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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Where to put it all... » » Avoiding Theft/Damage/Confiscation by TSA when flying (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Bill Palmer
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I've had more than one friend lose props, either through theft, damage or confiscation, presumably by TSA, when flying. Most of the time this happens on checked baggage. For example, a friend of mine just came back from working at the Castle. They stole the pan that he burnt his bills in. There was no reason for this. They also broke the wooden chest he packs his act in. There was no need to do this. It had simple, thumb operated latches.

I know others who have had the same problem.

Since some others here may face the same situation, here is how I have prevented it in the past.

1) Carry anything on that you can that is legal to carry. If you need it for your act, you should take it with you on the plane. Obviously, this means that you will have to pack your knives and other contraband. But coins, cups, balls, cards, etc. should go in your carry on.

2) Do not put anything in matchboxes! A famous mentalist lost a whole box of n*** w*****s this way. Use an unmarked pill box. You can get these at the drug store. Replace the pillbox with a matchbox when you get where you are going.

3) Send troublesome items to yourself via UPS, FedEx or USPS. I shipped "Uncle Louie" to Germany via Air Mail. I figured that the TSA inspectors might not understand the necessity for an electronic whoopie cushion. FedEx ground works very well. It's not too expensive. It's a heck of a lot cheaper than replacing your act. Most hotels will accept packages for you. Or you can ship it to a friend or sponsor in the city you are performing in.

I do this latter one when I go to conventions and have a lot of new stuff that I have acquired. I'll send it back to myself via FedEx ground.
"The Swatter"

Founder of CODBAMMC

My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
ToasterofDoom
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Are powerful magnetic devices (Black Raven, for instance) allowed on airplanes?
Bill Palmer
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There is no specific law against them. I checked the TSA travel codes, and couldn't find anything against them. However, I wouldn't put one in my checked luggage. I'd carry it on.

It's a lot easier to explain an item than it is to wonder how you are going to find another one on a moment's notice.

I think I would err on the side of discretion and send it by mail to my destination. Priority mail takes 2-4 days in the US.
"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
SpellbinderEntertainment
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Thanks for your list of do’s-n-don’ts Bill!

Here are my air travel tips:

Travel for me is becoming more and more of a stress filled game of roulette.
I’ve not had anything stolen, lost, or confiscated as yet, but I sweat travel with my rare or one-of-a-kind props these days!

One thing that has be of help to me….
I have made large 8-1/2” x 11” signs,
in block letting,
that I’ve then laminated in plastic.

I have one at the bottom of my checked case,
another half-way up,
and a third on top of the packing,
they read:

PROFESSIONAL MAGICIAN’S EQUIPMENT
-Everything had been declared and cleared by airline-
HANDLE WITH CARE
-Please Examine With Owner Present!-

I’ve spent hours on the phone with the major airlines and the FAA since 9/11,
and although they have a foot-thick manual of regulations including ski equipment, musical instruments, and animals, NOWHERE does it say one word about Magic!!!!

As long as it does not look like a bomb,
is not in any way pyrotechnic in nature,
and does not contain forbidden chemicals or substances,
it’s OK to travel with Magic.

(Did you know if you are a musician and travel with a Bass you must purchase only a First-Class seat just for the instrument and show proof of insurance?)

-I always speak to the Airline Attendant when I check the luggage,
-I give them my business card and state who I am and why I’m flying,
-I explain that I need to be in xxxx city and on stage with everything intact,
-that everything I am checking is approved and safe,
-and I would be happy to cooperate if anyone wants to unpack and check the cases in my presence now.

Thus far I’ve been treated with the utmost respect and they’ve done all they can to help me out.

That said…..
all it takes is one curious or careless employee to destroy or loose a whole act…
it’s hard to fly these days!

I have also FedEx’ed or UPS’ed stuff, even that was misplaced by the hotel on one occasion….. geeeeesh!!!

Magically,
Walt
Bill Palmer
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We had a spate of thefts in Houston about 15 years ago. There were some Continental Airlines baggage handlers who were opening luggage without authorization, searching it, and taking things. If they weren't sure of an item's worth, they would hold it up and send it on the next flight.

I was doing a trade show in Las Vegas, when my PA, speakers and costume were put on the wrong flight. I had my costume in a carry on, but the baggage checker would not let me carry it on for some reason. As she put it into the cardboard hanging bag carrier she said, "This won't guarantee that it won't get crushed, but it does guarantee that it will get there."

My reply, "What's your name? If it gets lost, it's your responsibility." But I did carry on the glue, etc., that I needed for the newspaper trick, as well as my hat, and all my smaller gear.

My first performance was at 1 PM. My baggage did not arrive until 12:30. I got to Vegas 12 hours earlier. I was livid. They told me I had checked in too late for the baggage to get on. I told them they were full of @#%^, because I got to the airport 3 hours before flight time.

To finish up, the client knew what my problem was, and was delighted that I could do the first show unamplified. When I got back to Houston, I had a damaged luggage claim and many grievances...but not as many as a fellow who was on a flight just a few hours before. His name was Clayton Moore. You may remember him as The Lone Ranger. The same people stole his pistols out of his baggage and sold them to a local gun collector. When the report went out as to whose guns had been stolen, the collector took them right to the police and turned them in. Then he ratted out the baggage thieves. They did a lot of time.

Your plan sounds good to me. Shawn Farquhar lost his egg, lemon and canary setup, because they "thought it might be a dangerous device." I'm sure he will get it back, but it is a pain in the wazoo to have to go through all of that.

Thanks for your ideas Walt.
"The Swatter"

Founder of CODBAMMC

My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
SpellbinderEntertainment
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A note to all professionals who tour by air a lot…

Wouldn’t it be great if we could find some way to get listed in the “official” FAA guidelines books?

This way there would be no question as to how to travel or what methods to use.
It would be a clear-cut and black and white deal.

It would be helpful to be able to quote page and paragraph to airline staff when questioned.

I don’t have a clue who to talk to, or how to get the ball rolling, but I’d be happy to support such an effort any way I can, should someone have more “in” information than I do.

There we thieves even pre-9/11 but now, with Homeland Security measures, it is an act of pure Magic every time our baggage arrives intact and on time at an out of town show.

The more we can share success tips that work for us, the better for everyone as well, I know packing the plethora of signs and speaking to airline personnel has helped my travel a great deal.

Magically,
Walt
Bill Palmer
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After that Las Vegas experience, I decided it was a matter of "carry on everything you must have that is legal to carry."

I really have no idea who to contact about this. I'm sure that someone in Homeland Security is a magician.
"The Swatter"

Founder of CODBAMMC

My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
SpellbinderEntertainment
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"Carry On" is the current gift of the gods!
but be careful what you may and many not carry on.
The words packs small plays big take on huge meaning here!
Thanks,
Walt
Bill Palmer
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I have a friend who attends several bluegrass festivals a year. The case he normally uses for his banjo is a special fiberglass case made by Calton. These cases cost almost 10 times what a regular case costs. Still, airlines have broken them with banjos inside them.

Banjos bolt together. That's one of the cool things about them, possibly the only cool thing about them.* So, Ken takes the neck off his banjo and packs it in his checked luggage. He packs the pot assembly in his carry on. He packs his shoes and some other clothing in the banjo case.

When he reaches his destination, he reassembles the banjo, tunes it up, and he puts it back into the Calton case.

*I am a banjo player. I can make fun of them all I want!
"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
silverking
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A note regarding any effects devices which include magnets.
The machine we popularly refer to as the "X-Ray" machine displays any magnet in a manner that the machine operator will ask (or should ask) to see it.
If you travel with any magnets, pack them at the top so you can bring them right out to show the security folks.
Autumn Morning Star
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I fly a great deal because I am based in Europe and the USA. The laminated signs you mentioned, Walt, are also in my luggage and are in English and German. I also have every single piece of equipment tagged with my business card on a stretchy cord. I put business cards everywhere.

As for getting magicians included in the manual, I truly believe: "The less they know the better off we will be." When a TSA rulebook gets involved it seems to make things more complex and less efficient. Personally, I think magicians should be training the folks at TSA. We know where to hide things.

I always expect to have my luggage lost between Amsterdam and Memphis, so I fly in two days early to recover from jetlag and claim my baggage. The airlines will buy me essentials (even magic) if my bag is lost for more than 24 hours (around $100) so I save the receipts.

In Amsterdam, they stack the baggage carts so high that many bags fall off onto the tarmac. I watch from the huge windows as bag after bag falls onto the runway and lies there in the snow or rain for long periods of time. Once, my luggage was returned by courier two days after I came home. My trunk was open and magic tricks were literally hanging out. Believe it or not, nothing was missing or broken.

I have my trunks reinforced with extra straps and I also have signs and arrows pointing to the hidden handles on the sides of the trunks. I try to simplify everything possible for the handlers.

When I check in my luggage, I use my special Gold/Platinum privileges so my baggage is marked "priority handling"(see frequent flyer rules for details). NWA and KLM give me the best Frequent Flyer perks of all and I am loyal to them in return.

I agree with Walt that the most important thing is to use your most gracious manners when flying. Be sure to dress extremely well because people do judge you by your appearance. Be cooperative and by ALL means if your trunks are subject to search, ask to remain with your bag until it is cleared by TSA so you can repack it correctly before they seal it. And get there a day early if you can.
Wonder is very necessary in life. When we're little kids, we're filled with wonder for the world - it's fascinating and miraculous. A lot of people lose that. They become cynical and jaded, especially in modern day society. Magic renews that wonder.
Doug Henning
SpellbinderEntertainment
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Dear Morning Star,
Thanks for adding your ideas and experience,
ain't it all fun?
The more of us who travel share our thoughts,
the better for our audiences in the long run!
Hope to meet you or share a stage here or abroad someday...
Magically,
Walt
Alan Munro
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If the client were to offer to fly you on a chartered flight, would that make things go smoother? I know, it's very expensive, but if they already hired a plane, why not?

I don't fly at all, because I always find a way around it.
mcharisse
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I had a heck of a time on a recent flight explaining my linking rings, but I don't think he checked them carefully enough to tip the trick. Anyway, it inspired a new line in my ring routine: "I took these on a plane the other day, and the security guard at the checkpoint wanted to know what they were. When I told him, he put them through the X-Ray again. I always wanted to know how that trick was done, he said. But even with an x-ray, he couldn't find a hole the rings!"
montemagic
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Flash paper will get you a visit to "The Back Room"
Apparently the word 'explosive' doesn't go over well.
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SteveTheMagician
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I heard that Martin Lewis, when he travels, he puts a bunch of magical items (like silks, cards, sponge balls etc) near his knives/dangerous-looking items so if TSA asks what they are for he can say "oh, I'm a magician, here let me show you!" and then do a quick sponge ball trick.

now I heard this BEFORE 9/11 so I kinda doubt that you could pull the same stunt and get away with it today. but I found it amusing none the less. Smile

-steve
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More than a few years ago I did a college circuit that I had to fly to and had a funny experience. Going through Detroit the X Ray picked up my large scissors in the show case and the woman about had a heart attack yelling at me that I couldn't have a pair of scissors that big. Talking to the supervisor we agreed that it could be put into an envelope and given back to me at our destination. This was of course pre- 9/11. But the funny thing was when I got to my gig I was returning the scissors to my case when I noticed my blank pistol was at the bottom of the case and that had been overlooked. So if you want to get a gun on board pack a pair of scissors. True story but obviously the last suggestion is a joke.

Gil Scott
Autumn Morning Star
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This is odd, but you know what gets me busted the most? My change bag! I guess the curved metal wire must look really 'dangerous'.

I fly Northwest/KLM almost exclusively. Beware, we are all down from 70 lbs to 50 lbs per checked trunk (free baggage allowance is 2). Suggestion: Put the heaviest one on the scale first, then if it is a bit over you can shift the extra weight to the second trunk.

They are now weighing my carry on! I think it is 40 lbs max. You also get a briefcase or purse to carry on. British Airways announced today that they are going to charge a flat fee of up to $500 for just normal checked bags. Ouch!

All the airlines are different regarding sizes, weights, etc., so check the online websites for information and PRINT the page so you have proof if the agent gives you a hard time.
Wonder is very necessary in life. When we're little kids, we're filled with wonder for the world - it's fascinating and miraculous. A lot of people lose that. They become cynical and jaded, especially in modern day society. Magic renews that wonder.
Doug Henning
Bob Sanders
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I'm a real believer is UPS, FedEx and even the USPO. If at all possible ship props ahead when flying from gig to gig.

In spite of the fact that this freight flies on the very same planes, they get better treatment than passenger freight. My focus is on solutions not failures to accept responsibility. Knowing who to blame won't help my show one bit. I need my props in useable condition and in time to use them.

In over forty years of observation it seems to me that American shippers are not improving and may even be degenerating. Mean while, foreign owned firms are greatly improved and more customer oriented than the American versions. It can be disappointing but voting with dollars works. Support the folks who earn your business.

Funny note: BellSouth is gone. It is now an insignificant part of AT&T. As a disappointed BellSouth customer I made several calls to customer service without satisfaction specifically not finding anyone with the knowledge or authority to deal with the problem, which was a phone line for which I had been charged for three months but the company neglected to install. At last I reached an off-shore service company that corrected the problem within twelve hours. His English was even more understandable and he had a sense of humor! There is light at the end of the tunnel!

Perhaps when there is a problem the most effective solution is to immediately ask for their off-shore customer service contractor! They solve problems.

Bob Sanders
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Autumn Morning Star
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I agree with you, Bob. Sometimes I have to ship a prop to a hotel manager or a friend. USPS is wonderful. I often mail my props back to Europe if I know it will cost me extra on the airlines. It is often cheaper by USPS Priority Mail.
Wonder is very necessary in life. When we're little kids, we're filled with wonder for the world - it's fascinating and miraculous. A lot of people lose that. They become cynical and jaded, especially in modern day society. Magic renews that wonder.
Doug Henning
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