On Saturday 1 July, £600 worth of cameras and equipment were stolen from inside my rucksack, itself packed into a larger suitcase, during a Tunisair flight from Tunis to London Heathrow whilst they were checked into the hold of the plane.
Like any discerning photographer, or indeed sensible human being, the idea of checking my cameras in rather than keeping them with me in hand luggage was unthinkable, but as it turns out, I didn’t have a choice.
What I wasn’t aware of until moments before check in was that as of 21st March 2017, new restrictions on electrical items being brought into the UK from the following Arab Countries were put in place:
- Saudi Arabia
These restrictions are not enforced on outgoing flights, only those coming into the UK. In response to the FAQ ‘Why are these measures not in place for flights travelling from the UK, gov.co.uk states that
This applies to inbound flights. The UK has some of the most robust aviation security measures in the world but we keep this under constant review based on assessment of risk.
This is a frustratingly non-committal answer, and does nothing to dispel the suspicion that the UK’s supposedly more stringent security measures are purely superficial. The inconsistent implementation of this restriction surely renders it ineffective. My sense is that the frankly racist measure exists solely to reassure UK travellers, many of whom might have somewhat skewed perceptions of what is happening in the affected countries and what they stand for. To my mind, it does nothing but contribute to scaremongering and potential islamophobia surrounding them.
What is all the more frustrating is that the inconsistency in the implementation of this restriction is obvious in the apparent lack of corroboration between the Tunisian airport authorities and the UK government itself. While on gov.co.uk the official line regarding cameras is:
Tunisair unambiguously includes cameras in its list of electrical items that are banned from hand luggage:
In theory, I don’t have a problem with this measure if it makes people feel more safe, but the way it was implemented was time consuming, poorly organised and inconvenient, and led directly to the theft of my most valuable possessions. My cameras are not only my passion but also provide me with an important source of income through my work as a freelance photographer.
Between arriving at Tunis-Carthage airport and boarding the flight, I was subjected to an excessive and exhausting 6 scans and searches, and on arrival in the UK was apprehended in the queue for passport control by a border guard (presumably on account of my skin tone) and asked ‘where are you travelling from?’ as he snatched my passport out of my hands to check it. No indication of the measure was given during the booking process, so I did not have a chance to prepare for the scenario of having to check valuables into the hold of the plane. Had I known in advance, I would have bought a lock to secure my suitcase with. As it was, I had less than a minute to hastily repack my valuables and electrical items, all the while being unclear as to why this was necessary.
It is also worth noting that Tunisair refuses to take any responsibility for “lost goods”. The following passage is taken directly from their Customer Service page:
We also remind you that under the Conditions of Carriage Tunisair is not responsible for the loss or damage of the following items in checked baggage: Fragile items (Vase, table, small musical instrument Etc., Valuables, Jewelery, Silver Cash, Credit Card, Checkbook, Laptop, Camera, Mobile Phone, Personal Organizer, Personal Documents, Business Papers, Identity Cards, Keys, Medicines, and Perishables: (fresh food, pastries, flowers of different kinds …).
Not only have I had to pay for the privilege of having my belongings stolen during a flight, but I have also lost a significant amount of time chasing after some form of accountability, or at the very least an apology (none of which I have received).
With this story I hope to discourage as many people as possible to fly with Tunisair and moreover to think twice before flying with your valuables.
About the Author
Ebyan Rezgui is a photographer based in London, UK. His work is focused mainly on concert photography, and you can see it on his Instagram profile. For more of his articles, head over to his blog. This article was also published here and shared with permission.
[cover image credits: Aero Icarus, modified]