Photo gear/travel warning

Aug 29th, 2006, 06:25 AM
  #1  
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Photo gear/travel warning

I got permission from the author to post here - I just thought some of you might be interested. Can never be too careful....

I never got around to posting this when it happened, partly due to the emotions of it all, but with all the turmoil surrounding carry-on v. checked bags these days it might be a good time for it.

This past February I went on a trip to Arizona on NorthWest Airlines. I took my nearly brand-new Canon 500mm f/4.0L IS with me, in its factory hard-shell case, surrounded by old beach towels and some clothing (several inches worth on all sides), in a giant duffle bag. The duffle bag was nothing special (so as not to attract attention), just a $59 job from Kohls. We checked it of course, due to its size.

Going was no problem, however on the return trip (Phoenix>Detroit>Toledo) when we went to claim our bag, the bag had been opened, most of the clothing and towels still inside but the lens and case were gone. No TSA inspection tag or any indication that it might have been opened "officially".

We of course immediately filed a claim with the NWA agent right there at the airport, called all three lost & founds at each airport etc. Here is where it gets interesting and any of you thinking of checking your equipment need to take note: NWA does not cover any photographic equipment, at all. (In fact, they don't cover much of anything, if you read the fine print on their website.) They claim that it is clearly posted at their ticket counters!? They were also incredibly rude, unsympathetic and un-cooperative about the whole thing. They do not investigate internally or in any way cooperate with me or the authorities (under the guise of security) in trying to recover items or at least find out who may have been responsible. All I got from them was a letter stating that they take no responsibility and better luck next time.

So the next step is to file with the TSA. It took them 4 months to finally get around to sending me a letter which said "we do not pay for lost items which were not our responsibility." But of course they will not say how or if they determined whether or not it was their responsibility.

Incidentally, the Toledo police woundn't take a report on the incident, neither would the Detroit police. (We changed planes in Det. and were on the ground for over 2 hours, plenty of time for someone to lift it) Phoenix police took a report but the detective flat-out told me nothing would happen with it unless it shows up in a pawn shop raid. He said it is inconceivable to him that the airlines and the TSA allow baggage handlers to show up to work with gym bags and large duffle bags, claiming that it is their lunch! They are allowed to freely walk in and out from their jobs with these things without being searched. Phoenix Sky Harbor by the way is on the top-ten list for most stolen luggage.

So why did I check it? Because as any of you with a 500 or 600 know, it is tough to carry on with all of your other gear and frankly I thought it would be safe on a domestic flight. Fortunately, it was insured and we were finally paid for it last week.

Just keep this in mind when you decide what to check on your next flight.
cooncat3 is offline  
Aug 29th, 2006, 06:51 AM
  #2  
 
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That just makes me sick. How dare the airlines/TSA/police make it totally okay for thieves to steal. AND they pay them to do it because they are employees of the airlines.

How on earth do you do something about this and where do you start? Anytime I book a flight where I'll be carrying photo gear, I'm just paranoid that I won't be allowed to carry-on and I'll be forced to stay home or check it with the luggage.

I'm so sorry for you and this experience.
sundowner is offline  
Aug 29th, 2006, 06:58 AM
  #3  
 
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This is the reason for homeowners insurance. If you feel something is very valuable, then take out a rider on your ins policy and they will cover the loss.
dssxxxx is offline  
Aug 29th, 2006, 07:00 AM
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"nearly brand-new Canon 500mm f/4.0L IS ... lens and case were gone ... So why did I check it? Because as any of you with a 500 or 600 know, it is tough to carry on with all of your other gear"

My wife and I both have 500 f/4 L IS lenses and take them as carry-on all over the world without problems, so I have to disagree with this.

We use the LowePro PhotoTrekker AW bags, which are USA carry-on legal size ... to give you an example, on our last trip to Tanzania my bag had the 500 f/4, two heavy Canon pro bodies (1Ds, 1D M II), 70-200 f/2.8 L IS, 24-105 f/4 L IS, two teleconverters, 550EX flash, two extra batteries and a 100 GB Wolverine drive ... no problem carrying it on flights to Amsterdam and then the KLM flight to Arusha ... I know dozens of people who do the same basic thing. These are heavy when loaded like this (around 35 lbs) but other than British Air and Air New Zealand we've never had carry-on bags weighed (and avoid BA and ANZ at all costs).

The only time you might not be able to hand-carry is if you are on a small commuter plane, in which case you do a 'gate-check' where they take it at the plane door and you pick it up when you get off the plane, bypassing the baggage handlers. We have to do this mainly in Alaska to places like King Salmon or the Pribilof Islands.

Just to pass on some rare positive news about flying and lost luggage, on our trip to Tanzania in January one of the guys was missing a checked bag when we landed in Arusha. This bag had a Nikon 600 f/4 (too big for a carry-on legal LowePro) and a Nikon D2x among other things, so around $13,000 in photo gear (plus his malaria pills). Didn't arrive the second night at Tarangire, didn't arrive the third night at Tarangire, didn't arrive the fourth night at Manyara ... finally arrived the fifth night at Manyara ... everyone was betting the camera and long lens would be missing but both were still in the bag. I was so impressed by this that when we went back in April I put a 300 f/4 lens in my checked bags (wouldn't fit the carry-on) and it flew safely to Arusha and back.

Bill
Bill_H is offline  
Aug 29th, 2006, 07:25 AM
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Sundowner

Ahh!! The power of the unions.
napamatt is offline  
Aug 29th, 2006, 08:18 AM
  #6  
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Just to be clear - this didn't happen to me, it was someone on a photography forum and I asked him if I could share it here because of all the Fodor's photography enthusiasts.

Bill -with all respect, what works for one person may not work for another. You and I have no idea how much gear this person was carrying in total. As everyone can read, he did have it insured, but still. The lack of customer service on all counts is appalling. I just thought you all might be interested.

Given that many threads on this forum have taken a decidedly nasty turn lately I am asking that we refrain from judgments and diatribe about why he checked his lens, what he should have done...or whatever. What would be the point?

Cheers,
Sharon
cooncat3 is offline  
Aug 29th, 2006, 08:40 AM
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The refusal of anyone to take responsibility for theft from luggage is not new. Well before 2001, my luggage was opened and robbed, either in Miami or Johannesburg, and no one, neither the airline (which forced me to check the bag against my wishes), nor the police nor the airport authorities, would give me any help at all. It was, as cooncat says, "tough, better luck next time", and "you shouldn't have put valuables in your bag".

I often fume silently at fellow passengers who push the carry-on rules well beyond the limits, but on the other hand I sympathize too -- when you check your luggage you really are tossing it into a potential den of thieves.
Celia is offline  
Aug 29th, 2006, 08:54 AM
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Unfortunately, no airline will accept liability for photographic equipment and other valuables in checked baggage. And for covered items, liability is limited to only $2800 per passenger on domestic itineraries and $20.00 per kilo on international itineraries.

Here's the baggage limitation information from Delta's site which is pretty standard - http://www.delta.com/legal/index.jsp#baggage

"No liability for electronic equipment, photographic equipment, jewelry, cash, computer equipment, or other similar valuable items."

And I do believe I've seen such notices at check-in counters.
Patty is online now  
Aug 29th, 2006, 09:00 AM
  #9  
 
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Sharon
Thanks so much for copying this story here... it IS highly relevant as, particularly in today's hand-luggage restrictions, one may well end up checking items that one would rather carry on.
I do find it intensely infuriating that airlines turn a blind eye to this issue and refuse to put pressure on unions and on airports to resolve the problem.
Workers in many jobs accept the requirements of security checks on them as they check in and out of the job. And heck, why aren't CCTV camera used more extensively too?
Again, thanks for sharing!
PS Which forum?
Kavey is offline  
Aug 29th, 2006, 09:48 AM
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If you want a funny story on baggage, here is one.

On our first trip to Egypt in 1993, when we received our bags, we noticed that the combination locks on both bags were gone. We just wondered what was stolen.....

When we got to the Ramses Hilton, we opened the bags and went through them throughly and found nothing missing.

The next day we mentioned this to our guide and he relayed the following:

When the baggagge handlers have nothing to do, they open the combination locks. I guess after a while you get very good and fast at doing this. It took about 25 minutes for the bags to start arriving after landing in Cairo.

Now, the guide tells us "that they give the locks to locals (with the combination - that is written on a piece of paper) and the locals sell to the tourists on the street. I saw alot of peeps buying, so I guess they all got ripped off.

After hearing this story, we never used locks anymore. We used the plastic ties that can be cut because we figure if they want in the bag, they will get in. And for the price of a new Tumi bag, we can lose a few items (we never have....knock, knock).
dssxxxx is offline  
Aug 29th, 2006, 11:29 AM
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"I am asking that we refrain from judgments and diatribe about why he checked his lens, what he should have done...or whatever. What would be the point?"

The point is that there is a simple and effective way to avoid the problem with that particular lens ... get a certain camera bag and avoid certain airlines. Perhaps that info would be of help to this person if he replaced the lens, and to others with similar equipment.

Sorry if you thought this was a "judgment" or "diatribe" ... I just disagreed with his conclusion since we travel with the same gear and don't think it's "tough" to do at all ...

Bill
Bill_H is offline  
Aug 29th, 2006, 11:50 AM
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hi, i didnt read all this-but i have never will never check anything.i bring two bags:
my gym size bag and my 10"X10"x5" bag for my cams and other stuff.it works.
beside i just like to run and go.
this bites what happened here.
d
tuskerdave is offline  
Aug 29th, 2006, 12:15 PM
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Bill H - Please, maybe your prose doesn't rise to the level of diatribe, but it's clear you're being judgemental and smug because you have organised your life so that you never have to check your camera. The subtext is that those who don't, are really just mistaken in their analysis of the options.

There is not enough information to arrive at any conclusion about the judgement of the person who's camera was stolen. Did they need to carry on a computer, a nebulizer, dear old Mom's silver set, or the last surviving third reel from "Ernest Goes to Malawi"?

This person's sad experience, which cooncat has shared, reminds all of us about what can happen when checking valuables and what little to expect from the airlines/authorities.
Favor is offline  
Aug 29th, 2006, 12:38 PM
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FWIW, I didn't find Bill's comments to be judgemental or smug. You guys are touchy today
Patty is online now  
Aug 29th, 2006, 12:59 PM
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Patty - I meant in the roll-your-eyes little "s" sense, not the "well that's special" capital "S" sense. This is the problem with this medium - hard to get the right "voice" to come through.

Bill_H - I'm not tweaking you nearly as seriously as Patty thinks ;-)
Favor is offline  
Aug 29th, 2006, 12:59 PM
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TuskerDave,

In the past, I've undertaken your strategy. With the new regulations, following the recent terrorist scare, only one carryon may be allowed.

Here is what I'm thinking of doing if the luggage restrictions remain. I'll carry on my camera, binocs, meds, etc.

Plus I put lots of stuff in my travel vest. Hope that's still allowed.

Then, if you can no longer carry on another bag, I'll check two bags. One bag will be a duplicate of the other. If one bag gets lost, I'll still have the other one. I am assuming both bags will not disappear.

It may seem that I am paranoid over lost luggage, but I have had delayed bags quite often, usually on the way home, when I just check everything. Every trip I run into several people whose bags are delayed or gone for good.
atravelynn is offline  
Aug 29th, 2006, 01:48 PM
  #17  
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Last I heard you couldn't have anything in your pockets. Just that one small bag as carryon, size specific (woman's handbag ok? maybe?). Laptop and Ipod/MP3 ok, camera - with some airlines it's ok, others not.

So be prepared for anything, any day, any change. Sadly, that seems to be what it's come to!
 
Aug 29th, 2006, 02:45 PM
  #18  
 
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One of the other strong learnings here is include your camera equipment (specifically itemized) on your homeowners insurance.
napamatt is offline  
Aug 29th, 2006, 03:47 PM
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hi, i am under the impression you can still bring 2 carry ons.1 for above 1 for under.i am fly to kenya for 3wks sept 29th. i fly northwest, klm, kenya air.
i'll call north west again.
d
ps,what is it people bringing 2 big bags with them on the plane? plus gifts and such! 1 of these bags cant fit under the seat.its very annoying when you have someone following the carry on rules-then you have people bringing more stuff taking up your over head space.
oh some A-HOLE tried bringing a carved walking stick on board.it was like 5ft or more long. finally at the last check they gave BS about it-he gave them some BS story he needed it-yeah just saw him walking fine. stuff like that.
they made him check it.
pss, if it comes to me having to check my gym bag-then i will get a bigger bag to replace the smaller one-and bring that on board and check that gym bag. if i can fit everything in my gym bag-i'll do that!
thx, d
tuskerdave is offline  
Aug 29th, 2006, 03:57 PM
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"i am under the impression you can still bring 2 carry ons.1 for above 1 for under.i am fly to kenya for 3wks sept 29th. i fly northwest, klm, kenya air."

Dave, on the airlines we use this is still true (small bag, mid-sized bag for carry-on), the only change is no liquids or gels allowed as carry-on.

I think it's a lot more strict from England, perhaps still from US to Britain. Are you going thru London or AMS? AMS is still OK ...

Bill
Bill_H is offline  

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