As a traveling surfer, there is often a bit of anxiety that arises when you reach the baggage claim.
"Wouldn't it be terrible if my boards don't arrive?"
"I hope my boards aren't all dinged up?"
These are common thoughts of the traveling surfer. And as a photographer or videographer, you also have the concern about your high dollar equipment that you leave in the hands of airport workers.
Unfortunately for ESM photographer, Jim Whitney, this became a disheartening reality. Some point between checking his bag with United Airlines in Hawaii and arriving at home, Jim's Canon EOS 20D camera body, the vertical grip, an SPL Water Housing and port, a 400mm 5.6 telephoto lens, a 15mm fisheye lens, and a 20mm wide angle lens were all stolen.
The surf photography world really isn't that big, so Jim has asked to have the word spread and to be on the look out for this equipment. Fortunately, Jim was well prepared with proof of payment for his equipment and will likely be compensated for his loss. Nonetheless, spreading the word about this thievery may help recover the lost equipment and help prevent these incidents in the future.
Jim Whitney has left us with some advice, should this happen to you:
1. Report the theft immediately to the nearest baggage claim department. Make sure you get the name, contact info, and job title of the person you are reporting it to.
2. Fill out a MISSING PROPERTY QUESTIONNAIRE--This is an official report that contains all of your personal info, your flight itinerary, a detailed description of your stolen goods, and a statement of loss that needs to be signed. I flew UNITED AIRLINES, and there is a clause on the MISSING PROPERTY QUESTIONNAIRE that states: "PLEASE NOTE. United airlines is not liable for loss of money, jewelry, cameras, electronic/computer or photographic equipment, negotiable papers or securities, heirlooms, antiques, artifacts, work of art, silverware, irreplaceable books or publications, manuscripts, business documents, precious metals and other valuable or commercial effects." IGNORE THIS FOOTNOTE. THE AIRLINE YOU ARE TRAVELING WITH IS 100% RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR CHECKED IN BAGGAGE.
3. Furnish all receipts for your stolen goods, and submit them with your MISSING PROPERTY QUESTIONNAIRE. Get copies of all paperwork.
4. File a police report with the AVIATION POLICE of the airlines that you flew with. Make sure the police get copies of your MISSING PROPERTY QUESTIONNAIRE, as well as any receipts and/or serial #'s for your stolen goods. Make sure you get the name, contact info, and badge # of the police officer that files your claim.
5. You should be given a claim # for your police report, and a claim # for your airlines case. You can follow up accordingly.
I have been told that the normal claim resolution is between 30-90 days. Since we are still waiting on our resolution, I cannot tell you how this will end for me. I have been told that UNITED AIRLINES should write me a check for the original purchase price of my stolen goods, especially since I gave them all the receipts and serial numbers for my stolen stuff. I am about 2 weeks into this, and I have heard nothing except that my claim was filed and id under investigation. Each person that I have spoken to has been cooperative, but apparently it just takes some time...you know, the usual run around...
*Insure your photographic gear with PERSONAL ARTICLES INSURANCE. If your gear is insured, you can file a claim with them as well. You will need to furnish all receipts and police reports.
I hope this information is useful to you. Don't let this happen to you!
ESM Senior photographer