Tips, Tricks, Traps of flying with Camera Package
Posted 31 August 2008 - 06:06 PM
I'm shooting a feature in Puerto Rico and my 1st ac and I will be handling the camera package on the flight from stateside. While I have Fedexed camera packages and other gear, I've not flown with one before. I will have several flight cases with my RED One, lenses, sticks, personal kit, collapsible camera cart, etc.
Do I check multiple flight cases like normal luggage or go to another location to handle this cargo?
How far in advance of the flight do you typically arrive?
How can I streamline my experience?
Thanks, in advance, for any advice.
Posted 31 August 2008 - 07:09 PM
Airlines are desperate to turn a profit these days and their baggage charges now compound; meaning you not just pay one excess bag charge, you'll pay progressively higher for extra weight, over-sized and extra bags. Bring your Visa, MasterCard and AMEX and be prepared. The cheaper your ticket is discounted the more you pay for baggage. I started flying First Class years ago because it gave me extra free baggage allowances and by the time I paid for bags it was not that much more than coach.
Another new thing to know are the limits on grams of Lithium Ion in the batteries you are carrying. There are limits and restrictions as to what you can carry AND what you can check; not all batteries for cameras qualify to fly. Read about this online.
You'll also want / need to have a Customs Declaration Form CBP 4457 for all your equipment. It's a small form where you list each piece of gear, especially high value items and then you take the form AND the gear in-person to US Customs BEFORE you leave the country so they can see the gear and stamp the form. This is to allow you back into the US with your gear showing you owned it before you left. I think that form is CBP 4457 still. There is not much room to write in your gear but you can use multiple forms. Last year when I took the forms into Miami Customs before my trip the agent told me I could not use the downloaded form off their web site and had to fill out "official" forms which was a pain on the spot and time consuming. Over the years I've simplified it by not itemizing every single item and just using "lighting kit and accessories", "camera accessories" for lots of misc items. All they want to do is be able to prove you left the country with it and are returning with it but not returning with something new you bought.
TSA locks are helpful but buy the heavy duty TSA locks from Pelican / FilmTools; the consumer grade TSA locks just get sheared off when a heavy case hits them and the hasp is not secured on each side. I also use fluorescent colored nylon zip ties on each lock / handle / hasp and then tape it all down with 2" colored gaff tape. Add business cards and local destination contact info inside the cases since most luggage agents complain that once the outer ID tags get torn off, few people put contact info inside their luggage.
Lastly, check that your insurance covers your kit in the destination you are traveling to. Theft can happen at any airport but I've personally had a bag roll off the conveyor in San Juan with the zipper wide open and my iPod missing; stupid me for checking an iPod but I know it happened in baggage handling between the plane and the conveyor since I saw the bag come off the plane and it was zipped closed.
Enjoy your trip!
Posted 01 September 2008 - 08:03 PM
Thank you for that excellent and thorough reply. It was great to read all that in one place.
This is a production in Puerto Rico, a territory of the U.S., so I'll check with customs about what import/export documentation I might need. Certainly, the forms you note are necessary for travel elsewhere.
Posted 02 September 2008 - 12:52 AM
The flights in and out of San Juan are considered International and you'll have to clear Customs in either Miami, DFW, Houston or wherever your port of entry will be. San Juan is the connecting hub for all the Caribbean or at least most of it, thus you'll have to clear when you hit official US soil with everyone else.
Good luck with your shoot!
Posted 03 September 2008 - 04:44 PM
Having spent the last 25 years hauling ridiculous amounts of TV gear on commercial airlines, I can tell you that it?s gotten to the point where I just freaking hate to do it. This new battery thing is such an unnecessary inconvenience, READ pain in the ass
I assume that because the battery rule is so new, the agents are still getting used to it. On my last flight from San Antonio back to Virginia, I was sternly but gently taken aside to have my carry-on inspected. I got the distinct feeling that seeing the two dionics on the xray scared the bejeesus out of them. They certainly didn?t appear to know anything about any darn rule. I tried my best to tell somebody before, during, and after the scan that they were in there, but it got kinda tense for about five minutes .
Hopefully, the TSA robots have been properly reprogrammed by now.
All kidding aside, I?m always real nice to those guys. Doing a damn near impossible job definitely gets my respect. You should however immediately check out the official regulations about the way the battery must be packaged. If it doesn?t meet the requirements there?s a possibility it could be confiscated.
Posted 03 September 2008 - 08:23 PM
Thanks for the insight.