Photographer got stopped at the airport three times because he had a Pelican case

Apr 5, 2019

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Photographer got stopped at the airport three times because he had a Pelican case

Apr 5, 2019

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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Pelican cases are a good choice for protecting your pricey gear while flying. But one such case recently caused a series of unpleasant situations for photographer Antonio Kuilan. The airport security stopped him three times at Houston Airport, and all three times he raised suspicion because of the Pelican case in which he carried his gear. We spoke to Antonio about this case to hear more, and we learned that he wasn’t the only one who had this experience.

While he was waiting in line for a connecting flight, Antonio was cherry-picked by a woman from the airport security. He replied that it was, and the woman said: “Oh no sir, you need to go thru another security check upstairs.” When Antonio asked why, she replied that the dogs on her floor couldn’t smell through Pelican cases.

So, the photographer went upstairs for the additional security check. As he was trying to find his way “through a labyrinth of directions,” he was surprised by another check. “An agent came out of nowhere and put his hands on my chest,” Antonio explains. This time, the agent asked him what he had in the case, and Antonio explained that, other than clothes, he also had “batteries, lenses, chargers, a drone, and other sensitive stuff.” But this was not the end.

According to Antonio, at this moment another agent came down the corridor, asking him why he was using a Pelican case. “Because I thought it was a good idea to protect my stuff with a rugged case that’s designed for carry-on,” Antonio replied. However, the agent told him that he was being “a smart-aleck with that attitude.” Antonio added that he was just answering the question.

When he finally made it to the security check upstairs, Antonio explained to the agent that he was sent there. He told him about “the mini-adventure” he had, but the agent simply told him to take off his shoes, belt, throw all his stuff in the bins, and walk through the X-ray machines.

I asked Antonio if this was the first time something like this happened to him. He told me that it was – but it was also the first time that he used a Pelican case. As a temporary solution, he will try to mask the “Pelican” name/logo with stickers or gaff tape and hope that he won’t go through an “adventure” like this again.

Antonio posted about his experience on Reddit, where many users pointed out that they went through the same or similar situation, and on different airports. User ericb67 writes that he got stopped and searched “every single time at every single airport and almost every port of entry.” Similarly, Xaved writes that his Pelican case “almost always ends up with one of those ‘your luggage was opened for inspection’ slips” when he lands.

Some comments on Reddit point out that, other than photographers, Pelican cases are also often used by gun owners and military personnel. Therefore, this factor is the likely cause of agents’ suspicions. Have you had any similar experiences?

[image credits: Antonio Kuilan]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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27 responses to “Photographer got stopped at the airport three times because he had a Pelican case”

  1. Tony Sapad Avatar
    Tony Sapad

    I have four Pelican 1510 cases and have used them for my carry on since 2012. I have not once been stopped by TSA about it.

    Only time I had a “problem” was when I checked it in. In that case they took it off the bag carousel and placed it in the luggage office because I had it locked and ziptied.

  2. Daniel Fernandez Avatar
    Daniel Fernandez

    Nope. Zero issues here, both with checked cases (firearms) or carried onboard with camera gear.

    IMO it’s likely very airport specific. I’ve had small regional airports want to poke through stuff, while major hubs just wave me through. Other times it’s the opposite.

    Kinda makes me wonder if they have a ‘X number of bags inspected per shift’ quota.

  3. Brian Drourr Avatar
    Brian Drourr

    Nope never. Once through TSA no one pays me or it any attention.

  4. Gina Papadakis Avatar
    Gina Papadakis

    Every time. Bomb wipes and all…

  5. Ryan Bartek Avatar
    Ryan Bartek

    Only issue I had in 8 years was a TSA agent asked me what kind of guns I liked to shoot.

  6. Nicholas Kau Avatar
    Nicholas Kau

    They once made me take everything out. Lady exclaimed “ oh it is camera gear!” Then someone tried to walk off with my D5 and got arrested. That was an interesting day.

  7. Miroslav Vrzala Avatar
    Miroslav Vrzala

    Not even a pelican case but just a shoulder bag in Germany on 3 separate occasions

  8. Kirstin Marsh Bussey Avatar
    Kirstin Marsh Bussey

    I get stopped all the time because for what ever reason I always have to explain that my external flash is not some weird device ?

  9. Britt Thomas Avatar
    Britt Thomas

    Just having a camera gets me searched, especially external flashes.

  10. Aaron Darby Avatar
    Aaron Darby

    Every time I take my pelican it gets pulled out of the security line and searched through.

  11. Casey Braunger Avatar
    Casey Braunger

    Nope. Only once in a small airport. I fly every few months too. Precheck helps.

  12. Kristen Churma Beck Avatar
    Kristen Churma Beck

    no issues from Oregon to scotland and back…only issue was in detroit when it was launched out a door because the plain over heads were full(they were not full i was pissed). i was forced to check it and my husband watched this man throw it from a door…

  13. Martin Roth Avatar
    Martin Roth

    flew several times with multiple cases for dive trips and never had any problems. Not even when I had my rebreather parts in the carry-on.

  14. Jesse Watson Avatar
    Jesse Watson

    All the freaking time. Every time I check it, I get an additional TSA inspection notice. Often time when I land I get sent to secondary asking why I have military cases as well.

    1. Chuck Diesel Avatar
      Chuck Diesel

      Why do you check your camera case?

      1. David Avatar
        David

        because many airlines outside of the US have 7kg max carry on allowance and won’t accept sensitive camera gear as an excuse to go over the limit. This has forced a lot of people to start using Pelican or similar cases for camera gear and get them checked in. I can understand that if they are waterproof then dog sniffing won’t work well though. Easy enough to open them for checks. They are a target for “lost luggage” (thieves) so I suggest a gps tracking device within them as well

  15. Chuck Diesel Avatar
    Chuck Diesel

    Never had a problem, but I don’t use a “Pelican” branded case.

  16. Anthony Kerstens Avatar
    Anthony Kerstens

    If it’s a problem just sign-up for NEXUS or TSA Precheck.

  17. Firebert Avatar
    Firebert

    I use pelican cases for both my camera gear and my firearms. Never had a issue and I have flown with firearms checked in. I jokingly have my pelican air carry on camera case labeled “Not Guns.” Still I breeze through security like normal. I should mention I have global entry which includes TSA precheck

  18. Brian McCarthy Avatar
    Brian McCarthy

    I travel 20 or my times a year. I’ve never had an issue at security carrying my cameras on but I dont use pelican cases. However I always get the note from TSA that they’ve inspected my hard side checked bags. It’s pretty normal for checked bags, pelican or not.

  19. Iain Mack Avatar
    Iain Mack

    I’d get checked every 5 mins f it stops a plane parking in the side of a building.

  20. gtvone Avatar
    gtvone

    That Retrospective, though…

  21. gtvone Avatar
    gtvone

    Oh, and… “While he was waiting in line for a connecting flight, Antonio was cherry-picked by a woman from the airport security. He replied that it was” That it was what? lol

  22. Steven Avatar
    Steven

    I’ve have to go through extra screening because my (relatively cheap) remote trigger looked suspicious and had to explain what it was and demonstrate how it operates. They made me empty my entire bag into separate bins. The return flight was no problem, bag just went through without any problems… so I believe the problem is with the specific airport or even TSA agent that is running the station.

  23. Gus Cantavero Avatar
    Gus Cantavero

    I carry on my camera and lenses with a Lowepro case but it frequently gets opened. I have Global Entry/TSA Pre and CLEAR, no matter. My checked pelicans with grip and lighting get opened by TSA about 50% of the time. I have never been stopped while walking through the airport with my Lowepro case, but I’ve been flagged for extra security numerous times where they take everything out. The TSA is by far the worst, rudest, least competent I’ve experienced with 4 international multi-country trips under my belt.

  24. iphonesux Avatar
    iphonesux

    scared u bring weapon ? lol

  25. Vin Weathermon Avatar
    Vin Weathermon

    Maybe someone has been smuggling big with those cases…but I’ve used them often with no issues.