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Viewing from Simcoe, Ontario and advice on filing TSA claim for damage

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#1 clockman

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Posted 16 April 2024 - 12:28 AM

Packed my Skywatcher Virtuoso and traveled to Simcoe, Canada from Seattle.   Unfortunately, TSA damaged my scope, but I was still able to use it for the event.  The conditions there weren't the greatest, with clouds drifting in and out.  I only had a cell phone holder (using Samsung S22 Ultra) over the eyepiece to capture time-lapse video and subsequently processed a few screenshots from it.  In hindsight, I could have used an astro camera and a program like SharpCap for better results. Oh, and my SynScan Pro app crashed a couple times so it lost tracking and I had a heck of a time getting it back in view due to the clouds, plus I think the Virtuoso loses its latitude setting when power is cut off.

 

Anyway, this was my second eclipse - this time I had to fly.  First one was a 5+ hour road trip to Madras, Oregon from the Seattle area.

 

I need some help from fellow astronomers who might have had some experience with TSA damaging their equipment during screening of checked baggage.  I am filling out a claims form and was wondering if any of you might know some official repair places/"experts" who might be willing and able to write a letter stating that the cost of repair would be more than replacing the unit, or that repair cannot be attempted due to the precise nature of the equipment. Current price of the Virtuoso is $375 or as low as around $300 on sale.  It appears that the screener dropped the scope onto one of the fixed feet (the other two feet are adjustable in height for leveling) and broke it off its particle board base and also dented the top of the frame of the arm assembly (did not have enough bandwidth to include that pic here).

 

Here's a link to the very amateurish time-lapse video ha ha.

https://drive.google...?usp=drive_link

 

eclipse_end_compressed.jpg baily's beads_compressed.jpg diamond_ring_compressed.jpg scope damage 1.jpg scope damage 3.jpg


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#2 Nicole Sharp

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Posted 16 April 2024 - 07:24 PM

I have no experience with damage from TSA but if you read the fine print, both American Airlines and United Airlines ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE for any loss or damage to electronics or photography equipment in checked baggage.  On their websites, they each have a long list of excluded items that they will not pay to replace if they lose or damage them.  When you purchase the ticket, you agree to these terms.  If this is something you are concerned about you have to ship the equipment to your destination in advance of your arrival using an insured mail carrier such as FedEx or UPS instead.  This is one of the reasons why I did not want to fly to New Mexico for the October 2023 Annular Solar Eclipse.

 

One big difference between American Airlines and United Airlines though is that United Airlines has a fragile baggage policy whereas American Airlines does not.  While both American Airlines and United Airlines will deny any fiscal responsibility for losing or destroying your fragile items in checked baggage, the fragile baggage policy for United Airlines means that they will give special handling to checked bags that are marked "fragile" to help prevent accidents from happening.  I ended up flying to New Mexico anyway and so what I did is mark my checked bag with the telescope as "FRAGILE — GLASS" and did not have any problems.  Having the bag marked as fragile will also let TSA know in advance that they need to handle everything in the bag with extra care.  Most people are only packing clothes and toiletries in their suitcases, but a bag marked "FRAGILE" should give them a pause and help to prevent any accidents.

 

https://www.flickr.c...77720312403369/

 

https://www.flickr.c...77720312404764/


Edited by Nicole Sharp, 16 April 2024 - 07:43 PM.


#3 clockman

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Posted 16 April 2024 - 08:09 PM

Thanks for the info, Nicole.  I guess hindsight is 20-20 as they say.  I never thought of putting the words fragile on the baggage, but when I returned, I did put a piece of paper inside and wrote with a sharpie to handle with care as it was already damaged by them on the outbound flight.  It turns out that the return flight screening was from the CATSA (Canadian version of TSA) and they didn't appear to disturb the contents much, and I don't think they even took the scope out as my clothes that I used to cushion it was all unruffled.  However, they did remove the lock and didn't replace it even though it is a TSA approved one.  They either forgot or cut it off not noticing that it was that kind of lock.  The damage done was definitely from TSA and not the airline or airport baggage handlers.  I'm not holding Air Canada responsible for it anyway.  I'm filling out claim forms now provided by TSA and waiting to see if the manufacturer has replacement parts.  TSA needs some evidence whether it is fixable or replacement parts are available.   The scope itself is not that expensive, so I would imagine repairing it would cost more than the $300+ I paid for it.  We shall see.



#4 Nicole Sharp

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Posted 16 April 2024 - 08:35 PM

My main concern was baggage carriers tossing the suitcase around like a ragdoll and smashing everything inside.  I didn't imagine that a TSA inspector might damage anything.  Keep us updated on what TSA says.

 

It looks like the airline liability depends on whether it is a domestic or international flight.  The specific terms that you agree to when you purchase an airline ticket is called the Contract of Carriage (UA) or Conditions of Carriage (AA).  Every airline has a different Contract of Carriage or Conditions of Carriage so you need to read these terms before you agree to purchase the ticket.

 

For the United Airlines Contract of Carriage, Rule 28, Section K, Part 3:

 

"UA shall not be liable for the loss of, damage to or delay in delivery of any of the following: ... Computer hardware/software and electronic components/equipment; ... Electronic and mechanical items, including cell phones, electronic games, and other related items; ... Eyeglasses, Binoculars, Prescription Sunglasses and Non-Prescription Sunglasses and all other eyewear and eye/vision devices; ... Photographic/cinematographic/audio/video equipment, cameras and related items; ..."

 

"If you check valuable or fragile items for travel within the U.S., we’re not liable for any loss, damage or delay of your items."

 

"United assumes no liability for high value, fragile, or perishable items carried in connection with domestic travel."

 

https://www.united.c...able-items.html

 

https://www.united.c...ur-checked-bags

 

https://www.united.c...f-carriage.html

 

https://www.aa.com/i...of-carriage.jsp



#5 Nicole Sharp

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Posted 16 April 2024 - 08:41 PM

What I did specifically for the October 2023 Annular Solar Eclipse was bring the 250mm f/5.6 image-stabilized telephoto lens and ND100000 filter with me as my carry-on and then put the telescope and Solar autoguider in the checked baggage.  This way if the checked bag was lost or destroyed, I could still photograph the Annular Solar Eclipse using the handheld image-stabilized telephoto lens without a telescope or tripod.  You should do the same for anything else really important like medications (bring medications with you on the carry-on, not put them in checked baggage, in case the checked bag is lost, delayed, or destroyed).


Edited by Nicole Sharp, 16 April 2024 - 08:44 PM.




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