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2/02/2009 – UPDATED : TSA Carry-On Baggage Allowances For Photographers
As a traveling professional photographer I know all to well the frustrations of wanting to bring all my equipment on board, only to face to the reality that something will need to be checked under the aircraft.
Over the past two years I have addressed the carry-on concerns of photographers in many different ways. Throughout all of this I am often frequently asked about my post from the 21st of December 2006, which can be read here:
21-December-2006 : United States Transportation Safety Administration – Know The Rules!
In this post I detailed the baggage allowance for photographers, as dictated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The TSA carry on allowance for photographer reads as follows
You may carry 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 restrictions for size and weight.
…and this is where the kicker is, the new wording goes on to state that your airline is free to ignore the TSA baggage allowance. In fact it is already implied in this wording “The additional bag must conform to your air carrier’s carry-on restrictions for size and weight.”
For a few years I carried the TSA rules with me when I was challenged by airlines regarding flying with 2 carry-on bags and a personal item. 9 out of 10 times I’d win the challenge at the gate if armed with a copy of the TSA carry-on allowance.
I have since given up the fight. In early 2008 it became clear that many airlines had created policies that stated they do not grant the same carry-on allowance as the TSA allows for.
While the TSA may make a special allowance for photographers, airlines are in no way required to follow this allowance. Airlines are free to create any carry-on baggage allowance they’d like. With these new restrictions photographers now face growing weight restrictions with some airlines, most notably Hawaiian Airlines with their flights from Hawaii to the Mainland (you can avoid having your carry-on weighed by checking in online, not checking any bags and going straight to the gate).
All of this can be confusing for many traveling photogs. You’ve done your homework, you’ve printed out the TSA carry-on baggage allowance and now you’re stuck at the gate being forced to check a bag. The best rule of thumb, if you are unsure, is to contact the airline directly and find out their carry-on allowances.
Regardless of what a Federal Government Agency allows, the airlines are free to institute their own policy and restrictions. These policies may cause some hassles, but it is an increasing issue of the nature of traveling.
Pack light, study the carry-on allowances, and then sit back and enjoy your flight.
Below is a screen shot of the TSA’s original, and favourable, carry-on allowance for photographers.
–Click Image Below To Enlarge–