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Old Sep 21, 2009, 9:45 AM   #1
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Default Perils of gate checking your camera when flying

Recently I took a flight from Newark NJ to Indianapolis on Continental Airlines. The jet was an Embraer 145.

The seating arrangement is on that aircraft is one seat on the left, 2 on the right of the center aisle. Because this aircraft is small, it has limited overhead cargo space. So when I started to board the aircraft I was asked to hand over my backpack which easily meets carry-on limits, for gate-check.

I dropped off my backpack with my Canon 5D and 24-70 lens and notebook computer in side.

A few minutes later I heard a loud, rhythmic BANG outside the aircraft. I look and saw how our gate checked bags were being handled. A Continental employee was handing bags down from the ramp to a baggage handler who was on the ground and loading them onto a cart. The baggage handler was not actually "throwing" the bags, but he was reaching above his head, and then guiding the bags, in free fall from above his head on to the cart. One after the next was handled the same way. Never, did the baggage handler control the bag and place it on the cart with any level of care. I told the flight attendant, she looked out the window and said there was nothing she could do. And if there was any breakage, I would need to report it to baggage claim at the arrival city.

Bottom line, Continental says they are not responsible for my broken lens. The fact that I saw them carelessly moving our bags is irrelevant. I have spoken to their entire customer service department and they all say the same thing. They assume no liability for any broken electronic items while in their possession. They said that they will reprimand the baggage handler for his actions, but they do not assume any liability for the lens and that they are sorry this happened.

Yes, I saw the video, "United Breaks Guitars". But it is impossible for me to prove that their baggage handler broke the lens. I cannot prove it was not broken prior to my handing it to them.

I'm not looking for advice. I'm giving advice.... do not gate-check a good camera and lens unless they are packed well and in a hard case and detached from one another.

I am really, really disappointed with Continental Airlines.

Last edited by FaithfulPastor; Sep 21, 2009 at 9:56 AM.
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Old Sep 21, 2009, 9:59 AM   #2
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FYI, the camera appears to be in good shape, the glass is broken, the front of the lens that accepts the filter is bend. I think it's a total loss.
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Old Sep 21, 2009, 12:04 PM   #3
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Just to add on - you don't want any valuables OF ANY KIND in checked luggage either. Airlines won't be held accountable for items stolen out of your luggage either. So, no camera gear, no jewelry, no IPOD, no anything someone would actually want to steal. Found that out the hard way a few years back when items were stolen from our luggage. Basically all the airlines will cover is the cost of clothes if they lose your luggage. Someone steals something and you're out of luck.
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Old Sep 23, 2009, 9:24 AM   #4
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I fully agree with JohnG's comments on checked luggage. I tell my 350 notebook users that only three things happen to electronic equipment in checked luggage and all three are bad (lost, stolen, damaged). We, however have had good success with gate-checked notebook computers & accesories when packed in ordinary notebook travel bags. I'd be inclined to suggest that if a notebook computer in a travel bag survived and a camera in the same bag didn't survive didn't then then one needs to look at how the camera was packed in the bag.
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Old Sep 23, 2009, 9:34 PM   #5
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Let me give you the airline PR BS....

Per the terms of the tariff, the legal document which applies to your ticket, the airline is not responsible for loss or damage of consumer electronics (cameras).

This limitation is to prevent scammers from shipping boxes of rocks, non-working equipment etc and then claiming substantial loss or damages at a later date.

Didn't know about the tariff? Yes you did. There was a dinky little link on the website of the ticketing source (airline, travel agency etc) that disclosed the (seemingly) 2000 page tariff. The fact that you failed to click the link is entirely your own fault as the ticketing source gave you ample opportunity to review the tariff prior to booking the ticket. Should you have had additional questions regarding the tariff the staff at the airport would have taken the 19 hours necessary to explain the tariff to you in great detail.

By the way, in the old days the tariff was referenced on the back of the printed ticket.

end of PR BS.

Personally I hate the mouse print tariffs. I understand the logic behind the need of the terms of the tariff, I just wish the the airlines were better with their disclosure methods.
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