One of the first topics I ever wrote about on Flying With Fish was the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) carry-on baggage allowance for photographers. This allowance specifically states that for Photographic Equipment “You may carry on one (1) bag of photographic equipment in addition to one (1) carry-on and one (1) personal item through the screening checkpoint. The additional bag must conform to your air carrier’s carry-on restriction for size and weight.”
For a while many airlines, when presented with the TSA document, allowed photographers to carry on an additional carry on bag. This allowance by airline has changed, as has the wording by the TSA.
The TSA’s website now states, in bold letters, under the original text “Air carriers may or may not allow the additional carry-on item on their aircraft. Please check with your air carrier prior to arriving at the airport.”
In fact, many airlines now specifically state they do not comply with the TSA carry-on baggage allowance and there is a very good reason why…this reason is that the TSA has no governance over airline carry on baggage allowance.
Airline carry-on allowance is overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA requires each airline create a carry-on baggage policy of their own, which then much be approved by the FAA.
If you are a photographer and find yourself staring at the TSA’s carry on baggage allowances thinking you have a found the Holy Grail loophole chances are you will be stopped at the gate. A few years ago printing out a copy of the TSA allowance used to work at the gate with most airlines, but in the past few years, that print out will simply get you no where, except being forced to check one of your bags.
I am not sure why the TSA still maintains a policy of allowing an additional carry-on bag for airline passengers when no airlines allow a passenger to fly with an additional carry-on bag of photographic equipment.
You may find yourself lucky with an airline gate agent taking pity on you, but with packed overhead bins due to increasing checked baggage fees, I would not count on luck to get your additional carry-on bag on board.