Think Twice About Ever Checking Electronic Equipment

Last month on my way home for Thanksgiving my final San Francisco to Burbank flight was on a United Express/Skywest CRJ-200, a 50-seat aircraft with limited overhead space. As I have for years, I checked my rollerboard cabin baggage that contained my laptop and digital camera. Apparently--and in all my years of travel--I never knew that was a big no-no.

Worry not, my laptop and digital camera are just fine, but another United flyer who posted his story on Flyertalk was not so fortunate:

Had a computer and iPad that was damaged while being checked. Both screens cracked. It was in a padded backpack, within a padded computer case.

Apparently, screens can crack from temperature stresses. Other Flyertalk members reported that extreme cold and extreme heat have shattered laptops and cameras in the past.

More importantly, United Airlines' baggage policy specifically states the airline will not be liable for damage caused to electronic equipment in checked baggage (at least on wholly domestic flights):

For travel wholly between points in the U.S., United will not be liable for loss of money, jewelry, cameras, negotiable papers/securities, electronic/video/ photographic equipment, heirlooms, antiques, artifacts, works of art, silverware, irreplaceable books/publications/manuscripts/business documents, precious metals and other similar valuable and commercial effects. United prohibits the foregoing items being placed in checked baggage for travel wholly between points in the U.S. as well as for international transportation.

But what happens when you board a regional jet and the gate agent says that all carry-on bags must be gate checked?

We can debate whether compensation is warranted in cases like that, but even the smallest of regional jets have small overhead lockers that can accomodate cameras and computers. If you find yourself forced to check your carry-on bag, just ensure you pull out your electronic equpiment and anything else of value. I travel on regional jets often so from now on will include a smaller bag within my rollerboard with the most valuable items that I can pull out when faced with a gate-check situation.

Am I the only one who learned something new today? (shaking my head)


Biggles209 December 11, 2011 at 07:10 pm

Keep prescription medications in the smaller bag also!

Chris December 11, 2011 at 07:22 pm

I keep my laptop in a separate bag that goes under the seat in front of me as my "personal item." The small loss of legroom seems like a worthwhile trade compared to a destroyed (or lost) laptop.

Matt December 12, 2011 at 09:26 am

If you've had things work out fine so far, you could always keep pushing it...

I've always been extremely careful to include all electronics and valuables in whatever I am actually carrying on the plane. I hadn't thought about the temperature issue, but I'd just as soon not have that stuff tossed around and/or out of my sight if possible.

Also, it's a (substantial) corner case, but I have been separated from what was effectively gate-checked luggage for weight and balance reasons before. It was a windy day at SAB.

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