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Author Topic: New Issues for Traveling Photogaphers  (Read 17963 times)
Mark D Segal
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« on: August 10, 2006, 07:57:47 AM »
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As a member of BA's Executive Club (their frequent flyer program) I received an email from BA over a month ago notifying me of new baggage restrictions for all passengers - essentially ONE carry-on within regulation weight, and checked baggage allowance reduced from 70 pounds to 50 pounds per bag. Since then, at least for Business Class travel my limited experience is that up to to about mid-July they had not been enforcing the cabin baggage provision.

As of this morning all that has changed. By now, many of you will have heard the news coming out of London - according to the BBC for the time being NO CABIN BAGGAGE is being allowed on board except for travel medicine. This is part of the initial response to a plot the British police and security services uncovered to explode a number of US aircraft in flight between the UK and the USA, using bombs hidden in cabin baggage.

When these things happen, the ramifications for everyone leap far and wide. At least for some time to come, it is predictable that with varying degrees of severity in different airports at different times, it will become increasingly difficult to travel with cabin bags loaded with gear. Those photographers using air travel as part of their professional or liesure photographic activity I believe will urgently need to rethink the strategy for carrying gear. It may become necessary for example, to contemplate using hard cases as checked baggage carrying all the equipment, protected with TSA safety locks, and packing into one's suitcase a more portable soft-covered bag for daily use at destination in the field. At the very least, hand baggage will become a much greater hassle than it has been until this morning.

I expect that if such measures will become increasingly required in this era of far stricter security practices, the travel bag industry will be designing new solutions to meet the needs of traveling photographers .
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Fred Ragland
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« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2006, 10:49:53 AM »
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...It may become necessary for example, to contemplate using hard cases as checked baggage...

Many of us have never done this.  Could those with experience checking cameras in hard cases share them with us?
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Anon E. Mouse
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« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2006, 11:06:35 AM »
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Sure. I had a 4x5 system in a Pelican case. I went though customs in the first stop in the States. After that, the baggage handler took the case and rolled it down a steel ramp in such a way that it rolled like a ball - he seemed to enjoy that.

Fortunately, nothing was broken. I don't like the idea of checking camera equipment.
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2006, 11:45:25 AM »
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I don't like the idea of checking camera equipment.
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You and all the rest of us. Let us hope and pray these draconian measures can be and are lifted in the not too distant future, but from what I am watching on television just now, anyone travelling with anything like cameras and laptops is facing tough choices - i.e. check them or don't fly.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Gary Ferguson
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« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2006, 11:57:37 AM »
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I think we're just going to have to get used to this. For all flights from the UK there's now no cabin luggage permitted, just a few personal effects such as passport, wallet, and keys without an electronic fob attached; all to be carried in a transparent plastic bag. No books, no iPods, no laptops, and no cameras.

And it's surely only a matter of time before this policy spreads to other countries.

I wonder what will happen to all those retail stores they're building in airports?
And I wonder if my photographic insurance policy covers checked equipment?
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Gordon Buck
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« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2006, 12:32:11 PM »
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No cell phones?  *That* will get people upset!
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Hank
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« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2006, 01:19:38 PM »
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We've used hard cases for years when travelling with large kits.  Only one mishap, when the aluminum case arrived completely crushed.  While the airline insisted we had checked it in that way, we were able to make a strong counter that the crush coincided directly with the black tire tracks of a baggage trailer.  Evidently it had fallen out of the trailer and was subsequently run over.  In spite of their $1500 limitations on claims we eventually prevailed and they wrote us a check for $19,000.  No court time involved but months of arguing, chest beating and threats.  What a royal pain in the arse.
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abredon
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« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2006, 02:16:37 PM »
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The most important photographic item about this is that ALL non-allowed carry-on items (and film is not an allowed carry-on item) go through standard checked baggage scanners - these are the high-powered x-ray machines that will fog even slow films.
So if you are a film photographer, don't fly into or out of the UK until they ease the restrictions.
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DiaAzul
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« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2006, 02:50:23 PM »
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I guess the next move is to ban anyone from wearing clothes whilst flying - no shoes, just your underwear.

Sarcasm aside, I suspect this is a short term stingent policy from which a longer term more relaxed policy will evolve, probably entailing a ban on all forms of liquid in the cabin - therefore, no taking food and drink onto the aircraft, you will have to eat (or more likely buy at exhorbitant prices) what the airlines have to offer. This will also mark the end of buying duty free drinks and taking them onboard the aircraft - though commercial interests may force a work around for this. For photographers it will be a case of removing any cleaning fluids etc from your hand baggage before checking in.
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David Plummer    http://photo.tanzo.org/
Mark D Segal
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« Reply #9 on: August 10, 2006, 03:07:53 PM »
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David, I hope you suspect correctly, but it is not clear. I believe the security people are sensitive to the inconvenience all this causes, but their first priority is security. When something like this happens, and the investigations are still underway and will be for an indeterminate time period, they cannot with confidence advise civil authorities to ease-up. Furthermore, because of the global nature of both the air networks and the threats, enhanced security measures are implemented swiftly in numerous countries at the same time, regardless of there being no known immediate threat to them - we have already witnessed this here in Toronto. And one cannot know for how long each national authority will keep these measures in place. Even if the most stringent of the measures were relaxed within the next few days, some hugely inconvenient ones for our purposes could linger quite a bit longer. On top of all that, we need to consider that this will likely not be the last of such episodes. The bottom line - I think - is that traveling photographers will need to be prepared with a range of strategic options for getting our gear from Point A to Point B, depending on the situation at the time of travel.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2006, 03:28:20 PM »
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Virgin airlines have just emailed me to say these restrictions will apply not just on their flights out of the UK, but also on their flights from the US to the UK.
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DiaAzul
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« Reply #11 on: August 10, 2006, 06:37:09 PM »
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The bottom line - I think - is that traveling photographers will need to be prepared with a range of strategic options for getting our gear from Point A to Point B, depending on the situation at the time of travel.
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I couldn't agree with you more, the term 'short timeframe' is a suitably flexible term that could be days to months depending on any given reference point. Though, I suspect the strain on the transport system of having to check everything into the hold will be relaxed sooner rather than later just from the practical point of view that most people will need books, iPods, videos, etc..on long haul flights to keep them occupied.

The questions would appear to be:

1/ If checking gear into the hold what is the most practical way that this can be achieved (ie. are there 'wraps' to cover the camera and protect it in an ordinary suitcase to minimise the amount of luggage to go in the hold, and if a separate case is used what is the most cost effective selection available - Pelican or otherwise).

2/ Is it practical to FedEx equipment in advance and are there customs/ import export issues and insurance considerations that need to be taken into account.
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David Plummer    http://photo.tanzo.org/
Mark D Segal
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« Reply #12 on: August 10, 2006, 07:10:56 PM »
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David, Air France for the longest time has been offering their Business Class passengers leaving from Roissy-CDG a plastic wrap on their checked suitcases - it's quite a nifty process. They put the suitcase into a machine that literally shrink-wraps and seals your suitacse in a tough poly shell (sort of like a very heavy version of Saran Wrap) to protect the finish from scratches and bumps. So this technology is old-hat and if AF can do it, so can any of the others.

But I don't think that addresses the real problem of checking gear, which is internal damage from the way baggage handlers throw around luggage and the way the luggage tumbles through those automated roller and conveyer systems. That is what needs to be addressed. If the security people will maintain restrictions on hand-carried gear, the airlines and airport authorities will have to develop new protocols for the handling of fragile baggage, modify machinery (buffers or whatever) and train handlers to respect the new protocols. It can be done, just as UPS and Fed Ex manage to deliver gear bought from B&H damage-free the world over.

Turning to Fed Ex, I think Fed-Exing this stuff would be a very expensive imposition on traveling professionals, and special arrangements would need to be made so the stuff meets the traveler at the destination airport, otherwise it could be a monumental bureaucratic hassle, as you point out. Too much logistical risk in all that.

Insurance is fine, but if you're off to a workshop or a time-bound professional assignment and the cameras get trashed, the insurance settlement won't get the pictures taken. And the premiums would probably be astronomical and the post-trauma cash recovery from those companies like pulling teeth.

Instead, I think the solution needs to come from the airlines themselves and the security people, devising ways of meeting passengers needs that are both practical and compatible with security. Otherwise, alot of travel photography could well be curtailed - not clear how many will be willing to invest in expensive bags like Pelicans yet stil not be totally comfortable about the internal damage risk.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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« Reply #13 on: August 10, 2006, 10:44:06 PM »
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I believe the solution is simple for travelling photographers, business people, and the like who carry gear with them.  Have a screening and/or security process that checks the background of individuals to ascertain risk.  Then provide a stamp in the passport or separate card that indicates this individual is allowed to carry specifical gear with them on the aircraft.  Should others complain then security can point to a policy and say "Your are welcome to apply!".

Of course this would require international cooperation.  Humm.... Can anyone see that happening (Isreal, Lebanon, Hezbollah).    

Kelly
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Graeme Nattress
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« Reply #14 on: August 11, 2006, 01:34:18 AM »
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The thing is, it's not these new regulations that stopped the plot, but careful, traditional surveilance / infiltration techniques, that we don't see or hear about because we're not spies. It's not sniffer dogs, nor xrays or bomb sniffers at an airport that stopped this, so what makes them think that imploting even more stringent measures will do any earthly good? What is needed is more and better spies, not more and better airport security. If you stop a bomb at security, then you've still stopped it too late....
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Graham Welland
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« Reply #15 on: August 11, 2006, 02:07:20 AM »
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The thing is, it's not these new regulations that stopped the plot, but careful, traditional surveilance / infiltration techniques, that we don't see or hear about because we're not spies. It's not sniffer dogs, nor xrays or bomb sniffers at an airport that stopped this, so what makes them think that imploting even more stringent measures will do any earthly good? What is needed is more and better spies, not more and better airport security. If you stop a bomb at security, then you've still stopped it too late....
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That's a valid point if you assume that the intelligence services managed to foil all of the terrorists. The draconian measures in place right now are designed to reduce the risk from those that were missed or might try to copycat, plus I think also to send a message out to the public that this is being taken seriously.

I travel every week and nothing frustrates me more than inconsistent application of the security scanning proces - as much as I hate it I would more willingly accept it if it were consistent.

If you are a frequent photo traveller then it lookslike time to invest in Pelican cases (or similar). These have been the ONLY way that I've safely transported equipment that even baggage handlers have trouble damaging. I recommend the foam fill vs compartments if you want to be safe against shock damage that only highly trained baggage destroyers, sorry handlers, can inflict. The downside of foam is that you can fit less per case but these things get heavy quickly anyway. You can get TSA compliant locks for these which eases the anxiety just slightly.
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #16 on: August 11, 2006, 08:10:17 AM »
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Fortunately, not all countries' security authorities are being as draconian as they are in the UK. (For example here in Canada, and I believe in the US, one is still allowed to take electronics into the cabin, but no fluids.) I suppose that is normal in this particular case, because of specifics of this incident. If there will be other kinds of incidents in other places that would change the story. A Pelican case appears to be one good strategic back-up option, but on the BBC this morning a travel industry expert did mention that stuff freezes in the baggage holds of aircraft, then defrosts when it comes out, and alot of equipment is not manufactured to accommodate those stresses. Another option is for photographers (and other professionals similarly affected)  to watch which airports require checking cameras and laptops and to avoid those airports until the rules change. It would be nice to have a website that tracks which airports allow what things on board in real time so people can be well enough informed to plan where and what to avoid.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2006, 08:11:14 AM by MarkDS » Logged

Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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« Reply #17 on: August 11, 2006, 08:28:01 AM »
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As a Cathay Pacific diamond card holder I'm accustomed to a high level of service and leniency - I take huge amounts in the cabin with me.  On the odd occasion when I'm obliged to travel with a lesser airline (oh, the hardship...) I've packed my bodies and lenses tightly into a Lowepro trekker backpack, and securely packed THAT into a suitcase.  Lots of support and padding there, but of course no protection if a truck backs over it.

I agree that other airlines are sure to adopt a stricter policy (Cathay tell me that for my flight tomorrow I'm still OK on the old rules), so a rigid, sealed Pelican with lots of internal padded buffering would seem to be in order.
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Bill in WV
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« Reply #18 on: August 11, 2006, 11:08:29 AM »
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I have just enough anecdotal evidence to be more concerned about theft by the security people than by the thought that they may drop it. I would be more than willing to buy and use Pelikan Cases and check my equipment and computer, if I was sure it would travel with me on the same plane AND I GOT TO BE THERE WHEN IT WAS INSPECTED!

The idea that I have to trust that they can just open and inspect my luggage out of my presence is what bothers me more than them dropping it. I doubt that theft by the inspectors rampant, but it happens and nobody seems to be responsible. The airlines blame the inspectors and the inspectors blame the handlers and neither is willing to take our word for what was in our baggage. And without some sort of inspection in the presence of airline and securtiy personnel and me/you the situation become irresolvable.

I really try not be paronoid, but that doesn't mean somebody isn't out to get me.
A very close friend had his laptop stolen from his luggage and most people's reaction has been, "He packed his laptop? What an idiot!" So I take it from that that I am not the only one who thinks this way.

Yet, I have seen all sorts of valuables come tumbling down the baggage carousel so others seem to trust their luck.

I do like the idea of special ID for those willing to undergo a background investigation in order to grease the boarding process. But then again, only people cleared to the highest level of security can be an effective traitor. Maybe the terrorists have won all ready.

Just my $.02.

Bill in WV
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Bill Evans

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« Reply #19 on: August 11, 2006, 02:23:30 PM »
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I have just enough anecdotal evidence to be more concerned about theft by the security people than by the thought that they may drop it.
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Unfortunately there are many countries - try South Africa for example (and the rest of Africa too for that matter) where putting expensive gear in the hold means there is a pretty good chance it's going to be lost or stolen - or if some amusing stories are to be believed both!
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