This Video Will Make You Rethink Checking Cameras On Your Next Flight

I fly with photo/video gear a lot and most of the time I am forced to check at least a portion of my equipment. I usually try to carry on my most fragile gear (cameras and lenses) but sometimes even that isn't possible. After watching this video I might have to throw a fit the next time they tell me that all of the over head bins are full. 

The video above shows a very complex but relatively gentle baggage conveyor belt. I believe this video is meant to show the baggage system in a positive light but I still cringe when I imagine one of my gear bags being treated this way. 

Of course this video leaves out how rough the human baggage handlers themselves can be. We actually had an airline break a piece of our Pelican case, something that I thought was actually impossible. Maybe our bag went through the machine below. 

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24 Comments

2 guys to put the luggage on the conveyor belt... Suuuuuuure!

Annnd they leave out the part about human handling.

yep

Keith Hammond's picture

that seemed to go around for a long time and get no where, i wonder if anyone has ever done a hidden case camera video to see how it's really handled

am i the only one that would like to ride on that thing ? no wonder stuff gets lost. all of that for bags ? looks way more complicated than it has to be

Joakim Drake's picture

Yeah, I didn't know luggage handling at airports looked like advanced robotics facilities. Pretty cool vid I must say.

I have packing my carry on down to an art form. I was thrilled the first time I flew with my son because even though he could actually fit in the suitcase, having another person meant I didn't have to check bags. Just the way they come out scares me. Then there was that video showing the TSA people stealing stuff out of the bags.

Galmo Su's picture

Anyone else get flashbacks of Monsters Inc?

Lee, how does this make one rethink checking their camera bag?

Contrary to popular belief, airlines/airports/handling agencies sole goal is not to destroy your luggage.
Through my masters in engineering I've learned a fair amount about these systems and I've actually visited Hearthrow's T5 system, amongst others. Additionally, I'm one of those guys you all seem to hate so much, the dreaded bagage handler.

A huge factor here is simply costs and speediness: sure, handling agencies could manually carry your bag from the check in desk to the hold of the aircraft you will board. However, your tickets would be about 10x more expensive and you'd have to check in 5 hours before your flight departs. Sound like a better alternative? Enter bagage sorting systems.

Accidents happen and I get that it's horrible to have this happen to your gear. However, please rest assured that both the designers of these sorting systems and the bagage handlers themselves (most of them anyway) do their utmost best to make sure your bags get to their destination in one piece. The whole hating on the bagage handlers etc strikes me as rather narrow minded, it's like hating all photographers because one photographer screwed up your wedding photos. Are all photographers out to ruin the best day of your life?

If any of you have any questions about this I'd be happy to answer.

Hey Bram,

although I appreciate your personal attempts at keeping bags safe, I would not ever say that the majority of baggage handlers have my bags safety in mind. When I check my bags the stewardesses will throw my bag on the belt right in front of me. I've seen baggage handlers throw bags out of the plane onto the ground in the rain.

What is your opinion on that second video?

Keith Hammond's picture

in that second video that push thing was brutal, why not have a diverting arm on the conveyor belt

Eric Mazzone's picture

I know for a fact that luggage tagged as fragile is handled with extreme care, in fact I watched a united ticket agent at O'hare vary carefully carry my computer monitor he marked as fragile right out the front door. The police refused to do anything about it short of assuring me it will make it to my destination, the flight attendant said she checked with the baggage crew loading the flight that this particular item is on by number when I directly asked her to check, yet when I got to my final destination in Monterey California to return to duty I was told that it should be there in a day or so and they'd call me to arrange delivery. It took two weeks of calling united after I was released from duty and talking to Indians who couldn't speak English half so well as I could speak German after four months of studying, to find out that the dang thing never made it past the first scan at the ticket counter.

So basically I had one piece of c*** from united steal from me, and at least five others from the same airline lie to my face about my gear. United graciously said they'd write a letter for my insurance company to expedite the claims process, yet after paying my deductible I'd have to pay only $50 more to buy a replacement outright. The ticket moron skipped the part of paying for insurance while I was checking in, even though I directly asked about it. This was in 2007 while coming back to my duty station from mid class leave.

I'll be damned if I'll ever fly united again if I can help it, even while traveling with the army, thankfully I can now book my own flights more so than years ago. Considering I fly via O'hare that POS ticket guy better hope I never see him, because I have his ugly face memorized, because when I do, I don't give a rats rear about slavery I OWN HIM!

And airlines wonder why I get almost violent when they tell me I have to put gear in the gate check, they really don't like when I hand them an agreement where they accept personally responsibility for $10,000 of gear that they will sign or they may choose to find a place for my gear right above where I'm sitting. Purely their choice in that matter, sign or make someone move their purse. My gear stays with me, and never leaves my side and will NOT be checked. Clothing I can easily replace, this stuff, considering a lot of it isn't mine and is owned by the U.S. Army, not out of my pocket.

9 years, and you still have that much anger?

Eric Mazzone's picture

EIGHT years, someone can't math. And yes I'm still pissed.

Lee, quite simple: very outdated technology, you wouldn't find this in any modern bagage handling system. Also, as I mentioned before: does a video of 1 seriously brutal handling system mean all airports have this system? The reasoning here is extremely flawed: 1 video of a horrible contraption pops up, conclusion is drawn never to check in cameras at any airport? Come on, you can do better!
It's like saying: hey, this photographer screwed up my wedding photos, therefore all wedding photographers are shit.

Josh Rottman's picture

The worst part about this picture of how my bag arrived in Edinburgh is that my Pelican isn't pictured because it's still in Heathrow. Oh, and they lost them both on the way back too.

Grant Watkins's picture

Who in their right mind would even consider it? BEFORE seeing this video.

Lor Wor's picture

Last week I flew AirCanada. I was overweight for carryon with just one single Nikon f.28 400mm VRii in a Thinktank Int'l version 2. No bodies, no extras. The bag weighs 9 lbs alone. They did let it go once I showed them the contents and I did reload it with 2 bodies my wife had in her purse once we got to the gate but its a pain to carry on gear as well.

Fritz John Asuro's picture

I was expecting a video where baggage handlers will open up bags/ luggage to steal something. In my opinion, I don't expect my luggage to be handled very carefully as I am well aware it will be running thru a series of conveyor belts plus the pressure of getting stuff on time.

Please link to the better video: http://www.schiphol.nl/Reizigers/OpSchiphol/Bagage/BagageVideo.htm You can view 360 degrees!

I work for the company that designed this system and its a pretty gentle system. Systems from the USA are worse (see the pusher from the second video). As I recall there was exactly one like this in Chicago (used to be).

Glen Grant's picture

It's never the baggage system I worry about (they have improved over time) but the human element a.k.a. ramp handlers that cause me anxiety. My carrier of choice is Westjet for most destinations (noted to my clients as well) avoiding connections where possible as my key gear will always make carry-on for the 737+ class, not so for their prop planes which require adjustments on my end (Air Canada sucks period).

Brian Dowling's picture

Flying in Europe is such a pain. Our carry-ons are much smaller and are often limited to 18 pounds. I've resorted to just using my backpack and always having a Duty-Free shopping bag with some gear in it.

Yeah, this really doesn't look that bad. A Pelican case could absorb that shock no problem.

That first video is amazing. It doesn't create any feeling of concern at all. The second one is altogether different. And with apologies to Bram, I'm not convinced most baggage handlers give a rip about what happens to my bag or its contents.

Timothy, I do get your point. Handling can look quite rough. A huge factor here are, again, costs. Travelers want their tickets cheaper than ever, especially so for budget airlines like RyanAir. There's a lot of competition in this industry. This works down to a lower level, where handling agencies are forced to operate at extreme efficiency and speed by their clients (airlines). Turnaround times of airplanes are crazy (25 minutes for a fully loaded Ryanair 737), placing handlers under significant pressure. To put it quite simply, there isn't enough time to carefully handle every bag. Naturally, there will always be these videos of handlers throwing bags and cases of them stealing. I can honestly tell you the majority of my colleagues will handle bags professionally and as carefully as they can, given the targets they have to meet as a result of the focus on speed and efficiency.