Monday, 4 January 2010

Carrying Film in Hand Luggage to and Across the USA

I am travelling to the USA in a week or so and have been concerned about taking 200 rolls of Ilford FP4 in hand luggage after the recent Christmas Day terrorist incident on a plane bound for Detroit. Checking web sites and sending emails to airlines didn't help much so I wrote directly to the US Transport Security Agency to seek clarification. Here is their reply in full and below it my original email to them. It appears that the situation has not changed regarding availability of hand checks and taking film in carry-on luggage:

"Thank you for your request for information on the screening of photographic equipment and film at airport screening checkpoints. We encourage you to visit our website at for additional information about TSA. All travelers, and particularly those who travel infrequently, are encouraged to visit the section on travel tips before their trip. The website has information about prohibited and permitted items, the screening process and procedures, and guidance for special considerations that may assist in preparing for air travel. You can find these tips and more under the "Our Traveler" heading on the TSA website.

For your convenience, we are including the following information from our website about traveling with film.

The x-ray machines used to screen carry-on baggage at the passenger checkpoints should not damage film or equipment. However, the x-ray equipment used for screening checked baggage is more powerful and will damage your undeveloped film. You should remove all undeveloped film from your checked baggage and place it in your carry-on baggage.

At the passenger security checkpoint, you should remove the following types of film from your carry-on baggage and ask for a hand inspection:

• Film with an ASA/ISO 800 or higher
• Highly sensitive X-ray or scientific films
• Film of any speed which is subjected to X-ray surveillance more than 5 times (the effect of X-ray screening is cumulative)
• Film that is or will be underexposed
• Film that you intend to "push process"
• Sheet film
• Large format film
• Medical film
• Scientific film
• Motion picture film
• Professional grade film

You may request a hand-inspection of any undeveloped film. The X-ray machine at the passenger security checkpoint will not affect undeveloped film under ASA/ISO 800. However, multiple X-ray inspections (more than 5 times) of the same roll of undeveloped film may cause damage. The machines used to screen your checked baggage or carry-on baggage will not affect digital camera images or film that has already been processed, slides, photo compact discs, or picture discs.

Other Precautions

• If you plan to request a hand inspection of your film, you should consider carrying your film in clear canisters, or taking the film out of solid colored canisters and putting it into clear plastic bags, to expedite the screening process.
• If you are going to be traveling through multiple X-ray examinations with the same rolls of undeveloped film, you may want to request a hand-inspection of your film. However, non-U.S. airports may not honor this request.
• If you plan to hand-carry undeveloped film on an airplane at an international airport, contact the airport security office at that airport to request a manual inspection.
• Consider having your exposed film processed locally before passing through airport security on your return trip.
• We recommend that you do not place your film in lead-lined bags since the lead bag will have to be hand-inspected. If you have concerns about the impact of the X-ray machine on your undeveloped film, you can request a hand inspection.
• You may still consider bringing a lead-lined bag if you are traveling through airports in other countries as their policies may vary. Check with your airline or travel agent for more information on foreign airports.

Please keep in mind security screening at foreign airports is beyond TSA jurisdiction. Travelers must go through different clearance procedures when crossing international borders. Passengers and their baggage are also screened for security according to standards established by the Government of that country. As a sovereign entity, that country may establish its own security requirements for airports and air carriers that are not necessarily the same as those required in the United States.

We hope this information is helpful.
TSA Contact Center"

--- Original Message ---

From: "Dave Butcher"

Received: 12/29/09 2:24:03 PM EST

To: "TSA Contact Center"

Subject: Camera film in carry-on luggage

In the light of the recent tightening of security on air travel I would appreciate some advice concerning the carriage of camera film in hand luggage. It is unclear from searching recent web information what the situation is regarding film.

I am a photographer working exclusively in black and white and I use film for all of my work. It cannot go in hold luggage or it will be ruined by the x-rays (I have seen x-ray damage on the film that I use from hand luggage x-ray machines so more powerful x-rays, as used on hold luggage, will effectively destroy negatives). Will I be able to take factory wrapped rolls of Ilford 120 roll film onto the plane as hand luggage at JFK, and Denver? Will I be able to take exposed rolls of Ilford 120 roll film onto the plane as hand luggage?

When I have visited the USA previously I have always received good service from staff, who perform a hand search of my films. Film is always carried in clear polythene bags to assist them. Will I still be able to have hand searches of films on my forthcoming trip?
Please advise. Thanks.
Kind regards,
Dave Butcher
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