As if air travel in the midst of the busy holiday season wasn’t frustrating enough, one photographer experienced an exceptionally taxing experience when traveling with a bulk of his photography gear from Chicago to Boston on a JetBlue flight. When Jess Dugan, a seasoned fine art photographer, exceeded the limit of carry-on bags allowed by JetBlue, he was forced to check his additional gear with the airline before his flight left from Chicago. Inside the bag, Dugan says he had packed a pair of professional level DSLRs, both with lenses, in addition to a pro flash head, and other accessories such as memory cards.
After landing in Boston and retrieving his bag from the baggage claim carousel, Dugan noticed his luggage felt much lighter than it did when he last had it Chicago. He then opened the bag to realize that all of his equipment except for a camera bag had been stolen from the suitcase. Dugan immediately contacted JetBlue to file a lost baggage claim. Peeved, and probably a little heartbroken from the loss, he also wrote to multiple JetBlue executives in an effort to resolve the issue. As you can read in the official response letter from JetBlue below, the case looks unfavorable for Dugan.
Thank you for your message to JetBlue Airways. We sincerely regret to hear that your camera equipment was missing from your checked baggage. We can understand that this must have been an extremely frustrating and inconvenient experience. We can only assure you that your experience is not typical of the standards that we strive to maintain. We have shared your correspondence with our Baggage Leadership Team for review and training purposes.
At JetBlue we make every attempt to minimize situations such as that which you have described. Our crewmembers have extensive background checks and work in a closely monitored environment where they are not allowed to open your bag in most situations (barring safety issues, or in attempt to determine the owner of a bag that is missing its identification). The same may be said of the monitoring and employment verification of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Unfortunately, it is not always possible to determine the cause of this type of incident unless it is witnessed or the missing item is located.
We certainly do not allow or promote any type of disrespect toward our customers’ belongings. Proof that a crewmember had not treated a customer’s belongings with such respect as JetBlue’s values dictate would result in swift and appropriate action toward that crewmember from JetBlue. If you have evidence of theft you may wish to also report this to the police, who are the proper authority to investigate allegations of criminal activity.
Our records do indicate that Baggage Report BOSB600262964 was opened for this incident. However, as the items that were reported as missing fall under limited liability per the JetBlue Contract of Carriage, please be aware that this is a courtesy report that will not result in monetary compensation. You may reference our Contract of Carriage on our website, jetblue.com, under the Legal link.
If we are able to locate your belongings you will be contacted to verify ownership.
Please be aware that TSA regulations do not prohibit you from placing a lock on your baggage. For more information about TSA policies regarding baggage locks, please visit the following link:
You may also wish to contact and file a claim with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
The TSA, Transportation Security Administration, is an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security which oversees the security of air, ground and maritime transportation networks.
The TSA makes every attempt to ensure that your belongings are returned to your bag at the conclusion of the baggage screening, but they will assess any loss or damage claims that they receive. For the TSA contact information as well as the claim forms, please visit the TSA website at tsa.gov.
We value you as a JetBlue customer and regret that you were disappointed with your recent experience. We hope that you choose to travel with us again and offer us the opportunity to regain your confidence. You can be sure that every effort will be made to ensure that our standard of service meets your expectations in the future.
Specialist, Central Baggage
Essentially, the letter states that JetBlue is not contractually obligated to reimburse Dugan for his losses because of a clause which dismisses camera equipment as insurable through the airline. JetBlue argues that by purchasing his ticket, Dugan was agreeing to these terms.
Dugan has recentely updated his blog to include a note stating that JetBlue has finally offered him a $1,000 travel voucher after social media got a hold of the story and starting spreading the word. Though the voucher doesn’t come close to covering the costs of replacing his stolen gear, Dugan acknowledges the gesture as a proverbial olive branch.
The lessons to be learned from Dugan’s misfortunes are many. First of all, always read the fine print. Corporations make it difficult to read through their 10 page Terms of Service agreements, knowing most consumers will just ignore it all together. If you are traveling with expensive equipment, don’t rely on the honesty of others to treat it as carefully as you will. Spend the money and purchase travel cases that are designed to protect your gear from theft and damage. If the maximum amount of insurance offered by your airline doesn’t fully cover your equipment–or at all, such as with JetBlue, consider shipping it to your destination.
It’s easy to view Dugan’s loss as an isolated case, but the reality is that such incidents happen on a regular basis. Be aware. It’s up to you as a photographer to protect your equipment.
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