On a flight from Philadelphia to New York my girlfriend was asked, as she boarded the plane, to "check" her carry on bag and put it below the plane because there was no longer any room in the bins in the cabin. When she arrived in NYC she was asked to retrieve her bag at baggage claim. Once it was apparent her bag was not showing up, the baggage department said that her bag would be delivered to her the next day. When she received her bag, her laptop was missing. Katy filed a complaint and received this letter.
Katy ended up losing thousands of photos that she had failed to backup (she won't make that mistake again). The laptop itself was not very valuable but that isn't the point. The point is that US Airways forced Katy to check a bag but will not guarantee the safety of anything inside. Sure, a laptop, phone, or jewelry, is easy to remove from a carry on bag (and she should have remembered to do that) but what if your carry on bag is full of camera equipment?
How can we travel safely with photography equipment?
I travel everywhere with a ThinkTank Airport Security V 2.0 roller bag filled with over $10,000 of camera equipment. On my back I carry a Lowepro Trekker 400 with more cameras, lenses, a laptop, and an iPad. I can always fit the backpack under the seat in a jam but about 20% of the time I am forced to check my roller bag because either the bins are too small or already full before I get on the plane. I cannot "remove fragile or valuable items" because the whole bag is full of fragile and valuable items.
So what are photographers supposed to do when we fly with gear? You aren't supposed to check it, but the airlines may force you to. I'm just waiting for the day when my roller bag full of photography gear never shows up at baggage claim, and apparently US Airways will not cover my loss.
I believe that US Airways should make a couple very simple changes. First, if you are forced to check a carry on bag, you should be given your bag back as soon as you land. Second, if they can't do this they should be willing to pay for damaged or stolen items. Do the right thing US Airways and replace Katy's laptop.