Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hand Luggage Allocations on Flights and Cameras

In this complex world, laws and regulations overpower logic at times, and the flight regulations provide such good examples.

Just because a two legged elephant is allowed to take a 7 kg hand luggage in to the flight's cabin, a rail thin person (who may weigh 100 kg less) would not be allowed to carry an extra kilo by hand into the cabin, even though both pay the same ticket price for the same class. The advantage of differences in additive fuel burning on carrying the persons is not passed to the passenger (sigh).

While the photography enthusiasts might claim camera as part of their body, most of the flight operators are not ready to accept it. This is of great concern for a commoner like me who seldom flies on economy class in whichever the flight offering the lowest fare, and have got tons of items (books, clothes, spices, etc, etc) to be taken with, in addition to "the big assets" like Camera and Notebook, within the limited luggage allocations.

Since I do not hold the "gold" or "silver" cards given to those who got growth of feathers due to frequent flying, well, I believe in Charles Robert Darwin's, most of the time I am left at the mercy of the attendants at the check-in-counters and the boarding-gates to sneak through with my above the weight limit luggage and baggage without paying any extra charges. A nice smile at those beautiful ladies (of course, in the absence of my wife or without being noticed), or showing my student identity card did the trick so far to exceed the weight limits, except on one occasion when I encountered some duty minded attendants (Notice! I did not use "beautiful ladies").

A recent addition of a D-SLR, which made my childhood dream of having a good camera a reality, and its growing number of accessories, have made me to break my head on how to accommodate these extra kilograms (around 5 kg) into the already inadequate luggage limits on airlines when it comes about flying.

So, I decided to seek the help from my buddy, Google, who always lends helping hand to find some clues. A little skimming on the results revealed somewhat good news that all airline members of the International Air transport Association (IATA) have already agreed to allow "a small camera" to be taken in flights free of charge in addition to the stipulated hand luggage allocations.

Even though IATA's website does not provide any information, Singapore airlines' website provided the following detail.

"Articles Allowed Onboard
All airline members of the International Air transport Association (IATA) have agreed to observe the following baggage regulations. You may carry onboard the articles listed below free of charge, over and above your free baggage allowance (subject to local country specific restrictions, if any):
  • A lady’s handbag
  • An overcoat
  • An umbrella or walking stick
  • A laptop or notebook computer
  • A small camera
  • A reasonable amount of reading material for the flight
  • Infant’s food for consumption in flight and infant’s carrying basket
  • A pair of crutches and/or other prosthetic devices for the passenger’s use provided the passenger is dependent upon them"
Some other airlines such as Thai Airways and Cathay Pacific also provided similar lists, which include "A small camera", and Cathay Pacific says this extra allocation is not applicable for the passengers who are traveling from or through Heathrow airport. Even though some people on internet forums claim that they could hand carry D-SLR and accessories like tripods on board, no reliable references were given.

It is pity that there is no reference point given in determining what is "A small camera". While I can argue that my entry level D-SLR as a small camera when compared with some of the professional ones, I am not sure whether the check-in counter staff would agree with me.

Would the IATA consider the plights of small time photography enthusiasts like me?

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