Posted by steven greaves photography on January 2, 2010 · 


A Nigerian strikes fear into the heart of a nation on Christmas day and, with it, airline restrictions are again tightened. 

I arrived at JFK international airport in New York well ahead of schedule knowing that security would be heightened and lines longer than usual. First in line to check in, I was called before the Icelandair agent and asked how many bags would be checked. I hefted the two bags on to the scales and placed my US passport before her. The computers were down and the wait began. “Where is your carry-on luggage” asked the agent, a middle-aged woman who continually ignored me and spoke with colleagues about the just-passed holiday. I motioned to the floor at my feet and indicated my camera rucksack and small laptop case. After craning her head over the counter, she commented that, according to new TSA (Transportation Safety Administration) restrictions, the camera bag would have to be checked. I replied that, according to their website, I was permitted these items and that they did fit into the frame structure provided to measure these items. “I’m not having this argument” came the gruff and authoritative response.  Knowing the value and importance of my camera gear, I was not about to take her commentary at face value and demanded that “Unless you, Icelandair or TSA is personally willing to guarantee the full value of the contents, I will NOT be checking this bag.” With a scowl, she peered through me but was immediately side-tracked by the growing line and now-operational computer system.  The wheels turned in her head: shuffle them through, punch out and head home for another cocktail! She no longer appeared to want to continue the discourse and I moved on. 

With boarding pass, laptop and camera bag in tow, I headed into the sea of people waiting to get through TSA security. As the minutes ticked by I moved to the front of the line and prepared myself for the screening area- pockets emptied into my photographer’s vest, shoes off, watch removed…… “Mr. Greaves, Mr. Greaves!” A familiar and grating voice threw my concentration. I looked up to see the Icelandair associate who had initially checked me in standing before me. “Your ticket is only one-way?” she questioned. Two minutes later and I would have been through TSA procedures I thought but instead replied “Yes, I am a dual national” as I offered up my British passport. I stepped off-line, awaited her return and continued on my way….to Reykjavik…. to Manchester.  This was not the increased security that our government had promised; it was much of the same incompetence that had allowed one Nigerian to strike fear into the hearts of many. 

At Manchester, all other passengers departed the carousel with baggage in-tow. I stood there puzzled and growing increasingly angry and concerned.  My bags had not arrived. After filling out the lost luggage report and exiting the airport I inhaled two cigarettes and pondered if my journeys were now in jeopardy. I took solace in my insubordination at JFK, stared at my camera bag and patiently waited for my ride to Yorkshire. 

I woke the next morning and frantically reached out to Icelandair, Manchester airport and the baggage service there. It was New Year’s Eve and live personnel could not be reached. After two hours, I resorted to emails and eventually was contacted by an Icelandair rep. who assured me that she would work on the claim. Although I had not flown into nor through London’s Heathrow airport, the bags had ended up there. I was promised that they would be couriered up to my mother’s home in Yorkshire.
Fireworks exploded over the Thames in London as we watched on television. Revelers rang in the New Year as 2010 arrived. Shortly after the festivities, I headed up to bed still not in possession of my bags and unable to get in touch with the courier service who were tasked with the job. At 12:20am, the doorbell rang. I dragged myself out of bed and, with a beaming smile, took receipt of my bags… a wonderful start to 2010. The projects and journey are back on the rails!!

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