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Jim Cunningham
Airline cases
on May 9, 2011 at 8:44:07 pm

Over the years I've had a running battle with the airlines re: baggage size and weight. I've settled in on Tenba cases as being the lightest yet still providing enough protection to keep lights (now mostly LED) & and monitor (now LCD)from being damaged. I've managed to get my lights, monitor, audio(schoeps/lavs)power cords & BNC/XLR cables etc. into 3 cases under the 62" size limit and at about 48lbs each. I am able to get my EX1R into a Porter case that goes into the overhead compartment of an airplane; the case also acts as a cart and can get all of my gear a short distance from the car to the clients office. The laptop and drives can go in a knapsack that fits under the airline seat.

At present I am using 2 Tenba cases that are 58" in total size (L+W+D)each and a Kata case (60" 48lbs), what I'm trying to find is something similar to Tenba in weight with similar protection attributes that takes advantage of the 62" allowed by the airlines. Tenba will modify one of their bags (originally 64"), but at twice their normal price. Anybody have any leads or suggestions?

Cheers,

Jim



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Bob Cole
Re: Airline cases
on May 10, 2011 at 1:13:21 am

A perennial problem. Some of my tactics:

1. Ship ahead by FedEx.
2. Call your airline. Some make exceptions for media folks and others. After all, skis are longer than 62".
3. Look into Lightware's cases. Very lightweight, strong enough.
4. Ship ahead by FedEx.

Bob C


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Jim Cunningham
Re: Airline cases
on May 10, 2011 at 2:41:43 pm

Thanks for your input.

FedEx is an interesting idea except they can charge as much or more than an additional airline seat. Also, if your going to more than one location, the logistics become complicated at best.

I've looked at Lightware and the cases I've seen either use a great deal of interior space for padding (so not enough room for gear), or are not strong enough to protect.

Ask the Airlines: Perhaps you've had different experiences, but over the past few years airlines have been in the "Make Life Difficult Business" not the make exceptions and be helpful business.

I thought I had run across folks that were making cases similar to Tenba and hoped that they might be more amenable to creating a case to meet Airline specs, but I've lost the info.

Anyway, thanks for your suggestions.

Cheers,

Jim



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Bob Cole
Re: Airline cases
on May 10, 2011 at 4:18:38 pm

True about more than one location. But if you have enough lead time to use FedEx Ground, and you're just going to one place, it is not expensive, and it's more reliable.

As for the airline rules on size, it's a tough call. Other people may want to share their experiences on this issue. Has anyone ever had a case rejected, or had to pay extra, because it exceeded the size dimensions? I haven't... yet.

About the weight restrictions: I went from Pelicans to Lightware cases largely because the Pelicans weigh so much all by themselves. But I also heard recently that "media people" can exceed the weight rules without paying a penalty. Anybody know about that?


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Dave Johnson
Re: Airline cases
on May 10, 2011 at 5:57:33 pm

I don't know how the airlines currently handle this issue because, ever since years ago paying insanely high airline baggage fees and also having a $6k monitor "lost" by an airline, I've always used FedEx (or UPS since that's my current FT employer's preference). I've consistently found shipping gear very reliable, less hassle and far less issues with gear lost, stolen or damaged. However, I've yet to need to go to multiple cities without enough time to ship gear.

Especially considering that the airline industry is already in very bad shape and cutting costs everywhere, I would guess that exceptions for "media people" would be limited to TV/film crews with the related credentials, rather than just anyone with a camera, but you never know ... it's worth a shot I suppose.

As far as the original question about cases, I do realize that they tend to be more expensive than the newer players, but Porta-Brace and Kata are always worth at least looking at.


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Derek Reich
Re: Airline cases
on May 12, 2011 at 4:08:29 pm

There is no simple answer to this question unfortunately. I have been shipping anywhere from 10 to 20 (and sometimes even more) cases regularly for 20 years now. In the last several years, I have never seen so much confusion and varying 'rules' from airline to airline. What ships just fine on one airline is a huge problem for another. I've even had my package shipped just fine from one airport and become an issue at another airport but with the same airline on the same day. It has become so frustrating that I agree with Bob.... Fedex is an excellent solution if you have extra time. Their economy shipping is close to what excess baggage often is. I have never had anything damaged or lost with Fedex (knock on wood!) I would hesitate to ever use UPS for this kind of shipping, both because of personal experience with damage, and they are much more expensive with heavier cases.
A couple of things to consider:

1) Having a LEGITIMATE press credential (with photo) is often required for getting the 'media rate' with the airlines. Delta is particularly picky about this. Often, you have to convince the ticket agent there even IS a media rate, but it does exist on most major carriers. Southwest is one of the easiest to fly with when checking a large amount of media gear.

2) For most media rates, the weight limit is up to 100lbs per case. There is usually no size limit (within reason) and no extra fee for larger cases (within reason). The big cases may show up in overize baggage claim, but that's the only hassle. I have been told by one airline that the limit for the number of cases was 10 one moment, 7 another moment, and no limit the next. You have to be persistent if you have a lot of cases.... one of the worst things that can happen is to get all your equipment checked at one airport outgoing, only to find when you are ready to return that the airport you are now flying out of won't allow that many cases for you to fly home. That's where Fedex is your savior.

3) Pelican cases are still your best bet. I have some which have been in regular service for 20 years, and are only now showing signs of all the mileage. When a hinge or latch breaks, Pelican will replace it free. Forever. If a case is damaged beyond repair, they'll ship you a new one. Forever. I just don't see anything that can compete for the price, and they're really not that heavy compared to the old Anvil cases we all used to use.

4) The TSA is going to go through them, so if you want to lock them just put a cable tie on them and put a couple new ties inside for the TSA to replace the ones they cut off. They will almost always do this, and sometimes even put their own ties on if you forget. Don't make the packing too complicated, or they'll never get the stuff back the way you like it.

5) Most airlines will allow the cases to be shipped as cargo, but you have to set up an account with a certified cargo shipper in advance. I have yet to try this, but it has been suggested as a reasonable alternative to checking the cases.

5) Just drive instead. You'll lower your blood pressure dramatically.


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Dave Johnson
Re: Airline cases
on May 12, 2011 at 4:49:59 pm

Excellent advice, Derek, and thanks for sharing.

One thing I'll add about locking cases ... several companies that make cases for pro gear have finally caught up with the times and started making their cases available with TSA locks and/or selling TSA locks separately ... locks the TSA has a master key for so they can open them, search the bags and re-lock them without cutting off the locks or using cable ties anyone cat cut off with nail clippers. Just run a search on B&H's site for "TSA".

And, I totally agree that Pelican cases are by far the best ... just seems everyone's main concern is weight and they're definitely heavier than the soft cases that I try not to trust critical gear in since it's still cheaper to ship heavy cases than it is to replace expensive gear.

I also totally agree that UPS is always the worst choice ... my FT employer gets discounted rates with UPS only so I'm forced to use UPS with their gear even though I know better. USPS is also worth checking ... in what is clearly part of their fight to stay alive in recent years, they have really stepped up their game significantly ... in most instances, USPS is far cheaper than FedEx and, in many cases, faster for cheaper (yes, I said faster).


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Jim Cunningham
Re: Airline cases
on May 13, 2011 at 2:55:39 am

A couple of thoughts re: FedEx/UPS; to ship it ground takes two or maybe three days. This means your gear is out of hand and can't be used for (going back and forth) a week at a time. Also, many times for me interviews are scheduled and changed. Oops, can't shoot the interview in Boston, my gear is on the way to Kansas City... can you get your CEO to do it next week?

The toys really have to fly with me, so 62" total dimensions w/ max weight 50lbs are the rules I need to live by. So, back to original question; light weight, high protection cases (like Tenba and some Lightware cases)?

BTW, because on occasion airline can loose things (gasp!), I have camera and wireless mic in a hardshell carry on, and yes, I've had to do an interview once using ambient light w/ the camera balanced on chair. (welcome to my life).

Thanks for taking the time to flesh out some options. Any other suggestions would be appreciated.

Cheers,



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Bob Cole
Re: Airline cases
on May 13, 2011 at 12:10:40 pm

You are correct. FedEx/UPS only works when the schedule is firm, and you have enough other equipment to keep working in the shipped gear's absence.

I've used the Lightware 1629 case. It's just under 62" combined, is user-configurable inside with supplied dividers, & can accommodate the smaller Lowel light stands. They also make a rolling version, which slightly exceeds the 62" due to the wheels, but will probably get by (I do not know how durable the wheels are in the maelstrom of airplane loading). You will likely need a cart on-site if you don't get the wheeled version.

I wish there were some laboratory-test evidence about whether it is better for the equipment to ride in an absolutely hard case or in a "soft" case like the Lightware. The Pelican/Anvil case won't crack, but wouldn't it tend to transmit the shock all the way through into the contents of the case? whereas the Lightware absorbs part of the shock of a drop. Either way, Pelicans or Lightware, I always bubble-wrap all the contents. I was highly skeptical of the Lightware, and I make NO warranty, but all I can say is, when packed weight is critical and I need to take a lot of equipment, Lightware has worked for me - and I have had a bulb shatter after a trip in a Pelican case.


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Steve Wargo
Re: Airline cases
on May 23, 2011 at 12:56:15 pm

Some airlines make exceptions for media and production people. Southwest, for example, allows our bags to be oversize and overweight if you have a production company business card. However, print the exemption off of the website and keep it with you as I had one counter agent laugh at my suggestion that a 65 pound suitcase was OK.

Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona
It's a dry heat!

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Bob Cole
Re: Airline cases
on May 23, 2011 at 2:17:58 pm

[Steve Wargo] "However, print the exemption off of the website and keep it with you as I had one counter agent laugh at my suggestion that a 65 pound suitcase was OK."

Great idea, Steve.

Any other airlines have this exemption?


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