Did you know that photographers and videographers get special rates on checked bags with most major airlines? Some airlines will allow you to save money on extra bags and others will allow you to save money on over-weight bags. You just have to prove that you are a photographer/videographer and that's harder than it sounds.
I don't know about your experience but I've found that about 50% of the agents who check me in at an airport have no interest in helping me when I claim to be a traveling photographer. Even though it clearly states on each of their airline's websites what media rates are and what I have to do to get them, they either act like they have no clue what I'm talking about or they ask for bullshit credentials that aren't actually required. The last time this happened to me the lady said she needed to see my "media pass and badge number." I explained that I was the owner of a media company and I could prove it multiple ways but she was unwilling to budge. That day we were charged $600 more than we should have been and it was the final straw for me. I vowed that day to make a media pass and share it with everyone on Fstoppers.
Here is the front of my new badge.
To make this media pass legitimate I made sure to add a badge number because the last lady at Delta told me I had to have it. I'm excited for her to type this number into her computer and search her badge number directory to make sure it's legitimate.
To make myself sound extremely important I gave myself the title of "Senior Executive Chief" to let the these baggage handlers know just how high on the corporate ladder I've climbed.
Behind everything I wrote "do not copy" over and over and turned the text sideways so that it would be impossible to duplicate. To enhance the badge further I added the Cyberdyne logo from the movie Terminator to give it a professional feel. I knew that I might want to pretend to scan my fake media pass throughout the airport so I searched "bar code" in Google images and added a random one to the bottom of the badge.
For the finishing touch I added Vladimir Putin's signature to the bottom of my badge to prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that I am indeed a photographer.
Here's the back of my badge.
On the back of the card I put text explaining that I am indeed a photographer and I should be given the media rate for bags. Below that I added the rules from each of the major airlines that pertain to discounted media rate bags.
To make the back of the card official I added the eagle logo from American Eagle Outfitters behind the text.
How To Print Your Own Media Pass
If you want your media pass to look like mine you can download my Photoshop template here. If you want to make one fast, use the templates on the website below.
To print these badges I went to quickidcard.com. I clicked on "Make ID." I picked a vertical ID card template towards the bottom. When the template came up I clicked on "add new image" and picked the JPG I had made for the front and resized it to fit the entire card. Then I clicked "switch to reverse side" and "add new image," and I chose the image for the back. They cost $12 to print.
Have as much fun as you like with your design, just remember to use another badge ID number. We wouldn't want our official media pass accounts to become suspended when the lady behind the Delta counter discovers duplicate badge numbers.
UPDATE: I want to make it 100% clear that I am not suggesting that you make a fake media pass for another organization that you don't actually work for. If you use my template, change the Fstoppers logo out for your own photography business.
If you are a photographer or videographer you are entitled to the media rate for many airlines but some airlines require certain types of identification. Some gate agents will accept a business card, other will accept simply taking a peak inside the bags to prove it is indeed photo gear. But some agents require ridiculous forms of identification including "a media pass and a badge number." You are completely within your rights to create your own type of identification card with your business name on it. If you want to make yours a joke like mine, go for it. If you want to play it safe and make a legit "media pass" you're welcome to do that as well. But keep in mind that the term "media pass" is completely meaningless and "badge numbers" are made up by whoever made up the media pass. This isn't some regulated form of ID.
Since writing this I have been contacted by 3 other photographers who said they have printed out their own media passes for this very reason. One of them just told me that a gate agent told him "I don't care if you print out some fake media pass right in front of me, I just have to see a media pass before I can give you the media rate." These gate agents are simply afraid of getting into trouble and they are trying to follow the rules, no matter how stupid the rules may be. I'm just going to play their game because I'm tired of arguing about this every single time I fly with a bunch of gear.
My buddy also suggested that some agents want to see the words "commercial media" on the badge rather than just "media." My suggestion would be to put as many official sounding words on it as possible to cover all the bases. Patrick also had a good idea about adding text for your carry on bags that says "this person is carrying a bag containing lithium ion batteries and by law is not allowed to place this bag under the plane."
UPDATE 2: The cards arrived.