Overhead Bin Full? Pull Out Your Camera Prior to Checking In Your Bag

When overhead bins on airplanes fill up, flight attendants will often ask passengers to gate-check their carry-on bags. If this happens to you, be sure you take out your camera gear out of your bag prior to handing it over to the attendant. It’s not just for peace of mind in knowing that your gear isn’t being thrown around and abused: major airlines generally have provisions in their contracts that keep them from being held responsible for electronics in checked bags. If the camera is damaged or stolen, you might be out of luck.

In a travel advice column over on the Chicago Tribune, a reader named Haijun Shan writes that his camera was recently stolen on a US Airways flight after this exact situation occurred.

He was planning to carry his camera with him in his carry on bag, but had the bag quickly taken away by flight attendants once space in the overhead compartments ran out. When he arrived at his destination, he found that his camera had vanished. US Airways, citing its checked bag policy, refused to reimburse Shan for the camera.

Luckily for Shan, Tribune writer Christopher Elliott was able to appeal to the airline on his behalf and have the cost of the camera covered, but other travelers might not be so lucky.

Elliot writes,

Let’s take a moment to understand what probably caused this problem: luggage fees. If airlines included the first checked bag in the price of their tickets, then more passengers would check their bags, freeing up overhead bin space.

If you’re ever in a situation like this […] try to slow things down. The attendant is in a hurry, preparing the cabin for departure. But you aren’t. Don’t let go of the bag until you’re sure all of your valuables are with you.

A flight attendant took my camera and I want it back [Chicago Tribune]

Image credit: 2006_10_08__08_02_56 by freedryk

  • Josh M

    I had the same situation occur to me on a US Airways flight August 3rd 2012, except it was my backup camera equipment in the carry on luggage. I keep my main equipment in my camera bag and always keep that with me as my second carry on that goes under the seat in front of me. I’ve filed a claim, excited to see what turns out. :)

  • Greg Takayama

    The exact same thing happened to me too – I was forced to gate check a bag that had my camera on a US Airways flight. 5D mkII was stolen. Never got anything back from US Airways. Haven’t flown them ever since, never will again. Also, will never ever check anything valuable.

  • rtfe

    i like to use the barf-bag to store smart-cards.

  • Renato Murakami

    I for one can understand that.
    No matter what logic they use to justify it, I think it’s ridiculous for any airline not to take responsibility of stolen property.

  • Manwithacamera

    I have Thinktank Urban Disguise bag. During travel, I keep it under the seat.

  • Jeff Willey

    I always travel with a bag I KNOW will fit under the seat after having this scare in the past. It’s worth going through the extra effort to get a travel bag you know you can rely on because overhead space runs out quickly.

  • bruce

    Last time I was flying with my gear the attendent told me she had to gate check it. I told her it had $10K worth of camera gear, and if she personally took responsibility for its safety, i would hand it over. – Camera bag got its own seat LIKE A BOSS

  • John Kantor

    They are infested with criminals. All they have to do to stop all theft is put cameras in the luggage areas. If I ever meet an airline exec, I’ll spit in his face.

  • Mansgame

    last time I flew, my carry on was 2 inches longer than what would fit in the sample overhead compartment they had (I didn’t account for the wheels). I had about $5000 worth of gear in there, but had the camera bag inside the luggage so I just checked the bag in without any fear for both ways. Nothing happened. Stop acting like pansies.

  • tunretni

    The baggage handlers that probably stole it don’t work for the airline, so, how can the airline take responsibility for that?

  • A_Lwin

    Last year I flew on a 14 hour (2x 6.5 hour connecting flights + 1x 1 hour connection) trip, had 4 bags with me (2 rolling suitcases, 1 Samsonite, 1 ThinkTank Airstream), Lowepro backpack and a laptop bag. At the check in counter, I checked in my Samsonite and Lowepro (the two combined were already over my weight limit of 25kg, I did get a slight discount on the extra weight fees) which did not have any essential or expensive gear, everything important was in the Airstream and laptop bag but the Airstream weight about 16kg and the airline regulations stated maximum 1 carry on of no more than 7kg + a laptop bag. I told the person at the counter politely that I was traveling with expensive gear, she called her manager to whom I also spoke very politely. Told me they understood my situation and allowed me to take the Airstream into the cabin with me. The airline was Etihad (Geneva to Yangon trip) and encountered the same situation on the return flight, dealt with the person at the counter in a polite and civil manner and got permission to exceed the weight regulations.