It really very rarely is fun these days. Baggage allowances have got smaller and smaller over the years, both for cabin luggage and hold luggage. You also have that dilemma of what you put in the hold and what you hand carry.
Whenever I fly with my big cameras then I hand carry them, even then it’s up to the discretion of whomever is checking you in AND at the security check point. I have carried my F350 in a Portabrace bag before and been fine, but often I am told it’s too big and have to carry the camera “naked” meaning I have to go back to check in and check the empty bag in and carry the camera by hand with no protection. Never fun. Then I just have to wrap it up in coats and blankets to protect it in the overhead.
With the advent of smaller cameras it’s a little better, but then that is voided by the fact I generally travel with a 35mm adaptor and a large amount of lenses. So a lot ends up going in the hold.
Now I try and hand carry as much as I can but you are limited. For example on this trip I am on now to India I have my 5d, one lens, my 17″, my 13″ MBP, some Lacie Rugged hard drives and I am over the limit for cabin luggage but got away with it.
Baggage allowance have dropped a lot from the early days of my traveling with kit. I used to be able to take 32kg in Economy, now this is often 20kg and excess baggage can vary hugely route to route, airline to airline. If you are in the US and flying out or flying to the US then you are lucky. You generally get double the allowance if you fly to or from the US than you do flying to other destinations. Here is an example.
When flying Business Class to the US recently my allowance was 3 x 32KG. When flying Business Class on the same airline to Delhi tonight my allowance is just 30KG. When paying excess to or from the US you pay per extra bag or anything over the allowance up to a max of 32kg. BUT other routes you pay per KG. I have just paid £600 for 20 KG excess. If I was flying to Shanghai that would have gone up from £29 per kilo I paid tonight to £44 per kilo. I have tried to find an explanation and spent ages on the phone to Virgin but nobody could explain it to me or how they could justify such an outrageous amount per kilo.
The most I have ever paid for excess in recent memory was £3000 one way from Japan to the UK. Astonishing. It actually took me a long time to get this money back from the client as they were reluctant to pay it. In the end I got it back but it took legal action and being out of pocket for 10 months.
So what happens is you have to compromise on what you can bring on a shoot? Be great if I could bring my Wally Dolly or my lights on this trip but it was out of the questions on cost grounds. Tripod wise I am lucky I am using the 5d as the Miller Solo DS 20 is compact and light. If I was shooting with a Letus and EX3 then it’s my big Vinten Vision 11 Fibertec and that is heavy. I have taken my Miller on occasions to save on costs but this has been a compromise.
Also putting valuable gear in the hold is risky. I have been lucky, so far, not to have anything nicked. But I know many who have. Also then you get delays, that happens often. Important gear doesn’t make it screwing up the first couple of days shooting. One thing I never do is put my main camera in the hold. Just too risky. Always hand carry. That’s the best advice I can give.
Will things get better or worse? Well as things have been in decline in recent years I am pessimistic. We can but hope.
One tip I have come across when flying internally in the US. South West airlines actually have a discounted media rate, it’s way cheaper to fly with them with lots of gear than American. I flew one leg South West and my excess was $50. My next leg was AA and it was $750. See what I mean?
Please share your experiences below…