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|| News Item: Posted 1998-12-13

Leading Off: Travel Hell, Part 2
By Robert Hanashiro

Since the mailing of Sports Shooter #4, I have received a few comments and questions. I also neglected to include a lengthy collection of travel tales from friends and colleagues... so here we have Sports Shooter v4.1.

One question that was brought up by several readers concerned the airlines' supposed "media rate" or "motion picture equipment rate" or "professional film crew rate" in dealing with excess baggage.

A few phone calls to several airlines and queries at the LAX ticket counters provided little answers. Some ticket agents acknowledged a special rate, while others at the same airline denied there was such a thing, even after looking through their computers.

A special rate MAY be there, but if the ticket or gate agent isn't willing to give it to you, what are you going to do? Basically, I don't count on a special excess baggage rate from any airline and I plan and pack according and ship ahead when I can.

This past summer fellow USA TODAY staffer Anne Ryan and I traveled back and forth from Chicago and Salt Lake City covering the NBA Finals. Also on our flights was a crew from IMAX, which was making a full length feature on Michael Jordan.

The IMAX crew had something like 85 checked pieces of equipment on the flight, some cases heavier than 100 pounds!

I asked a UAL ticket agent about this and was told that IMAX had negotiated a special rate when purchasing their crew's tickets and it was substantially less than the $50, $75 and $100 overage charge you and I have to pay.

The lesson here is that if you know in advance you're going on the road with an unusually large amount of equipment (say 5 or more cases),notify the airline and try to work out a deal. You'd be surprised what you might accomplish if you try a civil, but calculated approach.

Another questioned concerned my use of "over tipping" skycaps to get an extra piece or cart checked. The answer is: yes, it probably is illegal and yes, it probably is ethically okay.

Another tidbit: do you know that you canNOT put your cart in the overhead bin? Some airlines announce that when boarding, while others aren't so diligent. Having seen a cart drop from what was thought to be a latched overhead bin, PLEASE check that cart or at least put it under the seat. In the overhead bin, that cart is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Earlier in the year I was on a flight from LAX to San Antonio for the NCAA Final Four. I board the plane early and I was shocked when a TV cameraman bullied his way to the front of the line and then proceeded to grab every pillow he could find, stuffed one entire overhead bin with them, laid his ENG camera on them and closed the door. When other passengers boarded and looked at the closed overhead bin, he yelled at them "Hey, that one's filled, don't touch it!"

I relay this story to show that we as traveling photographers are not blameless for the poor treatment we receive from the airlines.

We are in a dicey area here when it comes to excess baggage and overhead space...balancing customers' demands and passenger safety. As I said last week: travel smart but travel safe.

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