Man Has Nikon D60 Stolen, Airline Says “Too Bad”

Here’s a good tip for life: when flying, try to keep your camera gear with you at all times. A man named Harold found out the hard way after paying $40 to check in his gear, including a Nikon D60, worth over $900, only to find it missing after arriving home. He shares over at The Consumerist:

I wish to share an event that occurred to my wife and me with United Airlines. On 2-7-10 we were returning from Hawaii after a vacation. We left Honolulu on Flight #72 with stops in San Francisco and Los Angeles and our final destination of Tucson, Arizona. When we boarded in Honolulu the agent from United indicated that our carryon luggage was too big and had to be placed in baggage. We paid $40.00 for it. In my luggage was a Nikon D60 camera with the accessories valued at over $900.00.

Upon boarding we were not given any instructions regarding any liability or insurance for my baggage. When we arrived at home in Tucson I discovered my camera was missing. I contacted Honolulu Police Department and reported my loss. I then contacted United Airlines by phone and by the web to notify them of this theft. On 2-19-10 United wrote me a letter stating that they do not assume liability for photographic equipment. This item is excluded from their published baggage liability. I find this information from United lacking when you board their flights. Consumers should be made aware of this information before placing their luggage in United’s care.

It’s true. If you take a look at the Baggage Liability policy available online, United Airlines states,

For travel wholly between points in the U.S., United will not be liable for loss of money, jewelry, cameras, negotiable papers/securities, electronic/video/photographic equipment , heirlooms, antiques, artifacts, works of art, silverware, irreplaceable books/publications/manuscripts/business documents, precious metals and other similar valuable and commercial effects. [Emphasis added]

However, this policy is by no means unique to United. A quick check of other airlines such as American Airlines or Continental show the exact same thing.

Professionals have probably long known about this policy, but it’s something that would be good for amateurs to know and keep in mind. Keep your gear with you!

Image credit: United Airlines Boeing 777 by birdlike

  • Damean Ravichandra

    Lol… So, now United breaks guitars AND loses cameras. Dave Caroll and Harold should get together for song 4 of the saga.

  • Michael

    I've seen this happen with gun owners who check their guns while flying with the same response from the airlines. My personal feeling is if you have to travel with anything valuable via flying, ship the valuables separately via UPS/FedEX or some other private carrier that will insure your belongings from loss in transit.

  • joancarrara

    Several years ago, we had the same experience. We were returning from Frankfurt Germany and had purchased a lot of gifts which we wanted to bring on the plane with us, so we checked in our luggage with our camera in one of them. When we arrived in NY, we discovered our luggage had been broken into and our camera had been stolen. The airline said they couldn't do anything about it. So this policy has been in effect for quite a few years.

  • jaime Alvarez

    This is a huge problem, particularly within major airports like LA. A year or two ago there were a series of articles and “expose” type reporting the amount of theft that occurred within carry-on luggage.

    Huge problem with this is the obvious one… One is left helpless, and with a lack of control over the situation. What are you left with? You could buy travel insurance, but even then its expensive, and they may not cover the full cost of your equipment.

    Hope they catch the slimeballs that are guilty.

  • Toby

    This reminds me of the fairly recent post on Lifehacker that suggests you check your photog gear along with a pistol/gun which requires the airline to lock the luggage and give you the keys

  • Arild Orholm

    Wow that is really unfortunate Harold, so sorry.

    This is why I paid extra for my (Burton) camera bag to be sure it fits within the measures of carry on. I would NEVER send my mark II as luggage.

    If this ever happens, make sure you get the name and employee number of the check in person, (ref Kevin Smith vs Southwest) or better yet take the camera (and or laptop) with you. You are allowed one carry on and one personal item.

  • TylerIngram

    This is why my camera gear always comes on the plane with me. If your bag is too big, then you have might too much stuff. His wife could have added a couple of items to her purse/carry-on too :)

    If you're bringing all the gear perhaps you should either a) send it ahead via expensive couriers like FedEx, UPS etc where the contents will be insured, or b) look to see where you're headed, what gear you might want/need and then rent it at the destination.

  • Aled Evans

    I can totally empathize with the guy. I got my mobile phone stolen from Newark airport a few years ago. I agree with the other posters – if it's valuable, DO NOT check it in your luggage!

  • Outrageous Tees

    I know better than to check valuables, but why can't “airport security” include cameras on the various baggage handling areas? They KNOW the handlers steal. KNOW it! Why can't this issue be addressed?

    I had a brand new camping stove stolen from my bag and got the usual labrynth on non-human voice messages. Ridiculous. So, when – with the SAME airline on the VERY next flight, my bag was lost(and never found) I WORKED them for the claim. It ruined my vacation(no clothes and other gear for the duration? Yah – ruined). It put out my travel mates while our trip was delayed in waiting…and waiting…for NO updated info, for days. I claimed TO THE MAX. And asked for a free flight to boot(which of course was denied).

  • Luke Lucas

    we've traveled with camera gear all over the US and the London/Wales. granted, we've never traveled with huge amounts of gear (one or two bodies and a couple of lenses), but we've always made sure the bag we stow our gear in can double as carry-on. i wanna feel bad for dude, but as most folks who've flown know, the airlines could give less than two craps about what you check for luggage.

  • Roland K. Smith

    Delta has exactly the same policy, claiming that they have no control over the baggage handling once it leaves the check-in counter. I had a very expensive (and no longer available) Minolta camera stolen out of my luggage on an overseas trip. There are three options: (1) Don't check anything valuable; (2) buy a cheap starter pistol, pack it in the luggage, declare it at checkin. The bag will get a special lock and very careful attention the entire way. (3) Buy insurance and declare the camera or valuable at checkin.

  • Matthew Botos

    With airlines increasingly forcing you to check more bags at the counter and at the gate, it's also a good idea to insure your major pieces of gear. Ask your insurance agent about “Inland Marine Insurance”. It's fairly inexpensive: my annual premium is about 1% of the gear covered with a $100 deductible.

  • Michael

    The TSA approved locks aren't exactly secure and much like handcuffs the keys can easily be purchased if you want them. And they aren't the hardest to pick either.

  • JessicaLum

    About a month and a half, Gizmodo had a similar story, but instead of simply losing the equipment, this man's xbox 360 was crushed, supposedly in the name of safety screening:
    I had another friend whose Nintendo Wii was stolen from his suitcase — taken during a TSA inspection. It was right around the time when Wiis were always sold out at stores, so he was very suspicious. But when he complained, TSA and his airline said that they were not responsible.
    So if you can, always try to fly with your valuables — the airlines liability covers absolutely nothing of value.

  • nileX

    You might wonder why the parking area used by London Heathrow's baggage handlers is known as 'Jaguar Row'… On account of all the top-of-the-range top-marque cars they drive to work in.

    Amazing, the sacrifices these dedicated sports-car enthusiasts must be making to driv these aspirational vehicles on a baggage-handler's meager salary.

    Also amazing: no-one ever, EVER searches them on the way out. Nor is the area they work in covered by high-definition security cameras: such shocking mistrust would be an insult to the fine, upstanding men who could bring the airport to a halt if their diligence and dedication ever wavered.

  • annettefrey

    Oh sweatheart, this is the same airline that messed with that band's guitars. You can make your own video and spread the word through social media. In fact, contact those guys, Sons of Maxwell.

    Your video can be “United steals cameras”.

    It's ridiculous that we can no longer lock suitcases, then they charge you to steal from you and refuse to fess up, outrageous!

  • kgphotography

    All the comments are amazing.
    Now I know what to do when I travel with my gear.

    I've had small things broken or stolen and everyone is right, no one at the airlines care. With all the stories out there, I'm surprised more airlines aren't beefing up security within; I'd definitely frequent an airline who made sure you made it from point a to b without issues.

  • Happy_Tinfoil_Cat

    Considering all the draconian security measures they put us through, if someone can take a camera out of a bag, they can certainly place a bomb in it. This makes my blood boil.

  • Moira Pomeroy

    I did quite a bit of reading on this recently, trying to find the best bag for flying that will hold a reasonable amount of gear plus laptop AND conform to as wide a cross-section of airline companies' regs as possible.

    Point one: before you book a flight, research that carrier's baggage policy. If your bag won't fit, go with another carrier. (This completely excludes some of the smaller airlines. It's up to you how important your gear is.)

    Point two: Every airline specifically excludes valuables from their liability, and they all spell out photo gear in the list of valuables. Some go further and prohibit that same gear from being transported as checked baggage. Yes, it's prohibited. By their regulations.

    Point three: If your carry-on bag conforms to the airline's regs and they prohibit checking your gear and you take a printout of said regs with you to the airport… it still doesn't mean you're guaranteed a smooth ride. They might still give you trouble, but you'll be in a much better position to argue your case / demand an alternative flight / sue them for a canceled journey.

    Point four: Good luck!

  • Nuno Guerreiro

    Yeah but Dave had the real proof on his hands after the flight ended, his guitar was breaked.
    In this case Harold cannot prove to United that he really had a camera of $900 in his luggage… (or can he?!?). I trust Harold, but u guys also have to put inside the role of United.
    Have you thought if everyone that looses luggage reported that they had expensive things inside the luggage?!?!
    I don't know how u guys do it on US, but here in EU if one air company lost someone's luggage, the air company have to reimburse up to €1,100. And one can also make an insurance for expensive luggage
    Next time I recommend him to travel always with the camera on his side… cameras are not to be carried on the deck luggage…

  • Damean Ravichandra

    Maybe so… But in this case, they specifically said that he was NOT allowed to take it on board because the bag was “too big”. So if he can't take it onboard with him, and he can't safely put it in luggace, what could be do?

  • Damean Ravichandra

    Maybe so… But in this case, they specifically said that he was NOT allowed to take it on board because the bag was “too big”. So if he can't take it onboard with him, and he can't safely put it in luggace, what could be do?

  • gravitygardener

    Some people look at vacation travel insurance as a way to mitigate the risks of unpredictable situations that can disrupt their travel schedule. This type of insurance is available to anyone who wants peace of mind that they will be compensated if anything does crop up that may cause their plans to be derailed.

    Here are several areas that may warrant the purchase of vacation travel insurance:

    1. Trip Cancellation or Interruption
    2. Flight Connection was missed due to airline schedule
    3. Travel Delays due to weather
    4. Medical Emergency and hospital care (Accident or Sickness)
    5. Baggage Delay or Loss

    As indicated above, any of these situations can occur during your travel schedule and can become very disruptive to your vacation plans.If you have ever heard of a flight being canceled without notice or multitudes of passengers on a cruise ship experiencing a widespread illness, you know that it can happen to anyone. Those that have the foresight to take out travel insurance will still experience the disruption, but will be compensated based on their policy.

    Gravity Gardener

  • Nuno Guerreiro

    But why people insist to travel with big sizes carryon bags?!?! It's still his fault. Does he really need for a big carryon bag?!?! Why don't he simply used a backpack with his camera inside? Is that so hard ??

  • Geri Schloesser

    Just flew Go Mokulele airlines on 3/22/10 from Honolulu to Kona to find my purse and Teva sandals stolen out of my luggage so thefts are still occurring in Hawaii airports. Travelers beware!

  • Larushka

    want to share my story, which i similar..I was in JFK boarding the flight, came to the gate with my bag that i never check in and always take it as a carry-on. This time i was changing the flight, was in a hurry, 15 min to take-off. I come to a gate (i was flying with damn Virgin Airlines) with my bag, they said you’re late, no room on board, let us check your bag in for free. What could i do? In a hurry i open my bag, take out my computer, $2000 worth camera and some other stuff i didn’t want to lose..but forget to take out my canon powershot s95 (bought a month earlier for $400)…they take my bag, i come to San Francisco to find i don’t on it anymore. Virgin ailrines waved their hands: it’s not their problem! PLEASE BE AWARE!!! i was forced to check-in the bag!!!

  • Hell’s Donut House

    I recently had a suitcase “lost” outright from a United flight to Honolulu. I was eventually reimbursed for the princely sum of $300 and basically told I was lucky I got that much for it. If you’re ever forced to fly with things that are impossible for you to transport otherwise, make sure you have your own insurance.