Pro Tip: Some Airlines Have a Special Luggage Allowance for Media So You Can Pack More Gear


If you’ve ever shot on-location somewhere far away, you probably had to make this tough decision: what gear do I take and what do I leave at the studio? For big photo shoots you’d rather err on the side of caution and take it all, but airline luggage allowances make that impossible… or do they?

It turns out that some airlines have a special policy that allows media professionals to pack a whole lot more gear.

Astutely pointed out by jet-setting photographer Benjamin Von Wong in a recent blog post, certain airlines — including the big ones like American, Delta and United — have special luggage allowances for media professionals that will let you pay to bring as much gear as you’d like. In fact, in some cases, it will save you money.

Here’s an example from American Airlines:


And another from Delta:


As you can see, it doesn’t come free, but media professionals are allowed to check as many as 25 separate bags with Delta and up to 40 on American Airlines flights. That should pretty much cover any piece of gear you could conceive of bringing, assuming you have the cash to drop 50 bucks per bag.

The one caveat is that you’re going to have to prove you’re a media professional, and a business card won’t always make the cut.

Solution? Print your own. “I went ahead and printed out my own plastic ID card that now double up as luggage tags,” writes Von Wong. “Boom. Instant proof.”


It’s probably not a tip you’ll need to use often, but knowing that these major airlines will let you pack more things might ease the stress of packing for that next photo shoot. Just be ready to compensate with some stress on your wallet.

Image credits: Photograph by Benjamin Von Wong and used with permission

  • Adam Cross

    A card that says “media” lol. and when they ask literally “who do you work for?” … hmm. I’m not convinced.

  • Tobias W.

    Print your own?! Claiming to be an accredited journalist (this is what a media tag like that claims after all) while in reality you are just an ordinary photographer shooting weddings and other commercial jobs will in the end, ruin it for the real media professionals. I am sure you already have all their gratitude for sharing this little trick.

  • Mike

    The American Airlines policy seems to explicitly state “Professional Photographer”. So how would it be ruined for others?

  • Cal

    I use this all the time when I’m traveling and a business card has always been enough. The only down side is you have to wait in the long lines and often deal with employees (before you get to the desk) who don’t know what you’re talking about. But, saves a ton of cash.

  • Kynikos

    That’s actually Kim Kardashian’s gear for taking selfies, isn’t it?

  • Ed Rhodes

    Easy, just tell them you’re from PetaPixel :) I mean, you did write a comment that one time on that one article.

  • Adam Cross


  • Jack B. Siegel

    I would never send a camera bag like the one pictured through as checked luggage. I assume stuff would be stolen. That is the same reason I don’t pack valuables in a suitcase. I do recognize that most luggage handlers are honest, but we certainly read enough stories about theft rings at airports to make one nervous.

    So, if you participate in one of the airline programs mentioned, do your checked media cases get some sort of special handling that makes theft much more unlikely?

  • Jack B. Siegel

    Another question: If you are on American, does this policy/program apply to their code share partners if your destination requires you to switch planes?

    It is worth noting that membership in the American Society of Media Photographers is relatively inexpensive and you can purchase a membership credential, so qualifying for the American program (proving you are professional) is not that big of a deal.

  • Chris Walsh

    This is a great tip, and even though printing your own credentials seems sneaky, it’s often required. I work for an independent “commercial film-making company,” and we were denied the media rate on a flight out because we only had business cards and we needed “credentials.”
    So I made credentials at Kinkos after we landed, and we got the media rate on the return trip. It’s not “cheating” – you’re not forging a press pass to a closed event, you are simply creating the documentary proof that the airline requires. Media baggage rate is not limited only to large companies, it’s available to all working media professionals. The proof requirement seems unnecessary, since I’m not sure why someone who wasn’t travelling for work would want to check six camera cases and tripods.

  • bob cooley

    It would, except in very rare cases. These are all checked bags, and once in transit, you typically never see your bags until your final destination. Even if you had a transit were you had to grab your bags and re-drop them, its not the typical baggage check situation, and any subsequent airline you change to in-filght is under the initial airlines’ charter for the duration of the voyage.

  • bob cooley

    I’d be carrying the cameras as carry-on, and if any lighting or grip had to go through check-in, you can secure them with TSA approved locks. I’d never let the Samsonite monkeys handle my delicate gear :)

  • bob cooley

    Nah, it really won’t. There have been organizations like the USPA that have sold ‘press credentials’ for years, and everyone knows they are bunk. If you are in a major metro area, you usually need to obtain very specific and recognizable credentials from the police or a government office who checks your bonafieds.

    Small-town LEOs know the press passes of their local media (and really small towns, the LEOs and press know each other personally).

    Even having totally legit credentials doesn’t get you into events, you still have to work with the event producers to procure those.

    Fake IDs actually have very limited use.

    The National Press Photographers Assoc. website has a pretty good page on all of this:

  • JonSmeeth

    Might as well fake a NatGeo ID card, for omnipotent immunity.

  • nikonian

    I’m with you. If you aren’t media or don’t do any work for media then don’t. Just because you are a professional wedding photographer at a concert doesn’t mean you should get a spot in the pit…

  • Glen E. Grant

    Indeed this is the case. My camera carry-on is a tad more ridiculous than what is shown, and with the exception of the Delta jump flights (I try to avoid) Delta and American always allow me to pull mine on as well as Westjet in Canada – actually Westjet does not (currently) enforce a weight limit for such.

  • Benjamin Von Wong

    It works. Give it a shot. Regardless if you’re your own boss, or independent press, or otherwise… It’s not a lie. It’s simply an officialization of what you should already know is true.

  • Jack B. Siegel


  • Lauren

    Too funny. I have been checking bags with my credentials, everything going smoothly, and I’ve been present when someone tried to “game the system”. One thing the “gamers” don’t understand is that many of us travel with the same Airline, go through the same airport and are generally known when we flash our credentials. If you are a flying pro, there are things that set you apart from fakes. How many fakes travel with 5 Think Tank Logistic Managers? How many fakes travel with “Gun Cases” to hold your slider, gear, jibs, lights, stands, etc. etc. The folks at the Airport are not stupid. Just like we can spot posers, so can the Airlines. So go ahead and try and “Game the system” it’s funny to watch.

  • Lauren

    I just had to add more. When you roll up to the counter (after the curbside guys expect a big tip for helping you – because you are a pro – and they know it), and they see you’ve got 9 or 10 bags, all organized and tagged so that you will be able to identify them on location, along with the two Rock-n-roller carts that you fly with, with taped up wheels and baggage tags, you’ll just be happy they are sending you over to the oversized luggage check-in just to make things “easier”. When the TSA is hit or miss on how and if they open your cases and wonder if they are going to crush your brand new Parallax or drop your Oracle controller on the ground or smash an LCD here or there, you won’t feel the need to “play pro”.

  • Richard Martinez

    like your photo in the ID Von Wong lol

  • Mauricio Matos

    I think the point here is not “fake IDs” or “pose like a pro”. The point is that many photographers who are indeed professional photographers, can’t get proper credentials because they don’t work for a media company that can provide them with those credentials. And I don’t think that creating a plastic card with the word Media on it is faking IDs. It’s not like it’s saying National Geographic or New York Times on it. Then it’s up to the people at the airport if they consider it valid or not.

  • bob cooley

    You won’t – even legit credentialed press need to get pit access through the show’s production company. I used to shoot a ton of concerts (for publications) and even when I had my credentials with me AND I knew management at the venue, not on the production company list? no pit pass/no entry. Sometimes the production company would screw this up, and it would be a pain in the ass to explain to the editor why I didn’t have any shots.

  • Cleave F.

    Yes it works. They’re not doing an investigation and if you show up at the airport with 25 cases of camera gear, it’s pretty easy to prove what you do for a living.

  • Cleave F.

    In fact I often use my directors guild membership card.

  • Dennis Manske

    Exactly. I shot at the Grammys and had an all access pass that was pre-arranged by Mastercard (the client). LAPD was everywhere and checked passes at every turn, as well as metal detectors and bag searches. You weren’t getting in with press credentials, real or imagined.

  • nikonian

    I was just commenting on the logic. I am a media photographer as well and am very familiar with the process. When photographing a concert you need to get cleared by the stage manager (or production company) the venue, and the artist, if not the security company too. lots of paperwork and often a badge or two as well as some of those sticky fabric patches. You end up getting fkicked out of the pit at the 2nd or third song half off the time anyway too so you make sure to get all of the credentialization out of the way early.

  • bob cooley

    10-4 :)