Photographer Has $2,000 in Camera Gear Go Missing After a JetBlue Flight


When photographer Jess T. Dugan picked up her luggage after a flight from Chicago to Boston on December 18th, something didn’t feel quite right. It felt a bit lighter than it should have. She opened it up, and, lo and behold, several thousand dollars of camera equipment was missing — oops.

Just as you or I would have done, Jess’ next move was to send a concerned e-mail to the folks over at JetBlue, reporting the incident and asking that they reimburse her for the insured value of her equipment — an amount far less than the costs she will actually incur in replacing it. Her argument was that, in accordance with TSA regulation, she did not lock her bags. She also knows for a fact that only JetBlue employees touched the bags between Chicago and Boston. The issue seemed fairly cut and dry.


Unfortunately, all she received in return was a cordial e-mail apologizing for her misfortune, explaining that the TSA does, in fact, allow you to purchase approved baggage locks, and informing her that she will not be compensated for her loss per JetBlue’s Contract of Carriage. Here’s an excerpt of the email:

At JetBlue we make every attempt to minimize situations such as that which you have described. Our crewmembers have extensive background checks and work in a closely monitored environment where they are not allowed to open your bag in most situations (barring safety issues, or in attempt to determine the owner of a bag that is missing its identification). The same may be said of the monitoring and employment verification of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Unfortunately, it is not always possible to determine the cause of this type of incident unless it is witnessed or the missing item is located.

We certainly do not allow or promote any type of disrespect toward our customers’ belongings. Proof that a crewmember had not treated a customer’s belongings with such respect as JetBlue’s values dictate would result in swift and appropriate action toward that crewmember from JetBlue. If you have evidence of theft you may wish to also report this to the police, who are the proper authority to investigate allegations of criminal activity.

Our records do indicate that Baggage Report BOSB600262964 was opened for this incident. However, as the items that were reported as missing fall under limited liability per the JetBlue Contract of Carriage, please be aware that this is a courtesy report that will not result in monetary compensation […]

If we are able to locate your belongings you will be contacted to verify ownership.

Please be aware that TSA regulations do not prohibit you from placing a lock on your baggage. For more information about TSA policies regarding baggage locks, please visit [this link]

The airline representative also recommends that Dugan file a claim with the TSA, which may be the guilty party in this situation.

Jess then decided to write and publish an open letter on her blog, explaining the situation to her readers and asking JetBlue, again, that she simply be reimbursed for the insured value of her equipment. And as is often the case when something like this happens, the online photography community has jumped to her aid, spreading the story through various channels and garnering some serious attention for her complaint (and bad press for JetBlue, no doubt).

Locks bearing the "Travel Sentry" mark are among those approved by the TSA

Locks bearing the “Travel Sentry” mark are among those approved by the TSA

TSA-approved locks, which can be opened by security officers using universal keys, may be a good solution to prevent theft in certain stages in a bag’s journey, but what if it’s the universal key holders who are the thieves? Just this past October, there was a big stir over a former TSA agent who confessed to stealing over $800K worth of passengers’ belongings over four years.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: always carry-on your gear whenever possible!

JetBlue Stole My Cameras [Jess T. Dugan via Reddit]

Update: Photographer Steven Frischling has posted an article questioning Dugan’s assertion that the airline is at fault.

Image credits: Header illustration created with Baggage Claim by basheertome and Airbus A320, JetBlue at Logan, as the sun rises. “A Little Blue Will Do”. by wbaiv, JetBlue @ SeaTac by prayitno

  • Jason Zeis

    Could they somehow get a hold of the xray machines images, I thought they were stored at least stored temporarily?….

  • Ed

    Non sequitur, Richard. Ever heard of it?

  • 写真家

    And who is going to pay for that? You know what it costs to have to sift through all that video footage? Can image JetBlue now, asking security at the airport authority to go over video for two airports (the Ar and Dp) to try and track it down.

    Not only is security at both airports are going to have to try and locate which camera was where and when the AC was at, then isolate the time compared to every other plane,.

    Never going to happen.

  • Ed R.

    Thanks for the input, Mr. One Percent.

  • CMAC1961


  • Michael Moriatis

    I’m sorry. Who in their right mind checks camera gear? traveled 11 different times this year for work and all of my lenses and cameras went on the plane with me. It was even locked when placed in the overhead since I sleep on planes. I hope she gets reimbursed but I don’t see it happening.

  • Kris J Boorman

    So, just so I’m reading this correctly, if you lost your camera gear on a flight (I always carry my gear on hand, but lets hypothesise), you’d say “Well, I guess they’d have to work to find it. Never mind.”

  • inca

    a question to you all about gear in carry-on:
    what do you do when the crew at check-in weigh your carry-on to realize its double the allowed weight and tell you that you are not allowed to take that much weight into the flight?
    I haven’t seen an airline that would allow you to pay extra to take more weight in.

  • JackF

    She should have reported the loss right at baggage claim to the airline when she felt the bags are “lighter”

  • Alex Szecsi

    Only 2000$ LOL a body,one lens and a flash.Use kata bags they have several ones in airplane size.

  • f2point8

    There are laws and rules that make checking baggage compulsory. But there is nothing that compels the carrier take responsibility for your checked baggage. So your stuff didn’t make it there. Oops. Sorry. Do you want to sign up for our frequent flyer club?

  • Mansgame

    That sucks. I had to check my equipment because the wheels made my carry on an inch too long and was nervous the entire way. TSA had a look-see at my gear but otherwise they didn’t take anything. This was SWA by the way, not Jetblue

  • Samuel

    Isn’t this exactly what travel insurance is for, I wouldnt fly anywhere i had to check my gear without some comprehensive insurance. I wouldnt really expect the airline to reimburse me, not everyone along the line of that bag is employed by them. The people that drive the luggage carts and stuff aren’t the airline employees are they ?

  • Nathan Blaney

    No client? Be more careful. Easy. But yeah, she’s not much of a photographer.

  • qeqwoie

    ahahah nice one

  • dom_pmd

    You’re not supposed to have pressurized items on board a plane, I’m pretty sure that goes back to the ’60s-70s…

  • 写真家

    I am saying is that if you think both airline, TSA and airport authority is going to go out of their way looking for stolen items from one persons luggage, you have never flown before. How many items go missing out of luggage every day in airport all over the world? It will not happen.

  • 写真家

    BTW: If my cameras do not go carry on, then I cancel the flight. I am not saying that the industry attitude is correct, but stipulating reality.

  • 2slim

    Hey all you “blame the victim” folks. I travel with a full roller bag of camera gear regularly. I always carry it on but on smaller airplanes, where there are very small or no overhead bins, I am forced to “gate check” the bag. Thus, despite my best efforts I am at the mercy of the airline. We are forced to play by their rules, I think we should be able to expect them to treat us with respect.

  • Kimberly Siebert

    southwest doesnt fly to all airports.

  • Kimberly Siebert

    dont forget the Cinnebon shift supervisor, and Starbucks barista jerk…

  • MD

    You haven’t the slightest clue and you’re embarrassing yourself in front of those more cultured than yourself. She’s a graduate student and a regionally respected gallery-showing artist.

    What exactly have you done with your heaps of talent?


  • Kimberly Siebert

    So not a single one of my lenses are any *good* because I purchased them on sale? My 35L is no good, neither are: 24-70L, 24-105L, 100L, 85L, 70-200L f4(double whammy bad lens. It’s a SUPER slow lens at f4) & my Sigma 50mm are all bad lenses… Next time I will be sure to spend 2k to get a lens that is good. Checklist: book flight. check on baggage. arrive at destination. open bag. call insurance. double check bag. file claim. get check. make sure to spend a minimum of 2k on each lens (from what I have been told) the only way to get a good lens is if we spend at least 2k on them.(you know) I just thought it was poor composition, incorrect camera settings, too much noise, incorrect white balance, not enough light, wrong kind of light, or even bad color were the things which make a bad image. I am so glad I read this, now I know its been my lenses. Phew, what a relief.

  • Richard Ford

    “She shouldn’t have to prove it really” Doh!

    Kangaroo Court, ever heard of it Ed?

  • Nathan Blaney

    What have I done? Let’s see….

    You mean aside from earning a fine living from photography since she was in about second grade, showing in major venues and teaching? Hmm… I don’t know what else. Perhaps somewhere along the line, I learned how to pack a suitcase…. and my photo gear, safely.

    Its pretty easy to make smart remarks like you do when you don’t even have the guts to post under your own name, “MD”. I’m pretty sure YOU are the one without a clue. Only gutless turds hide behind the anonymity forums like this provide.

  • MD

    On the other hand, only misguided assholes get as many downvotes as you have (none from me, mind you) and still try to drive their point home. This particular forum seems to think you’re kind of a douche and doesn’t seem to mind me at all.

    It’s a sad world when someone’s misfortune leads to these kinds of attacks on their character from people with no reason to think ill of them aside from a painfully apparent bully complex. One would have expected you to get over yourself in all the time since Jess was in second grade.

    Oh, and lest you feel the need to hurl more insults, I could care less what you think of my character. Maybe gutless turds hide behind anonymity, but pathetic losers are the only ones who give a damn.

    Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal.

  • Nathan Blaney

    Blah, blah, blah… Don’t you mean you “Couldn’t care less”? You probably don’t know what you mean, due to your apparent lack of education. And insults? Aren’t YOU the one throwing the first one out there with that twit comment? Yeah, I thought so. I’ll take the filthy animal thing as a compliment though. Thanks! :)

  • MD

    Ouch. Burn. You really nailed me for…using a common idiom. Something tells me that anyone reading both of our comments so far wouldn’t assume I’m the one lacking edumucation.

    Truth be told, I’m having a bit of cognitive dissonance here. I’ve only kept baiting you for this long because I’ve had too much coffee today, and taunting some goon on a website is more fun than paying attention to The Nutcracker on tv. But then, you’re making this a little too easy so I think I’ll give it a rest now.

    Also, yes, I did throw the first insult. I don’t take too kindly to my colleagues being libeled, and I figured it would get under your skin. Nice job proving me wrong.

  • Nathan Blaney

    If you’re someone who’s still hiding away anonymously AND calling this person a colleague , well… you’re doing a pretty fine job of pointing out how young, cowardly, inexperienced and ignorant you are.

  • Duke Shin

    I’d be charging into an airport with a C4 belt if even $200’s worth of gear was missing. Now shutit, you snobs

  • branden hughes

    This past September I had $6,000 worth of camera gear taken from me from the Trenitalia rail road in Italy on the way to Naples. Gone. No one in the customer service area “magically” spoke any English and the police on location were zero help. I was told that “Even if one of our crew took it, you wouldn’t be able to get it back.”

  • El_Fez

    Jess’ next move was to send a concerned e-mail to the folks over at JetBlue

    Naw, my next move would have been to talk to someone there and then, straight away in the airport. And call the cops to file a report.

    Actually my first move would have been: never ever EVER check anything I am not prepared to have stolen. Game systems, Ipads, DVD players, cameras, jewerly – luggage handlers have VERY sticky fingers.

  • Phil

    The point of the “security procedures” is to make things look secure, not to actually make them secure. The term for this is “security theatre” (coined by Bruce Schneier in his book “Beyond Fear”).

  • reddyroc

    Sucks that happened.

    I recently travelled to Mexico from Vancouver. A friend had her p&s stolen from her bag when we arrived in mexico. I personally travel with my gear as a carry on. I suppose between my body, 2 lenses, and a flash I carried on over 2k worth of gear myself. Better safe than sorry, cant trust those thieving bastards.

  • Jess Peterson

    never, ever put anything of value in checked baggage. That’s always been a given. So many horror stories about stolen property from either baggage handlers, or security. Sorry she had to learn that lesson, but this has been going on for years, and will for many more.

  • jonnie

    seriously, if airlines cant control theft, then to hell with flying

  • Jim Saul

    Certainly carry on what you can, your best lenses and bodies, but the idea of carrying on all your gear is ridiculous. Do these people travel with a team of Sherpas or something?

    Those affiliated with a major outlet or network can get special dispensation, but the rest of us check what we must, after carrying on what we can.

    Just as the photographer in the article did.

  • Bill

    This worried me as I am in the middle of a cross-country flight with $30K of gear with me.

    Luckily for me, I was able to carry-on my 2 bags that contain most of my gear which consist of several lenses and a few camera bodies. In the other bag is my 400mm 2.8 which I was also able to carry-on, no way am I letting that bag be “checked”.

    I thought for sure that going through the security screening of TSA, that the camera gear would prompt them to ask me to open the bag[s] for further inspection, but no trouble.

    I would have checked the bags but the insurance claim policy limits the airline up to $3000, that being a 10th of the value, I am not willing to take that risk, even though my gear is insured for loss and theft through me. Then I would have to file a claim and eventually pay higher premiums for coverage, if items were to go missing.

    Not sure what I would do if I was put in a situation where I had to check my bags with my gear. I was going to purchase one of those hard cases like Pelican, but even with the TSA approved lock, i does nothing to prevent anyone with access to that key to steal.
    It would be nice if there was a device like the GPS apps in iPads and Tablets that you could install or have installed in your gear to “track” them if they are missing, that would be just awesome.

  • Sally Canzoneri

    I agree. Whatever the equipment cost, it was, presumably as much as she could afford, and she should have been able to rely on the airline to protect it. Also, she should not have had to suffer the surprise of how little money passengers can recover for lost luggage. But many of us have only read the small print when our luggage went missing.

    It seems to me that about the best solution available for photographers traveling with valuable equipment is to insure the equipment against loss. The insurance is not necessarily all that expensive and can save a lot of misery. Homeowners & renters insurance policies usually cover personal items against theft, even outside the home. (I once got reimbursed by my insurer for a camera stolen from my car.) There is usually a limit of a percentage of the total insured property under the policy, and some items may not be covered. However, if that is a problem, you can get a personal items policy that specifically covers items like artwork, computers, and musical instruments. These policies can cover more than just theft too (like breakage).

    Unfortunately, bad things do happen to good, cautious people. That’s why insurance was invented.

  • Robb Hull


  • Robb Hull


  • Gary

    Jet blue lost my suitcase with all my things for a month vacation. Now im filling a form listings all my belongings. They are not taking full responsibility for my loss plus all the damage caused. Can they legally asume that irresponsible position? I didnt pay anybody else to safely bring me and ALL my belongings to my destination, I paid them. And p a id in full, not partial. So they should respond for everything, not only for my clothes. Bastards!

  • Chris Hayworth

    Hey with my bank account and 20 years of experience as a travel photographer I am quite happy to be called an amateur. I still say it’s my or any other pro photographers responsibility to keep my equipment safe

  • Chris Hayworth

    In fact I just recently invested $500 on flight cases for my cameras.

  • szfofa

    You can’t really check in your Tenba Air cases with lighting equipment in it.

  • Deborah Gray Mitchell

    I would never ever check camera gear. Lighting gear, yes. Light stands and tripods, yes. Those things don’t get stolen. You may as well put a STEAL ME sticker on it. NEVER EVER CHECK YOUR CAMERAS.

  • Deborah Gray Mitchell

    My late husband worked in the airline industry for many many years. An airline’s job is to get you from point A to point B. It is your job to know the limitations of their liability and to protect yourself. These days, I don’t think they care if you drive yourself.