But it was definitely too large to fit in overhead on the puddle jumpers. I did not have to check in as carry on but handed in and returned to me just before and after boarding. I expected that, but safer than checking it in as baggage.
    Photos were backed up on a laptop which of course was carry on, and, our memory cards were kept in our pockets. So, if something happened to the cameras, we still had our photos.
    The Lowepro is made extremely well. My only complaint is that you cannot lock the main compartment securely. The zipper on my laptop is lockable as the zipper is designed for that, but the Lowepro is not.
    On my last flight on a puddle jumper it was announced that toy should remove all lithium batteries from the cameras or bags and be on your person. We were not aware of that TSA rule, and scrambled to get the batteries in our pockets minutes before boarding.
    I think it best to understand the rules of flying as much as possible. Although I doubt this is possible. It is just best to go along with TSA and airline staff and keep things moving smoothly.
  23. I travel quite a bit and have had several bad experiences with the airlines. I now ship all of my photo gear via UPS. It may be a bit expensive, but everything is insured and waiting for me when I arrive at my destination.
  24. Another option is you can trick them buy putting 2-4 lens into your vest and carry a smaller bag. This way they bag which should be a backpack will look smaller. That way you can take all your gear on the flight.
  25. It's their airplane, so they can make the rules!
  26. zml


    YMMV but here is what I do (and I fly with a backpack full of equipment to the tune of 50-60 lbs plus a laptop or two...)
    #1. Don't bother - they will not. Of course if your gear is insured, your insurance, after a long, very long or interminable delay, might pay up.
    #2. Not really a practical solution unless you use two smaller bags and carry the rest on you (say, in a photo vest...) You'll look like a bloated moron but, hey, they can't stop you from stowing a 400 mm lens in your pockets...
    #3. Sure... You can also say: I'm not flying because you cannot safely accomodate my fragile equipment so please remove my checked luggage and reschedule me on a different flight/airline flying a bigger plane. That will require reopening of the hold and will delay departure so chances are that the gate agnet will wink to the flight attendant who in turn will find a few cubic feet of stowage space in the crew's closet (albeit grudgingly and she might later spill coke or tomato juice on your khakis...accidentally of course...) Naturally, they might just say OK and you indeed ain't flying so make sure that not flying is agreeable...
    #4.Talking to the gate agent and/or station manager helps. Once I made a call (from Frankfurt in Germany) to the corporate office of United in Chicago and the camera carry-on issue was solved on the spot with apologies from the agent, but I consider this event to be a one-time miracle so no guarantees.
    #5. Just ask the flight attendant to stow your fragile and delicate equipment necessary for your work (avoid the word "expensive") in the crew's closet: that sometimes works (esp. if you are in business/first or are a high-milage frequent flier.) If it does not work, see #3 and #4.
    Or just FedEx the stuff (especially long lenses in their hard cases...)
  27. If possible travel light. That said sometimes wildlife photogs need that $5K, 600mm f4 and it sure ain't gonna fit in the cargo pocket of your vest. Those 70~200 f2.8's are not too small either. I guess the question is, what can you reasonably pare down? I have found that I often carry too much equipment on a vacation and much of it remains in the bag. So much depends on individual needs.
  28. FWIW: I try to dress very professionally when traveling. Jacket, slacks, crisp shirt, tie if possible, business or business casual shoes, clean-shaven, business/professional looking carryon bag (no beaten up canvass). I find that I am more likely to be upgraded if coach cabin gets cramped. Also, smiling and being kind to agents while appearing professional yields better results if issues pop up. It isn't a quantifiable advantage, but anecdotally I find I get more flexibility, responsiveness and better treatment overall during dealings with gate agents. It does nothing to help one's cause to arrive in dress that is wrinkled and looking like you've stepped out of a bowling alley or campground. Every little thing helps these days to make the modern ordeal of air travel go more smoothly.
  29. Marc,
    You are a paying customer in a nearly free market. If you don't like the service the airline of you choice provides, choose another one.​
    For some reason I have a feeling the govt. will be trying to take over this industry in the future. Good luck with free market then.
  30. Marc,
    First, get the ThinkTank rollers a looks see, here.
    Second, if you fly Eagle a lot, they fly the Embraer 145. It has a forward closet for coats and the crew bags. I was a pilot on one of these for years at another airline, and if people asked nicely, especially with something fragile, I'd have the flight attendant put their bag in that closet. Most of the regional jets today (except for a few, like the 50 seat CRJ) have a crew/coat closet. As a photographer and pilot, I was always keen on helping protect a paying passenger's glass. You too, might also find a sympathetic flight crew. The closet won't even have bags in it if the crew is doing a day trip, with no overnight bags.
    Even more rarely (and hush hush), I'd put something in the flight deck if it was really fragile/important/expensive/rare, etc. Don't expect many pilots to do that for you, though. Your best bet is that crew closet, and with a little smile and kindness, your equipment worth 5K will be safe in the cabin with you. Remember that if a crew member cannot accomidate you, it's usually because they are fearful of a lawsuit or breaking some sort of airline policy. A flight attendant making 15K a year won't risk his/her job for you if it goes against FAA/Company policy.
    Good luck . . .
  31. I haven't read the entire thread, but here's a thought.
    If you have checked-in hold baggage, already loaded on the aircraft and the objection to your carry- on occurs at the boarding gate (likely) there is possibly a good bluff that can be combined with polite entreaties. If you can't bear the risk entailed in having your camera gear transferred to the hold, you always have the option of deciding not to travel on the flight . Since hold baggage cannot travel in the absence of its owner under the currently prevailing security regimes, this will necessitate the carrier delaying the flight until your baggage can be extracted from the hold. A missed departure slot is very expensive for the airline. My guess is, if you are reasonable enough ("my insurance doesn't cover this situation and I can't afford to replace my camera equipment...") a solution will be found.
  32. I am a retired FAA Exec and have flown well over seven thousand hours as a pilot and ridden close to that or more as a passenger. I hate riding on airplanes today. It is very tough on the flight attendants and gate personnel having to deal with large groups of stressed out passengers who don't receive a hell of a lot of consideration these days and if they are like me they come to the airport tensed up to begin with. After I retired I bougnt a motor home so I could avoid riding on airplanes and carry all the camera gear I wanted to. Please understand the pressures on the other side. I have no advice except to have a Plan B and remember that those working the other side are human too in very repetitive, stressful and environments brought about by schedules that try to jam the day's schedules into peak hours with more airplanes than the system can handle and consequently driving delays, cancellations and poor service. This is magnified when the weather gets bad and/or the wind blows the wrong way and because there is limited capacity at many critical airports. That poor service however is not caused by the people on the front lines who deal with the passengers or the passengers themselves. Frankly, I hate to go anywhere by air any more. Sad to say there ain't much glamour in a profession that I was blessed to be in for over forty years.
  33. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    One way to feel better about air travel is to ride Greyhound. I took a fairly short trip (Tijuana airport to downtown San Diego) and it was painful dealing with the people and getting decent information. Really, things can be much, much worse than most airports.
  34. I guess a gray hound bus does not have sails if you are going to South or central america. I guess the problem with the think tank bag, on AA eagle you will have to check it. You are better off with a back pack. Most times you can carrying it on and does not look as big as the roller bags.
  35. sbp


    FWIW, I fly 20-30 times a year, mostly international, and always with photo gear. In ten years, I have never had to check photo gear. Two things to remember, that have helped me to avoid problems....
    1. You cannot win an argument with airline counter staff. Like it or not, they have the power. Accept this, and be as friendly as possible. You have a much better chance of getting your way by starting out and remaining friendly throughout the check-in process.
    2. Use luggage that does not attract attention. Most camera backpacks look too large, because the shoulder straps and waist belts increase the apparent size of the bag. Bags like the Think Tank Airport Acceleration or Airport Antidote carry large amounts of gear, but look very small and inconspicuous. There are others, but these have worked very well for me. If the agent glances at your bag and it looks OK - you're set...
    Kyle W. also makes a good point. Pleasant, well dressed passengers are more likely to be treated well by airline counter staff. Is it right? Maybe not - but if you get on board with all your gear and no ulcer - who cares.
  36. I am a greatly experienced mostly international flyer, and I started to write a response.
    It started to get book length so I copied it to a Word document, and may indeed write that book, as it seems needed.
    Suffice it to say, I often travel with two camera bags and often a roll-aboard (but not out of any British Airport because that's forbidden by British law--no exceptions).
    Elite status, consideration to the agents, knowledge of the rules of the fare (which few even know exist, even at the airlines), will often help.
    But first of all, arrive early, arrive with a smile on your face, and be prepared to hunt down the most amiable counter check-in agent who is 'reputed' to have the most lenient personal policy about carry-on.
    Ask skycaps or curb agents (if they are available) if they can help 'steer' you to the right gate agent -- especially if you have lots of checked baggage and/or lots of carry-on.
    Those people may schmooze during slow times and thus there sometimes is a close relationship with skycaps (curbside check-in people) and one or more counter personnel.
    (Note: Not all airlines or airports have curb check-in or skycaps, but some do, and they can be worth their weight in gold, so don't hesitate to tell them you'll tip them 'very well' if you are accommodated with your extra stuff -- most will work like heck to get you accommodated and may even 'talk to someone' behind the counter about giving you some leeway).
    A little courtesy, consideration, and $$ as an expected tip can work wonders when checking in -- these workers often do have friends at the check-in counter or at least good working relationships. You may be there one hour, one day, but their relationship will continue day in and day out -- you can make that work for you sometimes.
    Be unobtrusive and polite, always act like a professional traveler and dress well.
    Airline pros -- especially the old-timers -- appreciate good dress, and it may result in an upgrade, as they're not going to upgrade you if you're in jeans and a t-shirt, but if you have slacks and a suit jacket or some other professional looking garb, you won't stand out if they upgrade you. Higher classes of service have 'higher expectations for dress' in the minds of most airline workers -- use that as a general guide.
    When you check in, and if the airline counter is busy and in a big airport, try to avoid a look by counter check-in people at your large carry-on. Answer their questions about carry-on truthfully, but if they don't ask, no reason to create a roadblock. Stow your gear with a friend nearby or a skycap out of sight, then head for security and the gate.
    Front counter personnel who spy your many cameras around your neck may duck into the back room to look at your work on the Internet, and that may often result in all sorts of rules waivers and garner an occasional upgrade, or at least a courtesy assignment to a seat with a vacant seat next to you so you can put your camera bag(s) there or your cameras.
    Remember, front counter check-in people at some airlines are also gate check-in workers at some airports, so remember to sow good will at the front counter -- it may pay off in a rule waiver just at the last minute as you are boarding.
    Don't hesitate to exchange small talk, if an agent is chatty. Friendships pay off in the boarding game.
    You might want to load large lenses in pockets of your largest (British made is my preference) overcoat (in non-summer months) and put those four cameras around your neck with one lens on each as well. That's four cameras and eight lenses, without even getting to the camera bag(s) you are carrying on.
    They'll assume you're a pro (I'm not), and often your outrageous appearance will give you special leeway. If your disabled (I am) and or an elite level flyer (I am also) you can often board first.
    This helps clear things up with stowage space aboard the aircraft.
    If you have a physical disability that may delay your entry, don't hesitate to task for 'early boarding' -- and a wheelchair is NOT required, despite what some may tell you.
    Learn to board fast and to stow extra-fast, so you don't cause a ruckus.
    With the little puddle jumpers, I try to avoid them, or in appropriate circumstances, carefully hand my camera bag to the person stashing briefcases, etc. into that special door-side hold, after first extracting and pocketing all my valuable glass. It will be unloaded first, and if I'm lucky and quick off the steps at destination, I'll be there telling them 'it's cameras and lenses -- please be very very careful.'
    My English made overcoat with four pockets will hold two Nikon 70~200 f 2.8 lenses in two of the long pockets and still have two more huge pockets left over for heavy, fast (and expensive) glass.
    Additionally, there is a chance for those four cameras around my neck to carry lenses. That's four cameras and eight lenses right there, safe from splintering, cracking, and pilferage.
    I've only been turned back once in years of flying since 9-11.
    In that instance when I was told 'one international carry-on, no exceptions', I made the unaccommodating carrier offload my three 100-pound suitcases, and because my ticket was purchased on the International Carrier's sister airline's 'ticket stock', went to the sister airline's supervisor, explained the situation courteously and that airline boarded me on its comparable flight which got me to my far-off international destination faster than the other international airline which objected to my carry-on (they're members of the same 'group', which I will not name).
    The ticketing airline simply rewrote the ticket, because I was professional, friendly, understanding, reasonable, a good customer, and knew what I was doing -- also they saw that I had what they thought was a 'just cause' and knew of previous problems with their 'alliance' partner over such issues. It was 'their' ticket, and their airline owned the seat I was scheduled to fly in on the other carrier, so they could rewrite that ticket to get me on my way.
    Once on another flight to Ukraine my flight to Munich was cancelled so I was upgraded to business class to London's Heathrow.
    The US international carrier that had accepted all my voluminous carry-on to Munich forgot I could not take my carry-on beyond London (except for one small piece pursuant to British law then newly enacted).
    My airline, after a very long pow-wow at Heathrow involving many officials and supervisors and an examination of the rules and discussions with me, sent me a chauffeur-driven sedan to the Channel tunnel train station, gave me a chunnel train ticket to Paris, gave me cash for meals and incidentals en route, gave me cash and vouchers for meals and hotel in my new intermediate destination (Charles de Gaulle, Paris), and sent me on my way.
    The reason: the gate agent on the West Coast who sent me to London with voluminous carry-on made a mistake, knowing I had to continue on, and had disregarded British law about one small carry-on. Once having accepted all that as carry-on, I convinced them they had to continue (or I'd call the airline CEO internationally).
    I then connected with a new flight in Paris, still with my three bags of carry-on with me. I got to my destination late but even if I had taken a flight from London (with my cameras in the plane belly) the same delay would have happened, but I probably would never have seen my lenses/cameras again, or they'd be in splinters.
    My elite status helped, and the fear of losing a court case from having accepted voluminous 'carry-on' initially -- then trying to force me to stow it 'downline', seemed forceful in their reasoning.
    It was simply easier and cheaper to buy my ticket and accommodations to Paris and send me onward from there.
    Things can foul up though when you misconnect and are sent on a 'second carrier' to your onward destination, if the substitute airline doesn't have an accommodating carry-on policy.
    Always ask your carrier which tries to put you on another carrier if they will GUARANTEE that now you're midway through your trip some secondary carrier won't be forcing you to stow all that gear in their plane's belly.
    Supervisors from one airline do talk to supervisors from another, and this can be the time to have that one supervisor call the other and ensure you will be accommodated or dig your heels in and start calling your airline's Elite desk internationally from your mobile, asking for intervention. (It can work).
    Think of all the things that can go wrong: they will.
    My trips in the past have frequently been for weeks at a time, and sometimes have stretched into well over a month -- even more. There's no use in going on a photo trip if your lenses are pilfered or arrive smashed, and I have protected them like a hawk.
    I might shoot studio, video on occasion, street, landscape and must have lenses for all (and sometimes also check my studio lights if I haven't already left them at my destination).
    I shoot a variety of genres for my strictly amateur work, and like to 'keep current' by shooting with pro lights (monolights *strobes* -- as well as simply more old fashioned continuous lights -- which I sometimes prefer and help warm a cold studio/room in winter).
    I literally do have enough 'tricks up my sleeve' for most situations because with airlines I'm the kind of guy who reads regulations to find my way out of all sorts of situations with.
    Travel light if you can, but in any case always be courteous and well-dressed, be a elite-level flyer if you can, and always arrive early.
    Be understanding and ready to explain calmly and courteously your situation as a serious photographer with serious equipment to the most friendly agent (you've already asked in advance who that is and worked your way to that agent or maybe you've pulled a supervisor aside and asked for 'special help' to avoid damage and claims difficulties -- which you will let them know neither of you want.
    Be prepared to talk photography and explain why you must carry so much gear (and if you traveled that route before once or twice so encumbered -- let them know you 'always have appreciated their efforts at courtesy in the past.)
    If the going get tough, be prepared to know the rules and go toe-to-toe with supervisors and others who may have overlooked rules you do know about. In other words, learn more about the rules and the 'Rules of the Fare' than they do, and if you are right, stick to your guns.
    For instance, not one in ten airline personnel knows that most tariffs (rules) allow you to have a 'camera bag' (unspecified often) and that's not counted as 'carry-on' (but some do restrict its size, so read the rule or have it read to you, then copy it down permanently). That rule may even change depending on your 'fare code'.
    You have to be able to point that out to them, and if necessary and they're really stubborn, exercise your right as a U.S. citizen traveler (in the U.S.) to have them pull out their book of tariffs (which I guarantee you will not be updated, not have its inserts in the proper places and be out of compliance with US aviation law, giving you an advantage right there - while handily there you have (on your computer or printed out) a copy of the appropriate rule which supports your point). They won't be able to find in their tariffs, because no one ever looks there, they're frequently miskept, but are the ultimate rule arbiter.
    You may have to fight to even learn how to get a particular rule read to you instead of a 'summary' which will be deficient, even if you had to dog it down from a reluctant reservations agent who may not even know what you're talking about.
    That's why they have supervisors.
    Be prepared, and you'll keep your gear, and if you travel as much as I have, that's quite important.
    No one pays me to travel, and most insurance policies will not reimburse for damaged gear for amateurs like me, and if you're a pro, your 'personal' insurance will exclude your 'pro' equipment.
    Pros need to have 'all risk' policies on all their gear, but it will be expensive. (Be careful of policies which will only pay in theft claims in a case there is a break-in, as such companies can easily try to slip out from paying for a bag stolen (or lost they will say) in transit.
    Airlines have excluded all risk of lost camera gear and other high-priced things such as jewelry for decades.
    Even the TSA (and its predecessor) have been held immune from loss for things such as expensive cameras passing through inspection such as x-ray, according to the US Supreme Court.
    At the very least, if there is theft or breakage, there probably will be a court case, attorneys involved, months or years of delay, and in some policies (requiring forceful entry) you might not ever get paid.
    And all you wanted to do was take photos.
    I am not a typical photo vacationer -- I been belatedly surprised to learn that I have been documenting 'street life' in foreign cities, and interspersing that with other amateur photo efforts over a long period, and because I expect to do a variety of shooting at my destination, I often have a large amount of cameras and lenses with me, almost all of highest quality.
    Pro or commercial insurance policies (I am told) and some other policies may be 'all risk' but they are very pricey -- and nothing really pays back for taking that two week to two-month trip and not having your equipment.
    Of course you can't purchase similar equipment worth tens of thousands of dollars at your destination so your trip's a total disaster.
    (It's almost always cheaper in the USA to purchase equipment, unless you're in Hong Kong, then of course, there's the 'no repair for purchases outside the U.S.' warranty issue of Nikon and Canon for returning US residents.)
    If you have lots of gear to go through the x-ray at inspection step aside, and do not let TSA send cameras, lenses, and camera bags through inspection/x-ray piece-meal ahead of you.
    Make the TSA send it through WHEN YOU GET TO THE OTHER SIDE TO RECEIVE IT, and they will accommodate you, even if you have to complain loudly (but civilly and firmly) -- they are immune if someone picks up your Nikon D3X off the belt with its 70-200 f 2.8 lens on it, and just walks off with it, while you're removing your belt or shoes at the other side of the x-ray.
    Likely, if you follow these general rules, (if you don't get irate except in the case of the most egregious overstepping by the airline), you'll get to your destination with all your glass intact and not pilfered, and as much carry-on as the rules can be stretched to accommodate.
    I've flown probably two million miles just on one airline group in the last 17 years, and a good deal of that since 9-11 (but not in the last several months). (I once long ago had a friend in the industry, and separately through good fortune until he retired, one high airline official whom I never really met undertook to upgrade every ticket I bought on his carrier to a higher class of service and sent me reams of upgrade certificates because I asked 'nicely'.
    Remember, working for an airline is a job from hell, and if you as passenger add to that hellishness, you'll definitely not be rewarded, but if you help that poor soul do his/her job and in the same instance, ask to be treated specially because of the fragility and worth of your photographic carry-on, you may very well be accommodated.
    It's almost always worked for me.
    Remember, the worst thing you can do is 'make a fuss' rather than simply walking away from a check-in counter if an early clerk seems ready to deny you, then later as they're boarding the flight return in the crush and cramming passengers into it into the aircraft. Many rules get bent on the spot at that point.
    Or, simply speak to someone senior such as a friendly supervisor (and friendly) and talk to them in a knowing tone, about how horrible their job is, how difficult it must be to accommodate 'problems' and how sorry you are to present them with one more task, but you're 'sure they'll work out a solution'.
    Approached that way, they more than likely will 'work out a solution'.
    Fly one group of airlines almost exclusively if permitted - airline personnel respect elite status. You'll get a special check-in line and better-trained check-in agents, who also have more authority often to 'waive the rules'. You'll get better seating, preferred boarding, and sometimes lounge access (I do when flying internationally). Also, your flight miles will be doubled automatically on many carriers.
    You may not even have to fly those 50,000 miles to get that elite status, especially if you have elite status on another airline.
    Simply write the airline's sales department headquarters, point out with documentation your past or projected business with them or their competitor on which you have elite status, and 'petition for elite status'.
    It can work; an 'elite' card can suddenly appear in the mail, and sometimes airlines even have programs to hand out elite status cards to specially identifiable customers who appear to be potential frequent flyers.
    Don't expect to be handed a card into the absolute highest elite status, but try for 'middle level' [gold not platinum] which will result in double miles (if the rules haven't changed in the few months I've been ill).
    Just following these guidelines may make traveling (especially internationally) with your photo gear much less difficult.
    It has worked for me.
    John (Crosley)
    (c) 2009, John Crosley, all rights reserved.
  37. ted_marcus|1

    ted_marcus|1 Ted R. Marcus

    John, thanks for the informative book-length list of tips.

    But in all honesty, if getting yourself and your equipment intact from Point A to Point B (and back) by air requires recourse to a book-length list of tips and tricks, I think a better and far more practical idea would be to defer air travel until you have completely exhausted all the photographic possibilities of places within an hour from home by foot, bicycle, bus, car, or train. Maybe by then air travel will have improved (assuming you're still alive).

    The creativity that your post suggests is necessary to succeed in the game of air travel would seem far better exercised in discovering extraordinary things to photograph in familiar and seemingly ordinary places close to home. That would seem a far more exciting and satisfying challenge than enduring the ordeal of air travel to visit an "exotic" destination. I wish that weren't the case, but that's the reality. Life is too short to let airlines and the TSA shorten it more.
  38. According to TSA guidelines don't mean much. At any point they restrict an allowed item or allow a restricted. So, it's possible to have two people in same line on the same flight line with the exact same item and one gets on and one does not. Citing the rules and guide lines may result in a near strip search.
  39. If you try to carry on more than the maximum baggage alotted per passenger (e.g. one carry-on item and one personal item), they can force you to check all bags over the limit.
    If your bag won't fit under your seat and if all of the overhead bin space has been taken up, they can force you to check it.
    If you wanted to place a bag under the seat in front of you, but you ended up sitting in an emergency exit row or a bulkhead row (i.e., against a facing wall), they can force you to check that bag.
    It if's larger than the bag size that you're allowed to bring on board, they can force you to check it.
    The bottom line is safety. If people are likely to trip over your bag, or if it's likely to fly and hit someone in case of an emergency landing, they're going to get rid of it.
    - Don't carry more gear/supplies than you need.
    - Pack your gear well in case it must be checked.
    - Check anything you don't need to carry on board (but never check FILM, for instance).
    - If you're flying coach, arrive early when there's still some space left in the ovearhead luggange compartments.
    - If the overhead compartments are full, politely ask the people sitting nearby if you can rearrange the way that they are packed in order to find space for your baggage. Usually, these bins are not packed very carefully. With a little rearranging, you might find enough space.
    - If airline employees insist that your bag be checked, DO NOT ARGUE WITH THEM. Be polite and ask them to handle the bag carefully as the contents are fragile. These folks are trying to get your flight off the ground as soon as possible. You won't help anyone by slowing down the boarding process.
  40. Marc, I understand your frustrations, but you are already seeing your way to answer. So, hang in there, you'll hit on something.
    I'm with the FedEx crowd. Back when I used to travel more, it used to be fairly easy to "air cargo" baggage from one point to another. I had no difficulty with picking up my stuff ten days or so after I arrived back home myself. If you have really "a lot" of baggage, a plan like that might be the way to go. Looks like the modern answer is FedEx, or something like it.
    I think I read somewhere that the jeweler who sent the Hope Diamond somewhere used US Mail. When he was asked why, he said he used that for everything. You may want to consider that.
    Let me tell you this: cut down on that baggage. I once boarded a helicopter and there was a guy on it with a very large suitcase with wheels who was also hand-holding an oil painting. While he didn't exceed any technical requirements, one look at that one, and it was obvious: some people need to cut down on the bags.
    Planning and shipping is a great way to cut down on the luggage when you can.
    Also, #3: I have up and left airports; and rented vehicle travel when I had had enough of the nonsense.
    When I say, "up and left airports," I mean, I had a ticket to get on another plane, but I picked up my bags and headed to the exit. There's usually a car rental place or something there if you are in North America.
    If you have really had it, take a break. If you've still had it, cool off enough to get your stuff, and leave politely. In one case, I found out later that I had actually arrived at my destination four hours ahead of the time I would have arrived if I had stayed trapped in the airport. After I had "had it" and left, there was an unforseen eight hour delay. Glad I wasn't there for that one. But, might as well be nice on your way out. There's no point in fussing; those folks have got to do what they do. If it doesn't meet your needs, hit the road. It can incur additional expense, but sometimes its just better to take back some control and hit the road.
  41. You might find a new photography subject out there on the road. It could be a positive experience.
  42. Up and left airports!
    Picking up my stuff, and hitting the exit was so important to me on the day that happened, I have planned to incur that same expense every time I have flown since. I look at the itinerary, and I know, in advance, how much it is going to cost me to get out of there and go somewhere else.
    It was so effective, and so rewarding, to put a stop to the controls I disliked, I think I would pretty much recommend it across the board for most every travel situation. Besides, you never know when some other reason might make it prudent to re-route for whatever purpose. Don't be afraid to hit the road. It can be rewarding.
  43. ted_marcus|1

    ted_marcus|1 Ted R. Marcus

    John, wouldn't it make more sense to avoid the need to make a forfeited donation to an airline and just plan a road trip (or an Amtrak trip, or a Greyhound trip)? That way you can forget about the uncertainty and stress and just have a great time. If more people thought carefully about whether the ordeal of flying is worth it, I think the airlines would get the message. If the current airlines go out of business as a result, that can only be a good thing. Someone else-- hopefully with more sense-- will fill the void.
  44. American Eagle is fine, it is their airplane and they can refuse to carry anything they like, but, I fly them about 20 times a year and they will not let you take larger "carry on" bags on for the simple reason they don't fit in the overheads or under the seat, so stop crying about it. They will let you take any carry on sized bag out to the plane, you then hand it to a ground crew and you can watch him put it on the plane, not in the "hold", their planes don't have one, but in the baggage section between the pilots and the passengers, when you get off the plane you collect your bag. What is there to complain about with that?
    I have taken a very full and heavy Lowpro Trekker AW, the largest "carry on" sized bag I have used, onto many American Eagle flights without a question.
    I have had a British Airways check in clerk order me to check camera gear due to weight restrictions on hand luggage out of Heathrow, I went to the bathroom, put on all my clothes, filled my pockets with a lot of gear and put my camera and biggest lens (300 2.8) round my neck under my jacket, after reweighing my bag I was allowed to go through security, before I did that I went back to the bathroom and put all my stuff back in my bag. Kinda silly really!
  45. Learn to play the game!!!!!
    After that they discovered the plot where guys were going to sneak chemicals on planes and make a bomb on the plane - at the London airports they restricted you to ONE carryone only (that had to be my work briefcase with laptop). I tried to explain to the ticket agent that I couldn't check my camera and lenses. She said "sorry".
    I broke out my photographers vest, manged to stuff 4 lenses, flash into the vest. Had the camera around my neck, checked the empty bag. Got to security, took off the vest and camera, then put the vest back on.
    On the plane - i took off the vest and carefully stowed it in an overhead compartment - keeping an eye on it to make sure no one stuffed something on top.
  46. Having said that about Heathrow, the last time I flew out of there they had relaxed the one bag rule, they had lost so much buisness that British Airways forced the government to relax the stupidly draconian rules and their implimentation. I took two carry on bags through with me, both quite large, I had printed out the updated regulations and the ticketing rules but didn't need to show them to anybody.

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