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Travel Warning: Don't Pack a Pelican


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#21 ReefRoamer

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 06:32 PM

A very sad story. And also quite freightening. Think about this: if airport bag handlers or TSA people can take stuff OUT of your bags, what can they put IN? Keep in mind that ABC did a survey of TSA agents at the NYC airports and found that more than half of them had criminal records. This is the security system that we taxpayers have bought and paid for. And it's no better, by the government's own accounting (reported this weekend) than the one it replaced. Just 50,000 more people on the federal payroll now in the TSA. How easy would it be for a terrorist to gain employment by an airline's bag-handling contractor? Open a Pelican case, remove a housing, replace it with another device and send it on its way. Sleep well on your next flight, friends.
And by the way, I recommend people not waste their money on the so-called TSA approved locks. Since their is usually just one key kept somewhere in the airport, the agents don't actually each have a key. If they are conscientious and not in a hurry, they MAY go find the key to open the TSA locks. But most of the time, they just cut them off. Also, the TSA locks I have seen are cheap and a couple I bought simply twisted open during routne baggage handling.
I just use zip ties, which allow me to tell immediately if my bags have been opened. They keep the latches from accidentally opening, and they are as secure as the most expensive locks.
I would certainly lodge a strong complaint with the TSA and write my congressman concerning your experience with our post 9-11 security. A lot of flights from San Juan go to New York. What will be on the next one?
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#22 anthp

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 07:10 PM

ReefRoamer raises an interesting point regarding what might be added to bags, in addition to what might be taken out.

There is currently a case before the Indonesia courts where a young Australian women is alleged to have imported drugs into Bali. Apart from the obvious question as to why you'd take dope from Australia (where it is very expensive), to Bali (where it is very cheap), there has actually been tacit admission and evidence presented to the Bali courts that a well organised drug syndicate is using baggage handlers and flights within Australia to move drugs around the country. In this case it appears that someone forgot to remove the drugs from the poor women's checked-in body-board bag before the flight continued on to Bali. She now faces the firing squad.

Seems like the problem of questionable standards of airport security is not limited to San Juan.
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#23 red3

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 01:53 AM

I'm really sorry to hear about your loss. I hope that your images were not taken as well. equipment can be replaced but the images are gone forever.

A couple of months ago I flew AA to West Palm Beach to go on a shark dive with the Abernetheys. When I arrived on of my bags failed to arrive with me, the bag that contained my wetsuits. When I went to enquire as to the location of my wayward bag, the lady at lost luggage told me that she could not tell me where my bag was and told me that there were no more incomming flights that evening. I tried to explain that I had seen an incomming flight scheduled from my transfer location that was to arrive in about 4 hours. The Abernethys were willing to hold the boat for me IF my equiptment was going to be on this later flight. The lost luggage lady began to argue with me that there was no later flight and pushed me out of the office, locked the door and disappeared in the back room. I had to go upstairs to the ticket counter to file my lost luggage claim! (there was a later flight but they could not tell me if my bag was on it. What is that bar code on the tag for?)

The Abernethey's were great. Jim gave me free rein in his equiptment room and I got suited up in a complete set of rubber ( the wetsuit had Cheng written inside of it, Eric's?). My warm clothing, suits and towels were also missing and jim went home and got me everything I could possibly need from his own closet. He even said that if there was something that he did not have that he would stop at a store and buy it on the way back to the boat. Truly a class act and he saved my trip. I cannot thank him enough.

After a week of tiger sharks and lemons I returned to West palm beach and my lost bag was waiting for me at JASA. My flight home was uneventful except for the TSA dweebs confiscating all of my camera tools(small allen wrenches, screw drivers etc) and my dome port polish (shark skin is very rough on acrylic!). They filled out a mountain of Haz-mat paperwork on the polish and made sign it. I figure I'll be sued in about twenty years for poisoning the water table and killing the last manatee.

When I got home I un-packed my equipt for a detailed cleaning only to find that someone helped themselves to my regulator/dive computer....the trip just wont end....cost me $1400 to replace that.

And these are just the highlights of the trip.

They almost didnt let me get on the plane when I protested the TSA Nazi's handling of my cary-on that containted my housing. She dropped it in the table so hard that it made the security area go silent while everyone looked at what made the loud bang. And when I told her to be "take it easy" on my bag she called her supervisor because I was being hostile towards her!!

The story goes on and on......

AA....never again....Take two of everthing, in seperate bags and carry the things that you cannot rent on the plane with you.....

#24 Giles

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 04:06 AM

When returning to Grand Cayman recently (and this story is not as bad as others) my bags were checked in England thoroughly by security, got given security tags by the UK security team giving me the ok to put my locks on my pelican case. My Peilican case was then put inside my other dive bag (which yes is huge)

Anyway ... stickers or no stickers Miami deicded they wanted to take a look at the pelican case. So they opened it up by I am assuming breaking my locks off .. and then not even leaving me the locks. They then happened to either take or loose a very handy set of Allen Keys, the air pressure release valve for the pelican case some bubble wrap and a box of cleaning and greasing etc stuff.

The bag was cleared through airport secuirty in the UK .. ticvketed for direct transfer which means only airport personel got to deal with it .. and they broke my locks off .. lost or took some stuff out of the case .. and left me a note saying who had done it ..

Now security is one thing .. but what about travelers belongings security .. IMO even though there are some places in the world you have to be careful when travelling the invasive nature the people who work at the US airports have towards not just stuff but people is over the top right now. and god damn it i want my allen keys back !!
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#25 acroporas

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 04:14 AM

Stealing a housing before the dive trip is just plain mean. Not only are you stealing a few thousand in gear that is likely insured, but you are effectively stealing the several thousand spent on the trip wich isnt insured.

You have me fealing really lucky. Travled to Bonaire on August with my housing in a pelicain case. I would have died had my housing been stolen.

My housing flooded twice that trip (fortunatly no damage to camera either time). Perhaps they decided that an Ikelite wasnt worth stealing so decided to Sabotage it instead. LOL
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#26 james

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 07:09 AM

So CMM, Is that your housing on Ebay? Guys, if it is, what do you think he should do?

I would do buy it now, and then ask for their address and telephone nunmber before ordering, then send in the police. If his stuff is insured, then perhaps he has the serial numbers of everything recorded, eh?

Cheers
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#27 MikeO

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 08:51 AM

Here's a nice synopsis of airline remuneration procedures, though since you bags arrived, just without the contents, they can always blame TSA:

http://www.entrepren...,273856,00.html

Agree that it is quite a coincidence that a similar rig appears on eBay shortly after you "lose" yours but I'm not sure what you could do about it. Maybe you could send the seller a note saying you wanted to check the production date of the housing (make up something about a rumored manufacturing issue that was fixed after a certain date) and needed the serial number to verify it . . .

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#28 cmm1970

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 08:55 AM

No, that is not my rig on eBay. Believe me, I have been browsing the Aquatica and Sea and Sea gear on Ebay figuring it would end up there. I am pretty certain that the theft occurred in Puerto Rico. I would guess that it is in a pawn shop there. Who knows. I will keep looking because there just aren't too many of them out there.

Good news is that I will have opportunity to upgrade!

#29 ssra30

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Posted 20 May 2005 - 08:16 AM

Wow, this is terrible. Sorry to hear about your ordeal. Now I might have to rethink my plan a bit. Thinking of going to Galapagos next year and I was going to take the easy route via LA or NY to Houston to Quito. I use Stormcase to transport my camera gear around SE Asia with no problems so far but it does not sound like a good idea through the US. Hmmm, might have to figure out a route without having to go through the US with all the hassles with TSA etc.

#30 Drew

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Posted 21 May 2005 - 02:55 AM

To counter the trend, I've travelled through LAX, JFK, EWR and MIA for international flights with my housing and accessories in a Storm case and have had no problems. I stash all sorts of crap in there like chargers etc. At LAX, bags are checked BEFORE entering the line. Maybe it's the special security check for biz/1st class, I don't know...but I've been very lucky. And I travel through LAX at least monthly across the pacific sometimes. Might be the gulf of mexico/caribbean is a hot spot for TSA thefts?

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#31 critter

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Posted 18 June 2005 - 02:02 PM

When I go to the Carribean my wife and I always take two roller bags and carry them on. They are regular suitcase type roller bags and I wrap the stuff in bubble wrap to protect them as well as some clothes. I think this is the safest way to take stuff. I try to avoid checking the valuable stuff as much as possible.

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#32 Kelpfish

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 12:13 AM

These thief pricks need to have significant reprecussions levied against them, but it will take a month of Sundays before the feds will consider theft by TSA agents important. In other countries it a lost cause. It's hard enough to get remedies in the U.S. let alone in another country. I think the government did not anticipate the thievery that would occur when they essentially gave TSA a license to steal and not be held accountable for their actions.

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#33 cmm1970

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 01:12 PM

Good news, I recently settled with my USAA policies. I had a personal floater for one rig and the homeowner's policy covered the other. I had near $15,000 in claims and have received $11,500 thus far with another couple of thousand in depreciation that will be turned over to me when I provide proof of replacement. I understand that American has issued a check to me, but the amount is unknown. I will follow up with their first settlement offer so you all will know how its going.

More later!

Mike

#34 kdietz

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Posted 07 July 2005 - 05:31 AM

That's good to hear Mike....I hope you get it all back

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#35 dawktah

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Posted 11 July 2005 - 08:57 PM

Now I am worried. I am due to go through SJU in a month to the BVI. I just purchased a Ikelite Pelican Case. I am going to call the airline now to stress concern "before" it can become a problem. Insured or not its no fun getting there with no equipment!

EDIT:

I called American Reservations and we came to conclusion of checking pelican case at gate. This will require the case to be given back to me at jetway in SJU. Do same thing on the return trip. However I may run into more problems trying to check case at gate on return. Either way should get valet tag. If its not there immediately call police!

EDIT 2

I called and spoke to American's Baggage department and they said that they take no resposnibilty for any lost or stolen equipment. She said highest risk was valet bag at gate. Allowance is 45 linear inches case is 53. O'Hare may allow locking of case after x-ray will contact TSA at O'Hare. Still have to get home. :D

#36 thatporchdawg

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Posted 12 July 2005 - 09:36 AM

Having just returned from Dominica via SJU on Sunday, I can relate my experience. Having read this thread several times over, I decided to gate check/valet my pelican 1550 on the flight from SJU to DOM and back. In short, there were no problems.

SJU to DOM:
You take a from your departure gate, you take a shuttle bus to your turboprop plane. Before you get on the shuttle bus, your carry ons are tagged for valet and you're give a claim stub. Both you and your now valet checked bags are loaded onto the shuttle bus. The bus takes you to your plane; you get on the plane and the valet bags are loaded onto the plane right there in open view of the boarding passengers. My take was this was very low risk since the handlers would have to be pretty bold to pop open a case right there as passengers were boarding. In DOM, all the luggage was brought into baggage claim at the same time (no claiming of your bad at the aircraft) since the airport is so small.

DOM to SJU:
Same as in SJU, you valet check your pelican case and you get the claim stub. In DOM they seemed to load up the valet bags separately from regular luggage. Landing in SJU (after dodging the iguanas on the runway during landing), the valet bags are unloaded onto a shuttle bus and taken to the gate area. You may or may not be on the exact shuttle that your bags have been loaded onto, but passengers from your flight will be on that bus (can't fit everyone on the plane into one shuttle bus). You pick up your valet bag from the shuttle before entering the airport gate area and proceeding to customs/immigration. This is still fairly low risk since the bags are all loaded onto the shuttles and kept separate from regular luggage, but there is still a chance that your bag may get "left behind" or "mixed into" regular luggage.

I think American's baggage department is giving you a line of BS if they're telling you that gate checking/valet is higher risk than handing your bags and property over to American employees who then wisk your bags out of sight for an hour or more based on some sort of trust that the good honest folks at American will guard your belongings while being "not responsible" for thier safe keeping.

Sorry for ranting, but hearing the airlines and TSA both claim that you're not responsible for what happens to your bags after you give them your bags just gets my wetsuit in a bunch!
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#37 Detonate

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Posted 12 July 2005 - 12:18 PM

It makes sense to me. If AA said they were responsible for your belongs while in their possesion, I'm wondering how many more items would magically be stolen the date of the announcement.

Even shippers don't take responsibility for lost or stolen items. Unless of course you pay extra for insurance. So maybe AA could offer paid insurance, but I'd find it surprising if they just started paying out for items that may or may not have been stolen by AA or TSA employees.

#38 dawktah

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Posted 12 July 2005 - 02:01 PM

I'm gonna try to carry it on. I am 8 linear inches over the limit. I figure I can plead my case at the gate to carry it on. I am going to carry a rolled up canvas bag in my fiancée's carry on to unload housing, strobe and port into if they say no go. Maybe after I start blocking jetway unloading they may change their minds. If not continue to carry on in canvas bag and valet the case. Reassemble once at SJU. Getting on to an ATR at SJU, I can keep my eye on it! EIS (Beef Island) is a ramp and outdoor covered building that you walk to.

Now I can go back to my annual ritual of watching tropical depressions as I get ready to go vacation again in August. :D

#39 cmm1970

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 12:36 PM

FINAL CHAPTER:

Well everyone, we are now 3.5 months post theft and I have at last received settlement from American Airlines. Upon review of my claim for $15,000 worth of losses between myself and my honey, American "generously" settled for $1456 per person. They also would provide no accounting for how they arrived at that number, but did go to great lengths to explain that an internationaly treaty limits their liability for lost bags to this amount. Phantom math is all I have to say.

Anyways, I am exhausted from all of this and have deposited the checks. Could I have gotten after them with an attorney and perhaps milked a little more out? We'll never know.

Anyways, say goodbye to Aquatica and Sea and Sea and hello to a new D2X and Subal housings. At least there is a silver lining to this dark cloud of travel angst.

Best regards all,
Mike

PS. My Pelican cases are on eBay currently for what I feel like is a good price. Help me out with these.

#40 anthp

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 05:54 PM

Ouch Mike!

I guess at least you got something out of them, but I am most perplexed out how they arrived at the number. Still, must be nice to have a D2X and Subal on the way.
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