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Photographers Camera Gear Stolen on JetBlue Flight

December 28, 2012 Legal 4 Comments

Written by: Charlie Borland

Photographer Jess Dugan had her camera gear stolen on a recent JetBlue flight from Chicago to Boston and she received the usual response from the airline: ‘we are not responsible.’

The camera gear was in some of her checked luggage and as Dugan mentions on her blog she had reached her carry-on limit of camera gear and had no choice but to check the remaining cameras and lenses. When she retrieved her luggage in Boston, the checked camera gear was gone.

She admits that she did not use a TSA approved lock and that would have been my first thought: why no lock? While she did not addressed that question it appears that TSA locks are no guarantee that your property will not be stolen. Since TSA locks are designed to be opened by TSA screeners if needed, items seem to still disappear. The locks can be cut off and it happens. Since the TSA has a key to open the lock, then they would not need to cutoff the lock. So is a cutoff lock an indication that baggage handlers are the culprit?

Theft from checked baggage has been a problem forever and the TSA has taken some steps to confront the problem. More than 200 TSA employees have been fired for theft and many have been prosecuted. This still does not solve the problem of your camera gear disappearing.

Some travelers recommend using colorful zip ties. The TSA will cut these off and replace them with black ones (all they use) and this can be an indication of who opened your bags.

In this post on the TSA blog, the writer (TSA employee) says they dont need to cut off the locks when they have keys and that if a lock is missing, it is more likely due to the conveyor systems moving the luggage than a human. Hmmm……

For me, if I cant carry it on with me it does not go, period. That of course is not the answer for the photographer heading to Africa with an 800mm lens. And, many overseas airlines have different rules on what can be carried on and its weight.

Some choose to ship equipment by Fedex and here they will not cover the cost of your gear either. And then, depending on where you are going, will the gear arrive in time for you to pick it up?

Bottom line is really good insurance since the odds are not 100% in the travelers favor. I also use one of these roller cases, the Airport International by Think Tank. It has locks on the zipper and a cable for locking the bag to anything to prevent theft.

If you have any ideas or suggestions, please leave a comment.


Baggage Theft and 7 Tips on How to Prevent It.

Tips to Ensure the TSA Does Not Steal Your Stuff

Related Post: Michele Westmorlands Unique Tip on Packing Equipment for International Travel

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Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

  1. Richard Wong says:

    That is awful, Charlie. Generally I do the same as you. If I can’t carry it on, then I don’t bring it. Though I do leave my tripod in the luggage.

  2. Marty says:

    In other accounts I read of this incident, it indicated that the gear was insured and that she wanted the airline to pay for the insured value. Not sure what the point of either having insurance, or asking the airline to pay, would be. Like you and others, if I can’t carry it on, it’s not going. And if it’s not fully insured, it won’t be shipped either. While I sympathize with her over the loss, we all now know that common carriers hold no liability for any losses these days (eg. Costa Concordia incident), so it’s buyer beware – know the rules before you decide to throw your gear into a suitcase. Or at least have it fully insured.

  3. David says:

    I stopped checking anything valuable years ago. It’s safer to ship via FedEx. I ship to a hotel or pickup at a local FedEx office.

  4. John Fowler says:

    I seem to remember a song about something like “United breaks guuitars”? Does Ms Dugan sing? Know a songwriter in need of a hit?

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