Photographer Arrives.  Gear Doesn’t.

Gate checking photography gear when flying.

Having to gate check check your photography gear is a traveling photographer’s nightmare.

Have you heard about the award-winning professional photographer who lost $13,000 worth of photo gear while flying from Chicago to DC?

Gate agents at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport insisted that photographer Michelle Frankfurter gate check her carry-on roller bag, which was full of her equipment.  After arguing and pleading her case, and against her better judgement, she complied.

Somewhere between leaving the gate at O’Hare and arriving at Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC, the bag disappeared and has not been found.

Most US airlines cap baggage liability at $3,500.  What’s even worse, Frankfurter’s photographer’s insurance had lapsed!

We’ve all heard horror stories about lost luggage or damaged contents.  There’s even been a You Tube music video about an airline breaking a musician’s guitar!  How can you prevent it happening to you?

We all have our own strategies for traveling safely with our gear, and there is a whole range of roller bags and backpacks designed specifically for air travel.  I have a photo backpack that’s compatible with airline carry-on size limitations.  While I’ve seen gate agents requiring passengers to check bags, I’ve never seen them make people check reasonably-sized backpacks.  I have frequent flier accounts and airline credit cards with the two carriers I most often use, which allow me to board before overhead bin space gets scarce.

But what do you do if you have more gear than can fit in a backpack, or if your gear is too heavy or bulky?  What’s your travel strategy?

One other thing: Insurance.  Pro photographers rely on their gear to make a living.  No gear equals no income.  Losing your equipment can be catastrophic for amateurs, too.  Do you have insurance on your gear?  Are you aware that your homeowner’s policy may not cover all your gear?  Did you know that NANPA members can get special rates on equipment, professional, travel and health insurance?  Sign in to the members’ area to learn more.

Being a little OCD about insurance can be a life saver in a situation like this.