Photographer Says US Airways Soaked $17,850 Worth Of Camera Equipment

Reader Steve points us to a posting on a photography forum by a professional photographer who says his camera bag didn’t fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat of his US Airways flight — and when he got the bag back after checking it — it was soaking wet. He says the employees he spoke with didn’t believe him… do you?

Here’s his story:

I roll it out of the long passage way and into the terminal to catch the connecting flight. I have 15 minutes. I open the outside zipper area to place my laptop bag in and see that the bag is FREAKING SOAKED. DRENCHED. Nervously and in slow motion I open the zipper to the main compartment of my camera bag and there water all throughout my bag. EVERYUWHERE. Dead serious. A good 3 cups worth. My stomach is in knots. For a second I about ot puked. My head spins, I get light headed and then my wooziness is replaced with anger. I’m pissed. I immediately go to the lady at the gate from where I just exited. I tell her my story and she looks into my bag in shock. She is extremely apologetic but can do nothing. She leads me to where I need to go, U.S. Airways customer service.

The story continues as he explains the situation to an employee who he describes as a “women/behemoth/monster/creature/prawn/leviathan thing-person.” This thing-person is convinced that the photographer had a water bottle in his bag.

Here’s the complete story. Anyone have any advice for him? He’s insured, but wants US Airways to pay the deductible.

U.S. Airways sucks so freaking bad. I HATE them. I HATE THEM! [FredMiranda] (Thanks, Steve!)
Tips on Avoiding Baggage Problems [DOT]

Comments

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  1. MostlyHarmless says:

    *whistles*
    All my things in my apartment combined cost less than that. Let alone things I could carry on the airline.

    Thank $deity I do not have occupations/hobbies that cost me gazillions in equipment.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      @MostlyHarmless: Srsly! I think my renters insurance is something like $20,000 and that is honestly overkill. I could probably replace about 90% of the stuff in my apt. with about $6000.

      • SarcasticDwarf says:

        @Oranges w/ Cheese wants it to be winter already: You might be surprised. There is a big difference between what your stuff is worth (were you to sell it used) and what it would cost to buy it new. Figure your average t-shirt costs $15. How many do you have? I am sure I have at least 40, many of them that I rarely wear and was given as a gift. That is $600 right there. To buy all those spatulas, oven mitts, etc from kitchen drawers would be several hundred more. It is quite amazing how much it would cost to buy everything once you really start looking at it closely.

        • oneandone says:

          @SarcasticDwarf: That’s true – we tend to think of the big/expensive things (electronics, furniture) and overlook the hundreds of $10 – 20 items most of us have. Kitchenware, towels, books… if I had to replace all that stuff at once, it would be quite a lot.

    • JayScooper says:

      @MostlyHarmless:
      If you are serious it adds up pretty quick.

      Body – EOS 1D MkIV – $4999
      Lenses – [www.usa.canon.com]

      The 400mm f/2.8 is $7999

      The ever popular 70-200mm f/2.8 is $1999

    • LostAtoll says:

      @MostlyHarmless: yeah, I’m semi professional and my kit cost upwards of 8k. It adds up quick folks.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      @MostlyHarmless:

      I take offense to your “$deity” as it implies that there may be deities other than the One True Deity…Flying Spaghetti Monster.

      I pray that he will lay his Noodly appendage upon the and grant you his wisdom and clarity.

  2. uptown says:

    Write a song about it.
    Post it on YouTube.

    Seems to be the most effective way to get action from airlines these days.

  3. formergr says:

    I wonder if it was raining outside? I’ve watched baggage handlers leave bags sitting on the ground in the pouring rain on the tarmac while unloading other bags from the plane first and putting them into the cart.

    • ScarletsWalk says:

      @formergr: That happened to my stuff once. Sort of.

      They just kind of wheeled the luggage out and left it there, not because they were doing something else.

      My stuff was drenched, but thankfully it was just machine washable clothes.

  4. bovinekid says:

    I went to the link to try to read the whole story, but this guy is such a jerk and such a terrible writer that I couldn’t finish. I hope if he’s trying to escalate this that he’ll remove the personal insults that he includes in practically every other sentence and that he’ll also do a bit of proofreading.

    • Eigtball says:

      @bovinekid: Ya, and you would be a calm individual when your livelihood gets destroyed. Then when you go to get help, you get stonewalled, called a lier, and treated like garbage. I’m not sure what the weather is like up there high on your horse, but I hope it’s pleasant.

    • nakkypoo says:

      @bovinekid: I’m with you. I tried to read it, and couldn’t. The constant typos and personal insults are too much (“you will die alone.”)

      Hopefully he calms down before he talks to US Airways again. If not, he’ll get nowhere.

  5. Tim says:

    Well, considering the fact that he tried to bring it with him as a carry-on, he brought it through security. So that would have made it very difficult to have a bottle of water in the bag.

    Of course, he could have bought the water after going through security. But still.

    • magus_melchior says:

      @TCama: I’m sure we (and no doubt US Airways) can think of many scenarios in which the customer “did it to himself”, but they probably wouldn’t be any more than plausible but unlikely scenarios.

  6. Cant_stop_the_rock says:

    I guess the water could have come from another passenger’s bag? No idea why you’d put water in your checked luggage… unless it’s firewater.

    My wife and I usually bring some pretty expensive camera equipment on vacations, and the possibility of having to check it has always horrified me. I don’t know what I would do if I encountered that situation… I always make an effort to board as early as possible, but I’m a rule-follower so I don’t get in line until my section is called. :( I’d probably ask to be put on a later flight if they said I had to gate-check the camera bag.

  7. zigziggityzoo says:

    This is a great example of why I opted for zero-deductible, replacement value insurance for my ~20k in photography equipment.

    I get a check in the mail to buy the equivalent of what I had before, no matter what it costs today.

    • kexline says:

      @zigziggityzoo: When you get zero-deductible insurance, you’re just paying the deductible in advance, over and over again.

      I really doubt the guy *can’t* pay the deductible; it’s that the airline is responsible for the damage and *should* pay for the deductible. (Actually, they should pay the whole bill, but that’s a whole other discussion.)

  8. rpm773 says:

    My stomach is in knots. For a second I about ot puked. My head spins, I get light headed and then my wooziness is replaced with anger

    Then my pupils get small and I hear a ringing in my ears. Then my skin turns green, my muscles bulge, and might shirt rips. Then I let out a large roar, pick up a 1977 Ford LTD and heave it 90 yards in the air.

  9. mizike says:

    This topic made me think of a post on Bruce Schneier’s blog which has a quite brilliant work around for the terror of checking expensive goods:

    “Then someone has the brilliant suggestion of putting a firearm in your camera-equipment case:

    A “weapons” is defined as a rifle, shotgun, pistol, airgun, and STARTER PISTOL. Yes, starter pistols – those little guns that fire blanks at track and swim meets – are considered weapons…and do NOT have to be registered in any state in the United States.
    I have a starter pistol for all my cases. All I have to do upon check-in is tell the airline ticket agent that I have a weapon to declare…I’m given a little card to sign, the card is put in the case, the case is given to a TSA official who takes my key and locks the case, and gives my key back to me.

    That’s the procedure. The case is extra-tracked…TSA does not want to lose a weapons case. This reduces the chance of the case being lost to virtually zero.

    It’s a great way to travel with camera gear…I’ve been doing this since Dec 2001 and have had no problems whatsoever.”

    • Sanspants says:

      @mizike: That is brilliant.

    • Donathius says:

      @mizike: That is absolutely brilliant. I may have to do that if I ever find myself in the situation where I have to check anything expensive. Hasn’t happened yet, I’ve managed to survive with carryons for the last few years, but that’s something to remember.

    • SharkD says:

      @mizike: I think the next time I travel with my kit (roughly $15,000-20,000 replacement cost), it’s going into one of my Pelican cases, along with an unloaded starter pistol.

      It used to be that I’d jam as much gear as would fit into my J-1 and carry that on, along with my laptop/messenger bag. It fits fine into the underseat compartment (so long as I remember not to kick the bag), but now that most airlines are restricting you to one carry-on, and the TSA “experts” are puzzled by the need for extra camera batteries, it’s such a PITA, that I rarely travel with my real gear.

    • nybiker says:

      @mizike: Watch this guy’s video and you’ll learn all about what he’s done to accomplish the goal of packing expensive stuff when flying.
      [www.vimeo.com]

    • jenjen says:

      @mizike: I’ve read that before. It does sound good at getting through the airplane/airport part, but you need to be sure that even a starter pistol isn’t going to cause you other problems in your travels. Also, how exactly does this keep your bag dry?

  10. skitown says:

    Most pro photographers will carry at least two pro camera bodies which cost in excess of $5k each. Not to mention the lenses which run into the thousands each, the flash units which are several hundred each and all the other miscellaneous stuff that costs money.

    $17k in your travel camera bag is actually sounds about right. I know that when I travel with my gear, which is airline carry-on approved and am forced to check it plane-side on the smaller planes, I always get a little heartburn…. this is a good example why.

  11. rbb says:

    I wonder if he ever bothered to check to see if the dimensions of his bag qualified it to be placed in the overhead or under the seat. If not, shame on him..

    • docrice says:

      @rbb: Seriously. I’m not one to blame the OP, but most people that fly with any regularity know how big a bag will fit in the plane with you (don’t even start me on the guys that bring a briefcase, small roller, and garment bag on with them). If the bag was too big, he should have brought an appropriate sized bag. He could have otherwise put his stuff in a protective checked bag. If I carried that much $$ worth of gear with me regularly, I’d make d@mn sure that I was carrying it in a manner that it would be protected. If you can’t afford what you need to do it right, you can’t afford to do it…

    • madrigal says:

      @rbb: When I fly home, I stop in Atlanta to make a connection. The plane that takes me to my final destination is so teeny tiny, that nothing fits in the teeny tiny overhead bins. I have to tag my check in (that is the appropriate size) with a pink tag, and it goes with the checked luggage.

  12. outlulz says:

    Sue for the deductible and move on. This guy writes like that lying woman that claims the TSA stole her baby.

  13. vladthepaler says:

    Great news for United, they’re average again! And they didn’t even have to fix anything.

  14. RPHP says:

    Just a suggestion – the OP may let your insurance company know what happened. They may then press the claim against the US Airways to get back the money on policy they are paying out.

  15. avantartist says:

    I had checked luggage soaked once on a Alaska Airlines flight. I suspected the water was from a cooler someone packed with ice and fish… it smelled fishy.

  16. PHRoG says:

    Am I the only one that wonders WHY he has 17k in camera gear in a >$100 bag?

    If I invested that kind of cash, I would have a hard case w/cutout foam.

  17. pb5000 says:

    During college I worked at a fancy hotel that had a ton of weddings.

    The majority of photographers we had to deal with for these weddings were the biggest pains in the ass. Most, not all, walked around with a sense of entitlement that made the wealthiest of guests look timid in comparison. Most expected general hotel operations to stop so that they could take a precious picture and most were indignant to your request that business continue to operate outside of the photographers bubble.

    Myself and the rest of the lobby staff would get a simple pleasure out of being able to tell them that the antique furniture could not be moved around, or stood on. Or that the front doors could not be blocked so that you could get the perfect “walking in” shot due to the fact that there were three other events trying to get in as well.

    Attempting to read this guys post caused numerous anti-photographer incidences to enter my head and remind me why I hate photographers, or at least one’s who act like him.

    Pay your deductible, accidents like this are why you have insurance. I wonder if he’s doing a photo shoot for a client and they accidentally spill water on his camera, would he expect them to pay it?

    • strawberryjam says:

      @pb5000:

      And that’s why I REFUSE to set up shots as a wedding photographer. I was trained in actual photojournalism, unlike some of these other “photojournalists.” Natural and candid – nothing posed, save for a couple of fun bridesmaid/groomsmen outdoor shots. My clients know what they’re getting – and staged shots isn’t in it.

      But actually moving furniture and requesting everything to stop so I can get a shot? That’s ABSURD.

      Charging 5k for a wedding is where the entitlement comes from.

      Ridiculous.

  18. kippihax says:

    $17.5k worth of toys should be in a Pelican case. Massive fail on his part. I’ve got a 1510 and it fits in carry on. It was under $200 with the dividers and to organizer. Submersible to 3 feet.

  19. El_Fez says:

    Why the hell would you check camera equipment to the Samsonite-stomping Gorillas? I fly with my camera at least once a year (when the economy isn’t shit, at least), and I would never EVER trust those goons with my lenses and gear!

  20. Bruce Bayliss says:

    Was the exterior of the bag wet?
    If no: the damage occurred inside the bag = the suspicion of a water bottle is valid
    If yes:
    Was it raining at the departure station?
    Was it raining at the arrival?
    The airline is liable

  21. esthermofet says:

    If he’s insured, then file a claim with the insurance company, then let the insurance company’s lawyers go after US Air. That’s what they (insurance companies and their lawyers) are for.

    Be as thorough as possible regarding the contents and dollar value of the loss. Let insurance pay the value, minus the deductible. The insurance policy is a contract that has a coverage amount, limitations, deductible and outlines the responsibility of the insured and insurer. Insured’s responsibility is, I’m afraid, the value of the deductible.

  22. blash says:

    I read until “US Airways” and then I stopped reading.

    Seriously… dunno what you expected. Most major domestic carriers are death traps.

  23. haoshufu says:

    If he has equipment that is worth that much money and that sensitive, he should have had those shipped professionally. His bad choice. I surely would not even hand carry close to $20 of equipment with me on a plane.

  24. 89macrunner says:

    dear photographer,

    if you are any kind of pro, GET SOME INSURANCE. I barely call myself a pro but I have insurance on all of my camera gear and laptop…its STUPID not to have it! If you have insurance, this would not be a big deal at all! Inconvenient yes, but you wouldn’t be out $17k

    • Cyberxion101 says:

      @89macrunner: He actually does have insurance. Though it wouldn’t have been too huge a deal if he hadn’t, seeing as very little of his equipment seemed to have suffered any lasting damage. He’s a whiner, and something of a douche-bag, but he did at least insure his shit. :)

  25. mulried says:

    If I read correctly, not all of his equipment was ruined. He said that most of it worked fine when he checked it out at home. Two lenses, a macro, and (what I’m assuming is) a flash were damaged, totaling about $3,500.

  26. wiretapstudios says:

    The guy is a serious douche, but it’s annoying that you get to your plane, and the space you are supposed to have is not there, and then you have to give up items that you may have stored more securely if you had known that ahead of time. The Lowepro roller bag in question is on their website. I see it is not waterproof, but does have a rain fly, and I’m sure has somewhat thick material, as I’ve had several of their bags. Now, the flight is 2 hours, and after that, his bag is soaked and the inside is fully soaked. I feel like if I left a garden hose running on top of my non-waterproof canvas camera bag, it would at most soak the bag, but to puddle inside in approx. 2 hours time? Through the fabric, padding, etc? Something is fishy on one end or the other. I doubt he left a water bottle in his camera bag, which at most is the ONLY way he was at fault. So either A. There was some sort of A/C malfunction (the cold plane points to this), B. an attendant he pissed off and didn’t mention poured a cup of water in there before handing it down to the cargo crew, or C. He wants to upgrade some gear…but that doesn’t make much sense as camera equipment has a high resale value. I hope there is a follow up to this.

    • Cyberxion101 says:

      @thebaron: Oh, I absolutely blame him. That’s just straight up ignorant, intolerant bullshit, and it illustrates his mindset perfectly. He’s a douche-bag, plain and simple, and one has to wonder if his story is on the level in the first place, being that he sees nothing wrong with race-baiting someone for no good reason.

  27. Chip Skylark of Space says:

    This is what happens with an airline that renamed itself because of all the crashes they had when they were Allegheny Airlines. I pledged to never fly Allegheny, and I never have.

  28. thebaron says:

    Could be that someone’s else bag had a water bottle? I don’t blame him being rude to outsourced customer support that can’t speech English properly, since that is an insult to the customer to begin with and most of the time they are a waste of airtime (due to lacking most information or have no real power).

  29. Seokso says:

    As a former baggage handler, I can tell you that the problem is often another passenger who packs a few wine bottles, perfume, or some other liquid they picked up on vacation. I can’t tell how many times I picked up a bag that was pouring out mystery liquid all over the bags below. A coworker once had a bag leaking deer blood. As someone above mentioned, Alaska Airlines or any other plane coming back from fishing and hunting areas often have fish and game packed in ice. That stuff is disgusting. The fish is obvious and I tried to put that at the bottom, but there’s no way to know who has a liquid time bomb hiding in their bag.

    Always assume that your bag will be exposed to hard impacts, freezing, and liquid. If you have anything that needs protecting, get a bag that can handle those problems.

  30. zombies.like.lattés.too says:

    @Cant_stop_the_rock: that shit enrages me! and I hardly ever even fly.

  31. sonneillon says:

    @dragonfire81: what USAirways will probably do to declare it a total write off and payout what their maximum per bag pay off is. It is probably way less than value of the equipment. Luckily in civil court you do not have to prove your case. You only have to have the judge believe you and be within the law.

  32. ShadowFalls says:

    @sonneillon:

    Yes, you have to prove your case. That is all part of the judge “believing” you.

  33. rpm773 says:

    @cmdrsass: That reminds me of something about catching bees with honey rather than vinegar, but I can’t remember the details.

  34. valueofaloonie says:

    @coren: Except…oops, that never happened.

    [consumerist.com]

  35. acasto says:

    @pecan 3.14159265: But is that not a perfect reason to be upset? You act like this was a third party that messed up and he want’s to hold someone else responsible. I see nothing wrong with expecting those who wronged you to be accountable. I would be more pissed over the fact that no body is accountable than what actually happened. Talk about adding insult to injury.

    I’ll keep this in mind in case I ever back over someone’s dog. I can get out and say “Oh, yeah, that’s horrible. Sorry I can’t help you with that”, then drive off.

  36. burnedout says:

    @pecan 3.14159265: But would it have killed Melissa to be polite? Maybe sympathetic to the situation? I can’t help but think how many of the Internet rants would lose steam if the CSR was at least POLITE when they explain how they can’t help. This woman really did sound like a beast – and why call him a liar flat out? When does that EVER work when dealing with people? “Well, I see this water, but I’m pretty sure you spilled bottled water and are now lying to my face.” “Gosh, you know, you’re right. You got me! Sorry to bother you.” Nope. Doesn’t happen.

  37. coren says:

    @valueofaloonie: Oh. Well I rarely go back and reread articles, especially when Consumerist doesn’t post that there’s an update (which i don’t think they did). Doesn’t make this any more relevant to this incident though.

  38. Jon Mason says:

    @Eigtball:

    Firstly, the guy has insurance so his livelihood is not destroyed. At most, he is out a deductible which he doesnt state the amount of.

    @acasto:
    He is completely in the wrong to say “you will die alone” , belittle someone because they make $12/hr.

    The point is, does he want to rant or does he want to get the problem fixed. The best way to be a good consumer is to take the moral high ground, explain calmly why you have been aggrieved and what you want.

    For example a respondent in the thread:

    “I had a problem with US Airways and I got a result by the following method.
    I wrote the CEO of US Airways and explained what had happened to me while
    flying his airline. The letter was respectful but ended with the fact that when flying
    I have choices if you want me to continue to fly on your airlines treat me better and
    solve my problem. I also let him know that I am a professional photographer and that
    I am well know in the photographic community and that I would share my experience
    with other working pro’s who fly his airlines. It took 4 weeks but it worked..”

  39. SonicPhoenix says:

    @ShadowFalls:
    I think what sonneilon was refering to is the distinction between criminal cases and civil cases. In criminal cases “beyond reasonable doubt” is a higher standard than the “preponderance of evidence” that is required in a civil case.

  40. Corporate_guy says:

    @ShadowFalls: Well in a case like this the judge will have to believe the victim. The airline will have no proof there was a bottle of water in there that managed to burst and whoever they send will probably have no knowledge of the water issues on that flight. The airline will have nothing to back themselves up and will in fact be unprepared.

  41. kerry says:

    @burnedout: This is true, I’ve been on a several of these flights and you almost always have to gate check your bags, even small carryons, like backpacks. I have a children’s rolly suitcase which is teeny-tiny and even that I’ve had to gate check.

  42. nakkypoo says:

    @burnedout: You’re taking everything the OP says as the gospel truth. The guy is clearly angry and irrational (he even dishes out racial insults.) I am not inclined to believe he has given an accurate account of the situation.

  43. AnthonyC says:

    @rpm773: @YouDidWhatNow?:

    And let’s not forget those among us who believe in $deity[]

    Not everyone’s monotheistic, you know.

    Maybe it should be a Deity*, to account for NULL values. Then we can allocate space for atheists, monotheists. and polytheists alike.

  44. Michael Belisle says:

    @pecan 3.14159265: Not to mention that camera equipment is also one of the numerous things that US Airways (and most other airlines, I believe) specifically excludes from any baggage liability. So he’s kind of an ass and out of luck unless US Airways decides to do him a favor and bend their policies. (Which is unlikely, knowing that US Airways is one of the worst airlines in the country.)

  45. veronykah says:

    @Corporate_guy: Not to mention, who the F would put a water bottle in a camera bag?
    That’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard. I’ve worked on professional photoshoots, packed the bags etc, many many things can happen [lost CF cards, missing cords] but even an amateur wouldn’t put a water bottle inside a bag with the equipment!
    Ridiculous on the part of the airline.

  46. strongbow says:

    @SJActress: It all depends on your policy. Our policy is for replacement value, not current depreciated value. If our flat burned, we’d be covered for what it costs to go out tomorrow and buy everything new.

  47. floraposte says:

    @KMan13 still wants a Pontiac G8: Put it in the bag and zip it closed. Nothing to prevent him from doing that so long as he bought the water or filled the bottle on the plane side of security, which is possible to do in every airport I’ve been in.