Stopped From Bringing Carry-On Baggage Through Security : Who Are These Guards Telling You Your Carry-On Bag Is Not Allowed?

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5/1/2009 – Stopped From Bringing Carry-On Baggage Through Security : Who Are These Guards Telling You Your Carry-On Bag Is Not Allowed?

Increasingly flying photogs are encountering inconsistent carry on baggage regulations. These inconsistencies are confusing, frustrating and do further harm to the perception that the airlines just don’t value their customer base.

A few days ago John Barrett, a photographer and regular reader of Flying With Fish, wrote me to tell me of his problems with Delta Airlines at Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) in North Carolina.

Someone in a “TSA Style” uniform stopped John as he approached security and informed that his carry on bag was too large to carry on the aircraft. John protested and returned to the Delta counter, encountering a long check-in line, then finally gets to an agent who informs him that his bag is not a problem and should not have been stopped.

John, now further upset, approaches a TSA Supervisor who tells him that the TSA does not care about a bags size or weight, there responsibility is not to measure carry-on baggage.

…so just who did John encounter? John encountered a private guard whose job is ‘revenue control.’ These guards are popping up at various airports, usually in a uniform similar to those worn by TSA Agents. The ‘revenue control’ agent’s job is to prevent flyers from getting through security with baggage that exceeds the airline carry on regulations. These guards intimidate the vast majority of passengers who they encounter, however they have no actual authority within an airport.

A ‘revenue control’ agent is a private guard, not a Federal Employee such as a TSA Agent, nor does an airport authority authorize them. These people are employed by an airline, or multiple airlines, and as such have no authority to prevent you from entering a TSA screening checkpoint.

These ‘revenue control’ agents MAY NOT touch you , OR your baggage without your expressed permission. Would I say anything if they tapped me on the shoulder? No. Would I say something if they grabbed my bag? Absolutely!

In my experience these private guards do not know what airline you are flying, what class you are flying in, and none of them appear to have any direct knowledge of actual carry-on allowances when questioned about size and weight.

Should you encounter these agents, and they stop you, you have three choices
1) Go back to the check in counter and either check your bag or complain
2) Ask the ‘revenue control’ agent for their supervisor immediately
3) Ignore the instructions and keep on walking to the TSA checkpoint.

Treat everyone you meet with courtesy and respect, but you can politely ignore the instructions regarding your carry-on baggage and proceed to the security checkpoint and onto your gate.

If the airline stops you its self at check in, then, you need to ask for a supervisor and ask to see the written policy. If you get stopped at the gate, you should ask to see the written policy, then proceed to do everything you can to either plead your case at the gate, or unload your camera gear onto your shoulders and board with your cameras on your shoulders, lenses in your pockets, laptop in your hand…. and a carry on bag that meets the required weight restriction.

Knowing the rules, inside and out can help you quite a bit. Before flying a new airline check the cabin baggage rules, know these rules and carry them with you. The more knowledge you have the better able you’ll be to react to inconsistent carry-on baggage regulations.

Happy Flying!

One Comment

  1. Very good to know. In 2007 I was flying back to BWI from Denver with a Manfrotto 3021PRO tripod and a ThinkTank Urban Disguise 60. The check-in agent informed me that I would not be able to carry the tripod on. I simply told him that I didn’t have any problem carrying it on the flight to Denver, and he dropped it. Now this was 2007 when baggage “revenue control” wasn’t in effect, but sometimes a polite, “I’ll take my chances” attitude can keep you moving past the nay-sayers.

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